What Are Morning Rituals and Why You Should Consider Using Them

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Mornings are a sacred time that sets the tone for your entire day. When you wake up early before the rest of the world, you give yourself time to reflect and plan for the day.

Whether it is meditation, journaling, reading, exercise, or another wellness habit, having a solid morning ritual will help you begin each day with the right mindset to be the best version of yourself. In fact, research shows that establishing good daily routines and habits can improve your mental health and well-being and set yourself up for success throughout life.

“Rituals are regular, structured, or semi-structured practices typically performed with meaning or significance behind them," says Alfiee Breland-Noble, PhD, a psychologist and mental health expert. "They help us remain focused and create healthy structures necessary for good mental health.”

To help you resist the urge of beginning your day by scrolling social media or checking email, we provide some evidence-based morning rituals you may want to try. Read on to learn more about morning rituals, their health benefits, and how you can incorporate them into your daily life.

What Are Morning Rituals?

Don’t confuse morning rituals with morning routines. There’s a clear distinction between the two and it involves your mindset. A ritual is a daily practice that has deep personal meaning or cultural significance attached to it, whereas a routine is a repetitive action or behavior—such as brushing your teeth or making your bed—that doesn’t have meaning or purpose behind it.

"A ritual denotes a positive connotation with a deeper purpose and almost spiritual meaning," says Len Glassman, a health and fitness expert and the author of Soul Trainer. "In contrast, a routine suggests something that you do day in, day out that has the potential to become boring, stale, and ultimately cast aside for something more interesting."

The main advantage of morning rituals is that they’re interchangeable and can vary widely based on how you feel and your attitude that day, notes Glassman. For example, one morning you may decide to go for a brisk walk and the next you may choose to do yoga or write in your journal for 30 minutes.

A morning ritual sets the tone for the day and gives you control over your attitude rather than allowing your mental state to control you. As you start each day anew, a morning ritual enables you to be more present, allocate your time better, reduce stress, and increase your productivity.

Health Benefits of Morning Rituals

Kicking off your day in the right mental space can significantly reduce your stress levels, which in turn has many physical and mental health benefits. Here are four ways that having a morning ritual can benefit your health.

Boosts Mood

One of the most powerful actions you can take for your mental health is to start each morning with a mood-boosting ritual. A morning ritual that involves exercise, meditation, positive affirmations, or getting outdoors in sunlight can put your mind at ease and increase your brain’s production of serotonin—the “feel-good” hormone—which regulates mood, sleep, memory, and other cognitive functions.

Improves Relationships

When we are overwhelmed, even minor stresses can trigger unwelcome emotions that cause us to vent frustrations on the ones closest to us. Taking out your stress on family and friends can strain relationships with the ones you care about the most, thereby exacerbating your stress levels. That’s why, having a consistent morning ritual that gets you in the right mindset and lowers stress can improve the quality of your relationships.

Reduces Inflammation

Morning rituals will help reduce your stress levels, which can reduce chronic inflammation. When your body is continually under stress and has chronic inflammation, it will trigger your immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs in your body. This then spikes your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Increases Productivity

A morning ritual can help eliminate feelings of burnout, which detract from productivity. Implementing healthy daily habits through a morning ritual effectively removes burnout, thereby boosting productivity. For example, adopting a daily meditation practice has been shown to positively impact cognitive function, job performance, and productivity.

Morning Rituals to Consider

When creating a morning ritual, it’s essential to find habits and behaviors that have significance and are attached to a deep meaning for you.

“Examples of morning ritual activities include a morning salutation, morning prayer, preparing a culturally-significant food or beverage (like morning tea), offering to one’s higher power, recognition of one’s ancestors, or even honoring a loved one who’s been lost to death,” says Dr. Alfiee.

Here are some examples of morning ritual activities you can try out and see if they work for you.

Meditation

Meditation doesn’t need to take up much time. Even 5 minutes per day can make a significant difference. Early morning is an excellent time to meditate because you’re refreshed from a good night’s sleep and the world is calm and quiet, allowing you to enter a deep meditative state.

Meditation has many health benefits, too, such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, boosting mood, and lowering blood pressure. One study found that morning meditation practices can improve pain, anxiety, and depression scores during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exercise

Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but did you know exercising earlier in the day is associated with more energy, improved metabolism, better blood sugar control, and healthy weight loss? Also, a 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine observed that morning exercise can improve attention, visual learning, and decision-making.

Journaling

You may be surprised to learn the variety of benefits that morning journaling provides. Journaling in the morning helps you to clear your mind, process emotions, reflect on your goals, remove self-doubt, and enhance creativity. Plus, writing down your thoughts every morning helps you get grounded and begin each day on a positive note, which boosts your mood and increases productivity.

Yoga

There’s no shortage of health benefits when it comes to kicking your day off with yoga. Besides the obvious physical benefits of less muscle soreness and improved flexibility and balance, doing yoga in the morning can relieve stress and anxiety, alleviate pain, improve mental health, and boost your sleep quality. Namaste!

How to Add Morning Rituals to Your Routine

One of the best ways to develop a consistent morning ritual is to incorporate it into an activity you already perform daily, notes Glassman. Be realistic and choose activities that you look forward to and enjoy doing. Ultimately, the key is to make morning rituals a way of life, not just a part of your life.

“For some people, this could take the form of standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, practicing breathing techniques while in the shower, or some other simple way of creating healthy intentionality to start your day," he says.

Here are some ways to add morning rituals to your routine.

Consider Your Goals

Reflect on what you genuinely want to get out of your morning ritual. Do you want to be more productive? Have more energy? Reduce stress? Be more present? All of the above?

Then spend time journaling about what benefits you want to reap from a morning ritual. This will help you determine what activities you can include in your morning ritual most suitable for you. Research shows that people are more likely to continue behaviors that are in line with their long-term goals by creating healthy daily habits that become effortless for them to do each day.

Experiment

Finding the proper morning ritual that works best for you will require some trial and error. For example, meditating for 20 minutes may work well for some, while going for a brisk walk outdoors or reading a book may better suit others.

Make a list of five to 10 activities you’d like to try each morning that you think could help you get into the optimal mental state for the day. Then, try each one until you determine what feels right.

Also, know that nothing is set in stone. One day, 20 minutes of meditation may be what you need/want and another day a brisk walk outdoors may be what you need/want. So, experimenting and learning this about yourself and your needs is also important.

If you are no longer experiencing the benefits a particular habit or activity once had, that’s a sign the ritual has become stagnant and it’s time to move on and try something else.

Be Consistent

Like anything else worthwhile in life, consistency is essential for success. You can’t expect to try something once or only do your morning ritual when you feel like it and experience any meaningful, long-term benefits.

A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that building healthy habits you can stick to relies on the “consistent repetition of the behavior.”  However, the researchers also noted that occasionally missing a day will not derail your progress in creating healthy habits or adhering to your morning ritual. Be consistently good instead of occasionally great, and you’ll reap the benefits of morning rituals.

Evaluate Their Effectiveness

It’s always a good idea to reflect on what’s working—or isn’t working—in your life. Schedule 15 minutes in your calendar to sit down either once a week or once a month to evaluate what’s working in your life.

Ask yourself whether the rituals you have implemented into your morning routine are benefiting you, or distracting you from reaching your goals. Are you simply going through the motions and performing actions each morning on autopilot? Or are you doing them with a clear focus, purpose, and intentionality so you can extract as much value and use them to benefit your mental health and make you as productive as possible?

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of your stage in life, incorporating a morning ritual into your routine can have tremendous benefits including boosting mental health, alleviating stress, increasing productivity, and giving your life a clear purpose and meaning.

However, don’t change too much too fast. Research shows this can cause you to become overwhelmed and prevent you from success. Instead, slowly build your morning ritual around one or two changes at a time for a more realistic and sustainable approach.

Determine what habits or actions you want to add to your morning routine, then try them out until you find what works best for you. Talk to a mental health expert if you are struggling to get into the right mindset even after implementing the above strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why are morning rituals important?

    Morning rituals that prioritize your health and wellness can improve your physical and mental health and put you in the ideal mindset for living a productive, meaningful life full of purpose and intention. Furthermore, rituals help create positive relationships with yourself, your loved ones, and your environment by helping reduce stress and anxiety.

  • How do you determine if a morning ritual is right for you?

    It will take time for you to know if a morning ritual works for you. A telltale sign that a morning ritual works is if you reach a stage where you notice you feel “off” or not quite yourself, or like your day isn’t complete unless you do your morning ritual.

    Finding what works for you will take time, commitment, and resilience, but it’s more than worthwhile for the physical and mental payoffs. Ultimately, how a ritual makes you feel is the most important consideration.

  • What are the advantages of morning rituals?

    Morning rituals such as journaling, yoga, or meditation, have some distinct advantages over a morning routine, such as waking up, getting dressed for work, drinking coffee, and rushing out the door. Morning rituals alleviate stress and give you the mental clarity to live your life with intentionality, meaning, and purpose.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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