I have never been a part of the 5:00 am Club.

Instead, I wake up naturally at about 7:30 every morning, abiding by my internal clock. Sleep is sacred to me as creativity and without good sleep, I am far less motivated and frankly, not myself.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a very anxious animal. Often I wake in a panic as if the house was burning down. My mind can jettison all over the place. This was no way to start my day. It certainly wasn’t a comfortable way to enter the morning.

So How Can This Artist Fix This?

I had heard and read about the power of morning routines before, many that subscribe to waking at 5:00 am, no thank you. Part of what stopped me from adopting a morning routine was time. Would I have time for this?

After taking bits and pieces from various others’ morning routines, I established a morning ritual that fits my life like my yoga pants do. As for making time, I found the time I take for my morning ritual is worth it. I’m worth it. When I timed my morning ritual, it turned out to be the best 75 minutes I take that allows focus, creativity, and direction for the day.

My Morning Ritual Rundown

First thing after brushing my teeth, and peeing, I drink a tall glass of room-temperature water to hydrate. Water at this temperature is easier to drink than ice-cold water and wakes me up as much as a good cup of coffee.

1. Then I meditate — for just 10 minutes. That’s it. Since I have been meditating for years, I am at the point where it’s no longer a mental wrestling match but an opportunity to get out of my head and into my body.

We are always in our heads, we are the one person we talk the most to, and being still and quiet, listening to your body is kind of, well, mind-blowing.

I hear many of you moaning about meditation. You have my full empathy. Mediation is not for everyone. There is no shame or guilt if it is difficult to do. But if you are curious, I’ll tell you I started by using (and still use) an iPhone app (for free) called Oak. Calm is another app many use but I am subscribing to self-care where you don’t have to spend a dime.

The Oak app has guided meditation, a loving-kindness meditation, and an unguided meditation. You can choose the background sound (I use Elevate) and chimes at intervals, if you want. I use all three depending on what I need that morning. Most of the time it’s unguided.

2. Stretch. Move the body. This is a series of moves from yoga classes that are good for my back and hips. Part of me likes to say I can palm the floor easily at 63 years old. I include a couple of exercises that will (hopefully) prevent future falls and a couple of moves that check in with my balance. This takes all of 7 to 10 minutes depending on how long I want to hold the stretches.

a man and woman couple in puffy down jackets and hats take a cold day walk through an old growth pine forest with fog forming on the pathway

Where my partner and I walk most mornings is around suburban neighborhoods. Thankfully most mornings are quiet. Whoever said the suburbs were quiet never lived in a suburb. The image above is the environment I envision my partner and I will have to enjoy walking once we can move.

3. Walking (or moving the body, part 2). My partner and I have a 1.5-mile walk we do every morning, something that began when we had dogs. I know I’m lucky to have a walking buddy, so even if one of us doesn’t feel like it, the other pushes the other out the door. I see other couples do the same thing around our neighborhood, even those without dogs. Our walk takes about 25 minutes.

4. Journaling. This is a mix of The Artist’s Way by Julia Camron and her practice of morning pages and reflecting on five questions I list below. I never was into journaling until it was introduced at the Women’s Art Institute’s Summer Studio Intensive at the University of St. Catherine. As a class, we were instructed to free-form write to a question prompt.

Journalling turned out to be a powerful exercise. It certainly got a lot of emotions out in the open as each student read her response out loud to the question at hand. Life as an artist is hard. Life as a woman artist is even harder.

I have found before I begin the day’s to-do-list, that journaling puts what I am feeling into perspective. I air out my mind. On the page, I have learned to be kind to myself. Answering these five questions every morning has been illuminating. The answers are never the same.

Five Questions I Reflect On

What am I grateful for? (Gratitude is an antidote to anxiety and scarcity.)

Where am I winning? (Your micro-wins add up. These are important to remember, especially if you are in the long haul of an art career or any career that calls for sustainability).

What will I let go of today? (Regrets, guilt, anger, who will you forgive.)

What does my ideal day look like? (Our life is made up of single days and creating ideal days for yourself adds up to a remarkable life.)

What do you want to hear in the end? (What do you want people to say to you as you are about to pass from this life? A powerful thought. It helps you focus on what’s important in life.)

I spend about 30 minutes each morning journaling. I don’t use fancy, beautifully designed covered notebooks to write in. I could but they would cost money. Remember, a morning routine should not feed the capitalist markets.

Instead, I repurpose the many lovely black and nicely bound lined notebooks my partner brings back from cyber security conferences. Their covers read: Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness.

on a sunlit deck lie three black vinyl notebooks produced by Rochester Institute of Technology, part of their swag to give to their conference attendees.

Destined for greatness? It’s an unknown. All I know repurposing conference notebook swag is good enough for my journaling purposes. They lay flat when opened, have ribbon bookmarks, and a handy elastic binding to keep pages flipping open when you don’t want them to.

Honestly, I don’t know if my morning ritual will lead to greatness. It would be great if it did! All I know since I began this four-part-plus routine, is that I feel grounded, focused, and a lot less anxious. I’m amazed at how much better the day goes and the room for creativity and productivity it adds. All it takes is 75 minutes.

There are two more things I add to my morning ritual as they have become the closing part of my meditation, affirmations and visualization. I have a series of affirmations that I tell myself. As I said, we are the one person we talk the most to, so why not have what you say to yourself be affirming? It’s also a way to cultivate confidence, something we all struggle with from time to time.

As a visual person whose dreams are guided by imagery, it’s no surprise I use visualization to mentally and emotionally experience what I want in life. These days, it’s a big, naturally-lit, large window studio with space for a printing press and all the projects I want to pursue. Instead of wishing, I work on how to obtain these things in steps and planning which makes it feel all the more possible.

Your turn.

I would love to hear if you have a morning routine, what it entails, and how it has made a difference. Or are you struggling to find time for a morning routine and why? This would be a great service to us all who are struggling to make our lives better if you would share.

If you like what you see, please be kind and share!

close detailed watercolor of autumn leaf litter in soft pinks, blues, violets, oranges and burnt sienna 20 x 20 inches unframed

Let’s Stay In Touch.

Get Occasional Email Updates from the Studio. Subscribe to Studio Times.

Welcome! I’m so delighted to have you join my creative community. Your are now subscribed.