Changing my morning ritual has made the biggest impact on my overall happiness and productivity. Before I share my new ritual, I think it's important to share my old one, because I'm willing to bet the shirt off my back yours is eerily similar.
Wake up: Whether to an alarm or not. Grab iPhone and swipe open. Immediately check any application showing a red notification (Twitter, Facebook, and email).
While reading email: Find out that I forgot to do something or that someone wrote me an angry email. Fight the urge to write an angry reply, especially because I'm still lying in bed.
While scrolling through Facebook: See a post from someone bashing Obama, or a rant about taxes, or a puppy that's in need of help, or a post about how Obama invented taxes on puppies.
While skimming Twitter: Read a tweet from someone complaining about how awful customer service is. Or a similar message about Obama/taxes/puppies.
Get up: Grumpy, sulking, and forcing myself to do some sort of "work" before anything else. Still thinking about how I'm mad at the stuff I read, and how much I disagree with it.
You get the point.
And whether you want to believe or it not, you're experiencing the same thing if you have a similar morning ritual. Even if you have the most highly curated feeds and friend lists, negativity will always slither its way through the cracks of our digital lives.
Here's where I took control back. I decided to make a change and quit starting my day with negative things. I decided to remove all opportunities for the boa constrictor of negativity to make its way around my neck. I decided to start spending the first 10 to 15 minutes of my day with positive experiences.
So what did I do? Meditation? Yoga? Deep breathing? Hide my iPhone in another part of my house? Get a puppy that can do taxes? Nope. I instituted InstaCoffeeHobbes. (And yes, that's a terrible name I just made up.)
Insta = Instagram: I still keep my phone next to my bed, that wasn't going to change. But I removed the Facebook and Twitter apps and moved the mail app to the second page. When I open my phone, one of the only app icons I click is Instagram. Why Instagram? Because it's a selective feed of photos of friends, family, beautiful people, cars, landscapes, puppies (!), and more. I can't remember the last time something showed up in my Instagram feed that was negative.
I spend between five and 15 minutes on Instagram. I get caught up on new photos from people I follow and check out the Instagram explore page to find interesting new stuff. After that, I close my phone and get out of bed.
Coffee = Coffee: I do own a Chemex and French press, but I don't have the patience for them in the morning. So I throw a couple scoops of Bulletproof Coffee in my automatic coffee maker and hit brew.
If you aren't familiar with Bulletproof Coffee I invite you to watch this video. It's an adjustment and weirds some people out, but I swear by it these days. And hey, Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah enjoy it, too.
Hobbes = Calvin and Hobbes: While my coffee is brewing, I grab one of the 12 (not kidding) Calvin and Hobbes books I own. Why Calvin and Hobbes? First, it takes me back to a happy place in my childhood. I remember flipping through the Sunday paper with my mom to find the newest comic from Bill Watterson. I remember pretending I was Calvin and living out his adventures in my mind. I also remember re-reading the books in the attic of my grandparents' house later in life (it was a finished attic, they didn't force me up there or anything weird). Second, Calvin and Hobbes has some of the greatest writing about life you will ever read. Don't believe me? Go read a few comics right now and tell me I'm wrong.
Instead of looking at my phone or firing up my laptop (where I could find negativity) while my coffee is brewing, I smile and conjure up feelings of happiness by reading a handful of comic strips.
By the time my coffee is finished brewing, I've spent 10 or 15 minutes doing only things that make me happy. My day has started with positivity--positivity that will be a shield of armor from the rigors of the rest of my day. If I were to start with negative influences first, the rest of the day is an uphill battle to reach positivity.
I'd rather start at the top of Mount Positivity each day, wouldn't you?
You may not be a big kid at heart and want to read Calvin and Hobbes. You may despise coffee. You may not have an Instagram account. But I guarantee you can replace InstaCoffeeHobbes with your own thing(s).
Maybe that's sitting cross-legged and breathing deeply in a dimly lit corner of your house while videos of puppies play in the background? I don't know. If that takes you to the peak of Mount Positivity each morning, then do that! I know how important starting my day off without negativity has been for me, and I want that for you as well.
It doesn't matter if you work from home or work a 9-to-5 job and have a commute; invest some time finding a morning ritual that makes you happy.
Take control of how you start your day--don't let the start of your day control you.