I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not a morning person. Yes, I do take the time to make a healthy breakfast (that’s probably the only thing that gets me out of bed since I’m starving in the mornings), but as soon as my alarm goes off, I’m reaching for my phone in bed, scrolling through social media with one eye closed, and checking my emails and to-do list. Then I’m rushing to get to my desk feeling a bit frazzled before the day even starts. I’ve been wanting to incorporate a more balanced and healthy morning routine, so I decided to ask other women to share their morning routines—what they do, how they do it, and what makes them feel less-stressed and excited to start their day. Meet Sophie from The Green Life.
“Hi! I’m Sophie. I’m a French Canadian from Montreal, and I’m currently living in Toronto. I’m a food blogger, recipe developer, freelance food stylist, photographer, and certified holistic nutritionist. I’m the founder of The Green Life, a blog that focuses on whole-foods, seasonal, plant-based recipes as well as wellness and holistic living. I spend most of my days either testing recipes in the kitchen, styling and photographing food, writing for my blog, or working on freelance projects.
I’ve never been a morning person by nature. My sisters and my mom would laugh that I’m getting interviewed about my morning routine, because I was always the last one up in my family. Even when I was working 9-to-5, my mornings were quite horrible. I would wake up frantically after snoozing for an hour and leave the house in a rush. Very often, I’d skip breakfast and drink nothing but a few cups of coffee until lunch. I only started creating a morning routine for myself when I left my corporate job and started nutrition school a few years ago. That’s when I really learned to relax and slow down in the mornings. Now, I couldn’t live without my morning routine. It’s a moment of self-care that I cherish and helps me start my day in the best way possible.
ON HAVING A NIGHTTIME ROUTINE
Having a good morning for me starts with the night before. Since I’m naturally a night person, I had to develop a few rituals to help me wind down. I just started this thing a few weeks ago, where I try not to look at my phone or computer past 8PM. I’m still adjusting and it’s definitely challenging, but I’ve found that it makes a huge difference in calming down and preparing my mind for the night ahead. I really hope I can stick to it!
I always have a cup of herbal tea before going to bed. I use a mix of herbs that have calming and relaxing properties. My favorite is a mix of skullcap, lemon balm and passionflower. It tastes lovely together and makes me sleep like a baby.
I’ll also go to bed a little early to read at least 10 pages of a book. I was the type of person who would buy so many books but never end up reading them, so in the New Year I made it a goal to start reading more. I figured if I read 10 pages a day, I’d have at least read five or six books by the end of the year. It’s been working really well—I’ve read more books this year than I’ve read in the last 5 years combined. Plus, it always helps me relax and puts me in sleeping mode.
The last thing I do before falling asleep is diffuse essential oils in my bedroom. I have this amazing diffuser from a Canadian company called Saje. I absolutely love it. Every single night, I’ll turn it on with lavender oil or their tranquility blend, a blend of essential oils that are naturally relaxing. It has such a soothing and calming effect. I seriously can’t sleep without it.
ON WAKING UP
For a while I tried waking up early, but I realized it just wasn’t for me. After reading this book called ‘The Miracle Morning’, I would try to get up at 6AM every day. It ended up being too ambitious and just left me feeling tired and frustrated. These days I wake up around 7:30AM. The first thing I’ll do is spend a couple minutes to practice gratitude while I’m still in bed. I’ll think of something that I’m grateful for, it can be anything, and hold on to that thought before stepping out of bed. I love doing it because it puts me in a good mood right away. Then I’ll drink a glass of room temperature water by my bed to rehydrate my body.
After I get out of bed, I use my Neti Pot. It’s a practice that comes from Ayurveda, India’s most ancient medicine, and it’s been used for thousands of years. The Neti Pot is a simple ceramic pot that you fill with lukewarm water and sea salt. You let the water pour out of the pot and into one of your nostrils, and it flows out the other nostril. You then repeat the same process on the other side. It’s not super sexy; it’s very awkward the first time you do it. But it does wonders. It helps clean your nostrils so you can breathe better, clears your sinuses, relieves headaches, and removes allergens and dust. I instantly feel refreshed and energized when I do it.
The next thing I do is my meditation. I’ll meditate every morning for about half an hour. I practice Vipassana meditation. I learned this technique on my first meditation retreat a few years ago and it’s the one I’ve been practicing ever since. I like to finish my meditation session with a few positive affirmations. If I have a big day ahead or something stressful coming up, I’ll try to think positive thoughts like, ‘I’m going to be extremely productive today’ or ‘this presentation will go really well’. It can be really easy to wake up and instantly focus on all your deadlines and obligations, but doing this helps me start the day on a positive note.
ON OIL PULLING
After meditation, I’ll do oil pulling, which is one of my favorite things to do in the morning. You basically take a teaspoon to a tablespoon of oil and swish it around your mouth for 5 to 20 minutes. You can use sesame oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. I personally love coconut oil because I like the taste, and also because it contains lauric acid, a great antimicrobial agent. Once you’re done, you just spit the oil out in the trash—it can clog the sink or toilet, so make sure to do it in the trash. Then you just rinse your mouth and that’s it. 20 minutes may sound like a long time at first, so I recommend starting with 5 minutes in the beginning and slowly building up to it. I’ll also do it while preparing breakfast, showering, or getting ready, so I don’t even notice the time going by.
Oil pulling is amazing because it removes bacteria that has accumulated in your mouth during the night, and leaves your mouth feeling clean, fresh, and purified of toxins. It also whitens your teeth, strengthens your gums, and does wonders for your immune system. I’ve been doing it continuously for two years now and I haven’t been sick since (knock on wood!). I really believe it has something to do with oil pulling.
After oil pulling, I’ll either have warm water with lemon or just a spoonful of apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach. They alkalize the body, boost the metabolism, and kick-start the digestive system. Lemon water and apple cider vinegar both have a similar effect, but vinegar is just more convenient if you can handle the taste. If it’s too strong, you can mix it with water and a bit of honey. I usually like to drink a spoonful of vinegar most days and switch to a cup of warm lemon water in the winter months.
For breakfast, I love eating overnight oats during summertime and porridge during the colder months. Overnight oats are so easy to prep the night before, and you just top them with fresh fruit and granola in the morning. When I was working in an office, it was always my solution for a good breakfast-on-the-go. I’ll usually do a mix of rolled oats and chia seeds with a bit of homemade almond milk or cashew milk, and some add-ons like almond butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and superfoods like maca, lucuma, pine pollen or bee pollen. I love that it’s so easy to adapt and make it your own.
I’m a big fan of smoothies as well. I’ll have green smoothies at least a few times a week, and I’ll always have them in bowls. It forces me to actually take the time to eat and chew the smoothie instead of drinking it, which is very important for good digestion. Plus, it allows me to add a ton of toppings—the best part! My go-to breakfast smoothie consists of a frozen banana, a handful of spinach or kale, and either frozen peach or mango. Then I’ll just throw in a bunch of add-ons and superfoods. I’ll go crazy sometimes and add 10 of them! My favorites are flax seeds, chia seeds, moringa powder, maca, lucuma, spirulina, or chlorella. I’ll sometimes add some fresh basil or mint for flavor. And I’ll make sure to finish with some spices like cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne pepper or turmeric.
I don’t drink coffee during the week. I’ll usually save it for a little weekend treat. Instead, I’ll have a cup of herbal tea to go along with my breakfast. Lately, I’ve been drinking a lot of holy basil, my favorite herb. It’s a wonderful adaptogen and it’s great for relieving stress. Nettle is another favorite. It’s high in iron and it’s great for allergies. They both taste delicious. I’ll usually mix them with chaga tea, another super adaptogen that helps lower stress and give you energy.
ON STARTING THE DAY
By the time I’m done with breakfast, it’s usually about 9:30AM and I’m ready to start working. I’ll actually put my phone on airplane mode when I go to sleep and not turn it back on until after breakfast. It stops me from grabbing my phone first thing in the morning and getting distracted by emails and social media.
The biggest challenge for me in the mornings is definitely sticking to my routine when life gets in the way. If I have a big deadline or project that needs to get done, it’s so easy to wake up and be like, ‘I need to finish this, so I’m just going to dive straight in.’ But I realized when I do that, I’m not as productive or I’ll end up feeling stressed all day. So nowadays when I feel like I’m running short on time, I’ll at least try to do a shorter version of my routine. Half an hour of meditation can seem like a long time when you have something urgent to get to, so I’ll do 5 or 10 minutes instead. Or I’ll do 5 minutes of oil pulling instead of the whole 20 minutes. At the end of day, it’s not so much about having a crazy three hour routine and feeling like you have to do it all, but more about taking a moment for yourself and starting the day with something that makes you feel great.”
You can also try Sophie’s Matcha Chia Parfait With Blackberry Mash for a simple and delicious breakfast-on-the-go.
As told to Stephanie Park, September, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Sophie Bourdon.