In 2012 I gave myself a challenge: I couldn't say anything negative about anyone else or myself for Six. Whole. Months.
Whoa. (Try it! It's harder than you think!)
Guess which one was harder of the two: kindness to others or kindness to self? Yeah, you know the answer to this one, don't you? The latter challenge was much harder. After a few months, the gossiping and finger-pointing at others had mostly stopped, but I couldn't seem to stop the voice in my mind of fear and self-doubt.
Exasperated, I finally asked a life coach at a weekend seminar I attended, "but how do I love myself? I don't even know how so how can I get better at it!?
"If all you can do is be kind to yourself for just 2 more minutes a day, just do that," was his response. Start small.
And then it hit me: just one little habit at a time was all I needed to change to start being good to myself.
I've culled this morning routine from many different readings to create something that works for me. I find that if I love myself first, I can be kinder to others throughout the day. As you read this list, take what sounds good for you and leave the rest.
Create your own morning ritual of self-love.
How to start your day with kindness:
1. GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME. Wake up at 2 hours before you need to be somewhere. Being frantically in a hurry doesn't lend itself to gentle kindness throughout the day. For extra kind waking, try the Sleep Cycle app, or similar. It monitors your movement and knows whether you're in a deep sleep, waking you within a set time parameter while you're in light sleep so as not to jolt you awake from the depths of slumber.
2. DRINK A GLASS OF WATER FIRST THING. According to The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod, we lose water at night merely by breathing. Dehydration will make you tired so putting a full glass back right away will help give you the energy to tackle your day with excitement and mindfulness.
3. MEDITATE. This is not just for Buddhists any more. Trevor Blake wrote in his Three Simple Steps, that giving yourself personal alone time for 20 minutes each day, first thing, is a way to generate winning ideas. Emerson did this by going for a walk in the woods. You can walk or sit in your special place, but its important to honor yourself by having this personal time for you and no one else.
4. WRITE SOMETHING. Julia Cameron calls this ritual "morning pages" in her seminal book on the subject of creativity, The Artist's Way. Writing down your first thoughts is a way to capture your mind at its freshest but also to honor and acknowledge one's own thought process, instilling self-confidence.
5. VIEW POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS. Make a list of your best qualities and accomplishments and tape it to your mirror so you can look at it every morning while you get ready. While you at it, practice Amy Cuddy's "power posing" for a self-confidence boost. I keep my half and full marathon medals hanging on my door so I see them every day.
6. LIMIT DISTRACTIONS. I leave my cell-phone on airplane mode until I leave my house for work in the morning. How is this the same as practicing kindness? Constant notifications and distractions take away our ability to mindful. It's much easier to follow your morning routine if your phone isn't buzzing with the latest email or Facebook like that can wait until later to be seen.
7. BE GRATEFUL. It's difficult to be unkind to self and others when you're crowding out the negative thoughts with gratitude. Write down five things you're grateful for (there in step 4) or think (or sing!) about them while you're in the shower and pretty soon you'll be too joyful for negative talk. Want proof that gratitude is good for you? Check out the Center for Greater Good.
This post originally appeared on Kindness Blog.
Alison Cebulla is a life, health, and business coach based in New York City.
She has been writing about kindness since 2012