How One Morning Habit Changed My Life

Hello MindFitMove Readers! This week I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from my partner, writer and blogger Jane Endacott. She is here to tell you how a morning writing habit can reduce the stress and anxiety in your life and help you find clarity in your greatest aspirations.

Two years ago, I had a job that was killing me.

I had been working as a property manager for low-income housing for several years. It was my first job out of college, which I landed after a series of unsatisfying temp positions.

Many parts of the job were challenging and gratifying.

My clients had histories of poverty, homelessness, and disability. I helped them navigate program policies that empowered them to make the best decisions for their well-being. I saw people, who struggled to make it through the month on a disability check, share food with a neighbor who was in need. I had the joy of serving hundreds of kind, warm, spirited people.

But it was also emotionally draining.

There were days when I had to work out neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts, which made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict look like Sesame Street. I learned more about bedbugs than I ever cared to know. I witnessed mentally ill individuals go through the heartbreaking process of decompensating. I found the dead bodies of people who had passed away in their homes.

I always knew that I didn’t want to spend my whole life in this line of work. After some soul searching, I decided to get out and start my own business. But I was so exhausted and sapped of my energy that I couldn’t do even one thing to work on it during my free time. I had so much anxiety and tension from my job that at the end of every day, all I wanted to do was drink a glass (or three) of wine and collapse in bed. I felt stuck.

Then I started a morning routine that transformed me completely.

Finding Clarity

I picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a popular book that guides guides people on rediscovering their creative selves. In the first chapter, Cameron urges readers to do morning pages, three full pages of non-stop, free-writing every morning.

You can write about anything that’s inside your head at the moment – even if it’s your kindergarten teacher’s ugly sweaters or watching your cat cough up a hairball. You don’t edit, read, or show the pages to anybody. You simply write them hard and fast, and then put them away. And no matter what, keep your hands moving.

I’ll admit, when I first read about morning pages I was afraid to try it. Free-writing sounded so woo-wooey. And anyway I already spent enough time with what I call “The Mind Hurricane” whirling around in my head.

Despite my misgivings, I decided to try the practice for just a few days. If it didn’t jive with me, then I could stop doing it.

A few days turned into a few weeks. I set a date to leave my job, hell or high water, and four months after my first round of morning pages, I did what was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done and made the leap into a vast chasm of uncertainty.

Morning pages will do a lot more than get your ass moving.

Why Tame the Mind Hurricane

  1. Calming The Hurricane. Inner demons love to point out your flaws and insist that the world is against you. You can shove those demons aside, but they never go away. Morning pages gets those demons out of your head and in a place where they can’t wreck havoc. Morning pages gave me peace amidst the mind hurricane. Even if you’re not a writer, morning pages are a fantastic practice.
  2. Make mistakes. Morning pages are the only place where you don’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations. You don’t have to worry about writing something stupid, insensitive, incoherent, boring, or wrong. It’s a sacred place where you don’t need anybody’s approval or permission. Your mistakes are necessary for growing and learning, and with morning pages you can make TONS of mistakes.
  3. Find clarity. I realized that spending a little time each day with my mind hurricane isn’t so bad. I discovered that the hurricane is a manifestation of all my fear and anxiety: fear of being alone, fear of worthlessness, and fear of becoming a royal screw up. What’s amazing is that once you see and hear those inner demons they take up less space. You gain room for more clarity, vision, and inspiration for more important things, like working toward your goals and enjoying time with loved ones.
  4. Write daily. This is the best benefit of morning pages. A daily writing habit is wonderfully cathartic. You’ll find a means of self-expression, a simple creative outlet to awaken my inner world.

How to Take on the Mind Hurricane

If you want to tame your Mind Hurricane but aren’t sure where to begin, start with these four simple steps:

  • Have a ritual. Make a cup of coffee or tea, meditate, do yoga, or any other simple ritual that wakes our body up.
  • Change the station. I used to listen to NPR in the morning, but doing so filled my mind with more clutter. Now, I listen to classical (more peaceful) and get my news later in the day. Think about your morning routine. Are there any habits or distractions you will need to change? How can you cultivate the clarity your mind needs? Give yourself 30 minutes to write before turning on media (email, social media, news) to avoid distraction.
  • Try it for 3 days. One day is not enough, but by day three, you’ll start to notice minor improvements. If you’re still not sure, try it for three more days. Adjust as you see fit. No need to make a huge commitment.
  • Notice. As you go about your day, pay attention to how you feel. Do you find that you’re more clear-headed? More creative or a better problem solver? Calmer? How do you feel when you miss a day of writing pages?

Two years after starting my business, I still use morning pages to maintain clarity, to see the path before me, and to look ever deeper.

In my experience, this practice has benefited my life in some very clear ways that is worth sharing with you. If you’re searching for your path or want to look deeper, here’s how it can help you. Those first pages I wrote two years ago? They were only scratching the surface.

Jane Endacott is a writer, blogger, and self-published author living in Portland, Oregon. Her blog, Word Savant, helps writers of all backgrounds find their inner strength and discover their voice. You can follow Jane on Facebook and on Twitter.


Would You Eat Your Brain For Breakfast? – How to Establish a Morning Ritual

#Blog Brains

Would You Eat Your Brain For Breakfast?
– How to Establish a Morning Ritual

For years, I didn’t eat breakfast. I thought much of the common wisdom about breakfast being the most important meal of the day was bunk. And something about waking up and putting a big meal in my stomach usually made me feel ill.

But all of that changed when I moved into the monastery. Every morning after meditation, we would sit down to a silent breakfast eaten in an ancient Japanese ritual called Oryoki.

I won’t go into a prolonged explanation of the process, but it’s slow and ornate style helped me appreciate the value of the morning meal. And though I loved breakfast at the monastery, it wasn’t until I left that I realized why the ritual was so important.

Every aspect of the morning ritual at the monastery helps the residents start their day with intention, clarity, nutrition, and energy. I began to see that Breakfast wasn’t just about what we put in our bodies, but what we put in our minds.

Most days when we wake up our brains are filled with the leftover worries, disappointments, fears, and stress from the day before. Then without pause we pour those stale thoughts into a bowl and begin to eat.

Being at the monastery taught me that having a morning ritual allows us to let go of what happened yesterday and start each day fresh. Ever since I left the monastery I’ve practiced with many morning rituals. And I’ve found that what I do first in the day has a huge impact on what I do the rest of the day.


How to Create a Morning Ritual

Here are some simple ways to create a morning ritual that will help your day flow more smoothly.


1. Intention – Write down your vows, intentions, or mission.

The question of what you want to do with your life begins with the question what do you want to do with today. If you already have a set of vows or a set of goals, you can support them by writing them down every morning.

If you don’t have any intentions or vows then you can make your first vow to create a set of 4-6 vows for your life. These vows can be broad like I vow to fight for civil rights, or they can be narrow, like I vow to learn how to juggle. They can be epic, like I vow to climb Mt. Everest, or they can be mundane, like I vow to brush my teeth everyday.

It doesn’t matter what your vows are so long as they speak to your heart and will encourage you to grow. Once you’ve settled on your vows include one more: I vow to write my vows everyday.


2. Clarity – Meditate for 5 mins

Having good intentions is essential for living a full life and a full day. But without clarity, it is hard to know if we are moving in alignment with those intentions or not. For this reason it’s vital that you engage in some practice of clarity everyday.

Meditation is perhaps the best one of these practices. Sitting and quieting the mind for even 5 mins can have a huge impact on our ability grow and adapt.

Being willing to stop and face ourselves even for a few moments offers us the chance to start each day fresh. It clears some of the old marks on the white board of our mind. And helps us notice what fears and hopes we are holding in our hearts.

3. Energy – Stretch or Exercise for 10 – 30 mins

The morning is the best time to exercise. When you start your day with exercise you get your metabolism moving, your blood pumping, and generate powerful momentum. I’ve found when I exercise in the morning I’m more consistent about sticking to my plan and I enjoy my day even more.

It doesn’t matter if you start with a 5 mile run or a 10 min yoga routine. What matters is that you get your body moving. The key is to pick something you like and that you will do consistently.

I always tell my clients the best exercise is the exercise you do. If you like running then run. If you prefer an aerobics routine then sweat to the oldies. What matters is that you do it regularly and enjoy it.

4. Nutrition – Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Recent studies have indicated that people who eat a healthy full breakfast lose weight even without changing anything else about their diet. Eating a good breakfast assures that we have enough fuel for everything we need to get done. It also establishes a pattern of healthy eating for the rest of your day.

The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to breakfast is they don’t eat enough protein. With favorites like pancakes, cereal, and bagels, breakfast can often be the most carb-laden meal of the day.

The reason protein is even more important at breakfast is that it helps us feel full longer and our bodies need this essential fuel all day long.

The second biggest mistake that people make is they don’t eat veggies at breakfast. Veggies not only provide us with essential vitamins and fiber. They also help fill our bellies without adding a ton of calories to our diets.

If you’re not sure what to have for a healthy breakfast you can use your hands as a simple guide. An ideal breakfast would include two fists of veggies, one to two palms of protein, and one to two cupped hands of carbs.

For me this often looks like lightly sautéed greens, 2 eggs, and half a bagel or a banana. Since I’ve started eating this way I’ve noticed that I feel full longer, I have more energy, and I eat less for lunch.

One final note:
If you aren’t doing any of these things just pick one of them to start and try it for a week. Then add one more every week and in a month you will have a robust morning ritual.

Also it doesn’t matter what order you do these in. (Though most people prefer to exercise on an empty stomach.) What’s important is to develop a morning ritual that fits your lifestyle.

Our lives don’t veer of course all of a sudden. Instead, most of us suffer from slow mission drift. Establishing a morning ritual can stop that drift and helps you move back towards greater balance.

Question: How do you like to start your day?


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