I have spent a lot of my years as a mom feeling like the details of my day were out of control. I regularly wash the same load of laundry twice because I keep forgetting to put it in the dryer. Yesterday, my child accidentally licked her hands after using a public restroom, and I thought, It’s OK, she’s licked worse. Not to mention the article that popped up in my news feed stating that the average American mom spends two hours and 51 minutes on her smartphone every day (I read it while on my phone). I had a shame storm envelop me, reminding me of all the ways I am failing to make intentional choices with my time, and that I am not enough.
Not long after, I was listening to a podcast where the host was talking about how there is power in developing rituals and routines that can help bring order to our days. “Pick one area of your life and bring order to it,” she said. “It can be something small, but a morning routine would be the place that I would start.”
What I am learning is that it is the miniscule activities in our days that lead to massive lifelong improvements, and sometimes it starts with something small, like the way we start our morning.
So, here are six practical rituals that are helping me give order to my mornings (and my life).
Rituals for Myself:
Writing three pages of anything that comes to mind is incredibly helpful in starting my day. This exercise helps get rid of the random thoughts, worries, questions and to-dos that are taking up space. And the most important part of the whole exercise is that no one needs to ever see it, so no need to edit myself.
Checking off items from my to-do list is addicting, but never satisfying. If you are anything like me, you are a professional at overcommitting to lengthy to-do lists, which inevitably leads to feeling like a failure at life. Especially when all the same tasks are still on the list the next morning. I have decided that my to-do list is no longer the boss of me, and to prove it, I now create a list of three to-dos that I am committed to accomplish that day. Only three. This has simplified my life tremendously and also given me a sense of accomplishment.
Many days my prayer life consists of all three of my kids bickering over who gets to sit next to the window in the car, which prompts me to have a quick check in with Jesus so I don’t say anything that I would be embarrassed if my neighbors overheard. This is why an intentional few minutes of prayer each morning feels revolutionary. My prayer time is different each day, sometimes I just sit silently and listen, other mornings I pray for each of my kids. Regardless of the words, I find it is in the repetition of daily practice that I start to hear God in ways that I never had before.
Rituals With My Kids:
Playlist With a Twist
Instead of having to remind kids to do certain tasks, a simple solution is to make a playlist where each song cues them to transition to their next activity. My kids know that when “This Is My Year” by Family Force 5 comes on it means that they should be getting dressed, and when “Glorious” by Macklemore (it’s the clean version, deep breaths) comes on they should be eating breakfast. It takes a few days for all of us to get into our groove and we regularly make a new playlist when we get tired of the songs, but overall my kids love starting their day with their favorite songs and I love not having to nag.
Happy Days Notebook
The idea of a gratitude journal feels so Church Lady 1995, but the annoying truth: it works. Each morning when my kids are eating breakfast, we all sit down and write or draw three things we are thankful for in our one dollar composition books we call our Happy Day Notebooks. Even when my kids were little and couldn’t write, they would draw pictures. The only guideline is you can’t list something that you wrote the day before. Honestly, it has radically shaped the way they view the world and reminds them (and me) to actively look for things to write in our journals the next day.
Hugs are powerful. Research tells us that a hug a day, preferably lasting longer than a minute, makes us healthier, happier and even boosts our math skills (the benefits are shocking). That’s why I hug each of my kids every morning for at least one minute. They get squirmy, but secretly love it. I know this because if I forget, they remind me. There are mornings when I am busy and want to rush the ritual, but instead I allow it to slow me down and recenter my priorities.
Whatever rituals you choose to incorporate into your morning, make sure they serve you well. Don’t keep doing something that feels like a chore or doesn’t make your day better. The only practices worth spending moments on are the ones that improve your heart and soul. So, here’s to intentional mornings that turn into beautiful lives.
For a behind the scenes conversation with Mandy go to vimeo.com/mopsinternational
Mandy Arioto is a mom of three and the President and CEO of MOPS International. Her book, Starry-Eyed: Seeing Grace in the Unfolding Constellation of Life and Motherhood, can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the MOPS Store online. Check in with her at mandyarioto.com.
This article currently appears in the winter 2018 issue of The MOPS Magazine.