How a morning routine sorted my head out

In my last post I talked about how I’d finally decided I needed a routine to give my days some structure and help me feel like I am actually achieving something in life. And do you know what – I have actually managed to put something in place, and though it’s not quite happened the way I anticipated, I’ve now got a morning routine that helps me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and gets me feeling like I’ve achieved something before I even get dressed!

I started following the routine I outlined in my previous post – woke around 7.30, made tea, read in bed till 8, then did morning pages and yoga, showered, had breakfast and was ready for the day by the time James O’Brien was taking to the airwaves on LBC. But then something horrible happened and threw everything out of sync …

My dog killed some chickens.

Yep – while taking our usual afternoon walk the dogs darted into an alley they’ve been down 20 times before and discovered an unexpected flock (gaggle? herd?) of chickens. The dogs were over the wall in a flash and while Caspar had great fun chasing them around, Pickle was more intent on killing as many as she could. I will never forget the sight of her walking round proudly with a big fat chicken in her mouth – and my fear of being driven out of my home by angry enshada-wielding villagers*, just as I started to feel settled here.

*Enshada – not sure of the spelling – a very popular gardening tool here in Portugal, kind of like a spade but with the blade set at 90 degrees to the handle.

Fortunately, after using my very best (admittedly ropey) Portuguese to apologise profusely, and after handing over sufficient euros to replace the chickens, and after promising faithfully that Pickle will remain on a lead forever more, it was laughed off as “just one of those things” and I can walk around the village without need of a paper bag over my head to hide my shame!

So … why is the fact that my dog is a chicken-murdering demon of any relevance to my new morning routine?

Well, prior to the ‘incident’ she ran free all the time, so when she woke up in the morning I’d simply open the door and leave her to her own devices. But now she is either on a line or confined to the veranda, and she has made it very clear that she does not want to do her business in her own backyard. So I am now woken up very early (any time from 5.30am onwards) by a pooch who is desperate for the loo!

This obviously meant I couldn’t just laze in bed until 8am, so my new morning routine took on a very different pattern very quickly … and having all that extra time in the morning enabled me to incorporate a whole load of “extras” that are making a huge difference to me in so many ways.

So this is what the morning routine has looked like for the last three weeks…

Morning walk

I’m usually woken at dawn, and I stagger over the road, still in my pyjamas, to take the dogs down a lovely woodland path towards some flower meadows. It’s the only place in the village I feel safe letting Pickle off the lead, so they bound off into the woods where they chase shadows and each other and, presumably, do their business, while I walk down the path to the bottom and wait for them there. Once I get over the shock of being awake so early, it’s wonderful to be out in nature at that time of day, when the morning dew makes everything smell so clean and fresh, and the sun makes patterns on the tree trunks as it rises. By the time we get back to the house I am wide awake and raring to go!

Morning pages

After feeding the dogs and making my first cuppa of the day, I sit at the table and write three pages of whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I really struggle to know what to write and it becomes a dull diary entry of whatever I did the previous day, but often I’ve found myself working through some issue that’s been nagging away at me, and I’ve actually found life moving forwards in a number of areas simply through letting my thoughts unconsciously ramble onto the page. It’s definitely a great way to clear your head and find answers to some of life’s complications.

Meditation

Meditation is something I’ve wanted to get into the habit of for years, and finally, having this extra time in the mornings, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve been trying out various guided meditations to see what suits me best – maybe I’ll do a blog post about that some time – but taking some time to completely zone out does seem to have helped me get in touch with something deep within me and I feel calmer and more ‘me’ than I ever have. Sometimes I do a quick five minute session, other times I meditate for half an hour or so; I just go by how I’m feeling on the day, but I do make sure I do it every morning.

‘Improving’ reading

I read – a lot – but I tend to read for pleasure and relaxation, mostly contemporary romance and crime/thrillers. I have loads of non-fiction books I keep meaning to read but I never seem to get around to it. So every morning I spend at least five minutes reading something ‘improving’ – though the definition of that is pretty vague. I started with a self-development book on developing habits (seemed fitting really) but I am now exploring various non-God-focused religions, like Buddhism, Daoism, Humanism and secular spirituality, so I’m reading quite a lot of stuff in those areas.

Portuguese

One of my goals for 2020 was to speak Portuguese to conversational level. I think that was a bit over-enthusiastic really, but although my Portuguese is still nowhere near conversation level, I do have quite a decent vocabulary and am starting to understand more and more. I use the Memrise app and do at least five minutes every morning to keep developing my vocab and comprehension.

DDP Yoga

I used to do DDP Yoga every single morning, without fail, but during my ‘annus horriblis’ of 2018 I fell out of the habit, and I’ve found it really difficult to get back into it since I moved to Portugal. Until now! I have promised myself I will at least do the warm-up workout (10 minutes) every day, and I have only missed one morning so far, and that’s because I wasn’t at home. Feeling so much better for it too – stronger, fitter, more flexible.

Shower, breakfast, Mr James OB…

So after getting in touch with nature, clearing and resetting my mind, learning something new and getting my body moving, I’m ready for my day – a shower (sometimes – having not had access to a shower for over a year I still find it’s something of a treat and I don’t over do it!!), a healthy breakfast and then my favourite radio presenter while I get on with some work.

So that’s my new morning routine, and so far it is working for me. I do find I tend to take my time over it and am not dressed and ready for work until 10am, but that’s fine, I’m not in a rush to get anywhere! Of course, if I did need to be somewhere at a certain time I might not find it so easy to stick to, so I’ve kept it flexible enough that I can reduce the time if need be – for example, I currently write three pages of A4 but I could write three pages in a smaller book (still three pages, theoretically), do five minutes of meditation/reading/Portuguese, ten minutes of yoga and the whole routine would only take half an hour. And I’d still be getting loads of benefit from it.

My next step is to put some sort of evening routine in place to make sure the washing up is done and the house is tidy before I go to bed … but somehow that one isn’t quite so appelaing right now!

Do you have routines in your life that help you get stuff done? I’d love to know what you do!

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