Last week, Joseph and I traveled to Orlando for a four-day conference. Without the kids.
It was our first time traveling together without our children in over two years. We love family travel, but as we waited for our flight, we chatted about how excited we were to sleep in late and have leisurely days without the kids. In our minds, going on vacation (or at least away from our day to day lives) meant a rare and glorious opportunity to start our mornings out without any obligations.
But somewhere between the flight and arriving at the hotel, it occurred to me that maybe lazy mornings are not the best way to practice self care or even the best way to truly have a relaxing vacation.
I love reading about morning routines. I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about my ideal morning routine would look like. But with my commute being what it is, I don’t typically have a chance to implement my ideal routine every day, which by definition means it’s not a routine I guess.
I realized that my vacation was the perfect time to create that perfect morning routine and put it into practice. So here is what I did every single morning when I was on vacation.
Start the day off being grateful.
This is a daily part of Oprah’s morning routine. Every day, she wakes up and says thank you. To Oprah, every day is a new opportunity to create the life you want, something we should all be grateful for.
Taking a moment to pause and appreciate all of the wonderful things in your life—or even the fact that you woke up and get to see another day—is a great way to center your focus as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Our room at Rosen Shingle Creek had a gorgeous view of the golf course. It’s an amazing sight to wake up to, which made it easy to remember to be grateful to the world for my life. First thing in the morning I would get up, walk over to the window, and take in the gorgeous green golf course and deep blue sky. I’d close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and send a mental thank you out to the world.
Okay, I’m not going to lie. The first time I tried this exercise I felt awkward. But after a few breaths something changed. I went from just saying how grateful I felt to actually feeling that gratitude flow all around me. And when I opened my eyes, I was happier than I was just a few moments before.
Taking a few moments at the beginning of my day to remind myself of all the wonderful blessing that are in my life really started my day off in the best possible way.
Do you have pets? I bet you can count on one hand the number of times that you’ve seen them get up from a nap and not stretch. Stretching after sleeping comes completely natural to them. They don’t get up and check their phones or brush their teeth first. Even if they really need to go to the bathroom, they still knock out a quick stretch before waking you up to let them out.
And can you blame them? Stretching after a nap just feels really good.
When I stretch, I really take the time to get in tune with my body and think about how it is feeling. I also start to notice things like the tension that I may be feeling in my neck or that I can’t get my palms to touch the floor when I lean forward like I used to.
It’s exactly the kind of stuff that tend to feel like I don’t have time to pay attention to when I’m in the midst of the daily grind at home. It’s also the kind of stuff that makes me realize that maybe I need to make some changes to my daily grind when I get home because I’m not devoting as much time to self-care as I should be.
Spend time reflecting in a journal.
I’ve been working to develop a journaling habit for years. I know that when I journal I experience a lot more clarity in my daily life. I also feel a lot less stressed when I’m regularly getting my thoughts out of my head and on to paper—whether it’s digital paper through apps like Penzu or the actual paper of my favorite notebooks.
I love relaxed, reflective journaling, but my favorite type of journaling for clearing my mind is a wild and uncontrolled brain dump. I used to think that I should only journal when I felt like I had something really pressing to say. Then I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and learned about morning pages.
Morning pages are three pages of longhand stream of consciousness journaling. You write whatever comes into your mind. You don’t edit or censor yourself. You don’t even have to spell things correctly, write in complete sentences, or even make sense. They are for your eyes only. In fact, you don’t even have to ever read them again if you don’t want to.
The point is to let go of your inner critic and tap into your deeper consciousness. The rapid non-censor writing takes care of the former and doing it first thing in the morning is what brings the latter benefit.
Writing morning pages helps clear my mind, makes me feel more creative, and makes it so much easier for me to stay in touch with how I’m really feeling about what’s going on in my life. All of those things are key to living a happy life.
Meditation can feel really woo-woo to a lot of people. But it is one of the few things that has been shown to increase our baseline happiness level.
Yes, meditating can make you a happier person.
But like most things that are good for me, like eating more fruits and veggies and getting in 30 minutes of exercise a day, I rarely take the time to meditate every day. So being able to set aside 10 minutes of time every single day to meditate is quite a luxury.
I am definitely on the casual end of meditation practice, so I prefer guided meditation over sitting in silence. I’ve tried several meditation apps and my favorite by far is the Calm app.
My mind wanders and is easily distracted so having something else to focus on, like someone else’s voice, really helps me. Plus, it eliminates the work involved with learning how to meditate. I don’t have to read books or do internet research to feel knowledgeable enough about meditating before I can start meditating.
Instead, I grab my phone, find a good spot (in this case a chair out by the fountain) pop in my headphones, and follow the voice as it leads me to a happier mental place.
I’ve always felt the most accomplished and ready to start my day when I knock out a work out first thing in the morning. When I was in college, I’d leave the house at 5:30a to get to the gym right at 6a when it opened. I’d throw a banana and a protein shake in my bag for breakfast and be out the door.
Once I started working full time, my schedule just hasn’t always conducive to that. And it isn’t now. Not when I’m trying to get into the office by 6:30a on most days so that I can get home to my toddler by 4:30p.
Nowadays, getting to the gym first thing in the morning is a luxury. Which is why I was so happy to finally be able to do it consistently when we were on vacation.
I know a lot of people don’t relish the idea of working out on vacation because it’s “work.” But it’s the good kind of work. If we want our bodies to be healthy and strong deep in our later years we have to get into the habit of proper maintenance.
It can be something as simple as heading out for a 20 minute walk along the beautiful stretch of beach right next to your hotel or heading to the hotel gym for a full on weight training session.
Just get moving.
A good vacation morning routine makes vacation even better.
I feel like the best version of myself when I start my days off with this morning routine while on vacation. Instead of feeling like a chore or an obligation, this morning routine left me energized and excited to start the day.
It reminds me of just how powerful it can be when you’ve designed your life in a way that makes time for the things that truly bring joy and happiness to your life.
At the end of my vacation morning routine I found myself thinking, “I wish I could do this every day.” That’s exactly how vacation should feel.