When I started getting my life together, I knew I needed some guidance. “Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies” was my first piece of guidance, and I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs since finishing that book. I read memoirs by women who model the type of person I would like to be—bold, vulnerable, courageous, kind, open, gentle, loving. But reading has been like a guide; I knew I needed something a little more structured. I needed something to keep me on track with all the routines I was building for myself. But before that, I had to actually build the routines.
After about two months, my morning and evening routines are fairly set in stone. I’ve figured out what works for me, what leaves me feeling happy and relaxed. I’ve learned what doesn’t work for me, what makes me feel obsessive and stressed, and I’ve managed to create a balanced routine that helps me get in touch with myself and gives me a good beginning and end to my days. My routines are simple. There’s nothing major or strenuous. Some of it may seem silly, like why do I have to actually tell myself to do these things? But I do, and it works for me, so here it is.
my morning routine:
-wake up early
-make my bed
-do my skincare routine
-eat a healthy breakfast
-write in my journal
-do a french lesson
-go for a walk
my evening routine:
-do my skincare routine
-tidy up my space
-do some quick stretching or yin yoga
-drink herbal tea
-read a book
-avoid screens before bed
-go to bed early
So I didn’t just build these routines on my own. I found an app, actually, called “routines.” It has all these options for what to include in your routine, and it sort of guided me towards how I wanted my mornings and evenings to look. Like I said before, the version of myself that I used to be was not the type of person who would have functional and set morning and evening routines. So I used this app to build my routines, and adjusted them accordingly as I figured out what worked for me and what didn’t. Those lists are the current versions of my routines, and they’ve worked pretty amazingly for me for the past month and a half or so. Each morning, I wake up around seven or seven-thirty, and I make my bed. Making my bed is a newer thing to me. I always thought, why make it every day if I’m just going to get back in it at the end of the day? But truthfully, few things make me feel more clear-headed than seeing my bed look tidy. It makes my room look neater as a whole, even if it’s not all that neat, and I’ve discovered that it actually takes about forty-five seconds to make my bed. It’s always funny to me how so many of the things we dread doing would actually take no time at all, and we’ll spend way more time dreading the doing than the actual doing would have taken. So after I make my bed I do my skincare (I recently learned the importance of cleansing in the morning, not just at night—I’m also fairly new to skincare), because I like starting the day feeling fresh and like my skin is clean. Then I roll out my yoga mat, light some candles, and either do some stretching or practice yoga. I don’t always do the same thing, because on different days my body needs different things. Some days I’ll do really gentle flows, and on other days I’ll do something more intense. It all depends.
Now on to meditation. This is a big one, because I’ve always sucked at meditating. The whole silencing your mind thing—I’ve just never been able to do it. So meditation just seemed like a really impossible thing for me to do successfully and on a regular basis. But a while ago, I downloaded the Headspace app because I wanted to give sleep podcasts a try. I saw that they had a whole section of guided meditations, including thirty days of meditation for beginners. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it a try. It was helpful that I could choose how long the meditations were, starting with as short as three minutes. It wasn’t long before meditating became one of my favorite parts of my day. I’m still easily distracted and some meditations feel a lot better than others, but right now I’m doing a series of meditations for creativity, and I’m really enjoying that. Meditation has always felt completely inaccessible to me, and so if there’s one thing I’ve realized it’s that you can make anything a part of your life if you’re persistent enough with it.
Let me be clear about one thing: the word “healthy” in healthy breakfast is completely subjective. My breakfast is usually avocado toast with everything but the bagel seasoning and Sweet Earth hickory and sage plant-based bacon (trust me, it’s good). When I say healthy, I mean whatever feels good. Whatever makes you feel ready to take on the day, makes you feel nourished, makes you feel happy. So I make my avocado toast and a pot of espresso, which I pour over ice and have with oat milk, and then I sit in my living room and get my journal.
Though I’ve been a journaler (is that a word? idk.) my whole life, my new journaling habit is fully inspired by Tara Schuster, who I think got the idea from Julia Cameron. Basically, every morning, I fill three pages of a journal with whatever’s in my mind that day. There’s no audience, this writing isn’t for anyone but me. I just write, and I see what comes out. It’s been the most revealing and therapeutic practice I’ve ever held. Something happens when I’m writing those pages, and thoughts go onto that page that I didn’t even realize I was thinking. It’s been a fundamental part of my healing. At the end of my three pages, I write a list of ten things I’m grateful for. This is probably the most healing thing I’ve ever done. Expressing gratitude on a regular basis has completely changed my life. My outlook on everything is completely different, and I tend to look for the good before the bad, the possible positive before the obvious negative. I think actually writing things down changes everything—whether it’s a gratitude or an emotion or a situation you’re struggling with, writing it down makes it real and helps you acknowledge whatever it is you’re trying to process. So please, write it down. Trust me when I say it’ll change your life.
After my journaling, I do my french lesson. I’ve been learning french for a few months on Duolingo in preparation for an eventual trip to Paris—I was supposed to go in May, but COVID-19 tore that plan down real quick. But it’s okay, because hopefully by the time the trip is back on, I’ll be fluent in french.
I don’t walk every morning. Usually, it’s four or five times a week. I walk anywhere between three and six miles, usually listening to podcasts (listen to Sophia Bush and Brené Brown’s podcasts, I’m begging you). I used to run, but I have a lot of issues with my back and so now I walk. Exercise has become super important to me because I’m not on my feet as much as I was before quarantine. But I’m not really interested in intense or super regimented exercise—I tend to get too obsessive and controlling about it, and take it to an unhealthy extreme. Walking has become a good way to avoid that type of behavior, because it’s easy, and makes me feel good. It’s not about losing weight or changing my body or even about exercising—it’s about spending time with myself, moving, and being outside. Find an exercise that makes you feel happy and peaceful, and you’ll find it a lot easier to keep it up.
These are the pieces I’ve put together to build better mornings. I used to sleep through most of the morning, so taking full advantage of them now makes me feel unbelievably good. One of my favorite feelings is that of getting a lot done before noon.
My morning routine is about getting started, but my evening routine is about winding down. It’s easy and relaxing, and makes me feel quiet in the best way. Around nine most nights, I start the wind-down process. I make some herbal tea—my favorite right now is lavender citrus—and while the kettle’s on the stove, I do my evening skincare routine. I pick one of cute mugs (my favorites lately have been my Hearth & Hand mugs, one with the message “see the good” and the other with “grateful” inscribed along the side) and while my tea steeps, I clean up my room a little. I put away clean laundry or organize my books and journals. I make things looks neat, which always helps to calm my mind before bed. I light candles—currently, I light a lavender scented candle in the evenings to match my tea—and either do some stretching or yin yoga. Yin yoga’s been one of my favorite things lately, and I’ll probably do an entire post about it sometime soon. I usually watch an episode of Netflix, and then I put my laptop away and read for a while. Right now, I’m reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed.” I like to read two books at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction. I finished Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” a couple days ago, and am about to start Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek,” which is a collection of short stories. I read a few chapters, and then around ten-thirty, I put on a sleep podcast from Headspace (my favorites are downriver and rainday antiques) and drift off to sleep.
Obviously, routines are tricky. Things happen that interrupt them, and the worst thing you can do is feel guilty about not following through on them. Routines are guides. They’re meant to lead you to a truer, happier version of yourself. And sometimes, the truest, happiest version of yourself wants to sleep in, or stay out late, or go out, or do something else that gets in the way of the routine. The question you have to ask yourself is, are the things I’m doing things that are actually important to me? Will they make me feel good? Is this the happiest, truest version of myself? And if it is, then live it up. If it’s not, then maybe re-evaluate what matters to you. Routines are about taking care of yourself. Do your best, feel it out, and do what feels most right for you.