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It will come as no surprise that my mornings look quite different these days than they did seven months ago. It’s clear: The whole world looks very different.
Aside from the mundane life changes which make up our new “new normal” (taking coffee at home, wearing masks outdoors, dropping my daughter off at the dining table instead of her school and embracing that “#wfh life” instead of meeting my team at our design studio), there is one major shift that I think most people can relate to. As a parent and entrepreneur, I find myself onboarding new employees through Zoom, attending virtual trade shows, catching up with friends and family through FaceTime, using distance learning for my daughter, and unwinding in front of the TV. After a day of these activities, it seems my whole life is unfolding before a screen. And with my phone in hand most waking hours, I see that fine line between my personal life and my work life disappearing almost completely.
Even before the pandemic, I relied heavily on digital tools to run my business. After all, my company, Jungalow, is an online shop, design studio, and community that grew out of my daily design blog. I am no stranger to logging six hours a day of screen time. However during quarantine, I noticed the situation getting progressively worse.
For a person whose company tagline is “Bring Good Vibes Home,” the vibe at my home was starting to feel pretty crazy. When my screen time notifications hit eight hours a day, I knew I had to make some changes. I decided to experiment with small shifts that have had major impacts on my physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Before I even open my laptop for the day, I found that a combination of five simple morning practices has helped me feel more energized, creative, and focused. For me, it’s more important these days to be intentional about carving out time to tune out the constant notifications and check-in with myself.
More writing, less scrolling
Familiar to many, I also have that itch to reach for my phone first thing in the morning. I check email, Instagram, nighttime sales, DMs, stocks, and also see how my folks are doing.
But it’s so easy to get sucked into the “external world” without first checking in with my “inner world,” so I made the change to charge my phone in the kitchen instead of on my nightstand. And I swapped the phone out for a notebook. Now, in the mornings, I jot down my dreams, set my intentions or goals for the day, or write a list of three things I’m grateful for.
There’s something I really love about pen hitting paper. It feels intentional and meditative and helps awaken my senses. It connects my brain to my body and sparks my imagination. For me, the key to maintaining this practice is keeping it short and simple; otherwise, it’s not sustainable. I don’t spend more than 10 minutes writing in the morning, but if I’m in a flow state—I go with it! This routine is quickly becoming a habit for me, and it brings me one step closer to silencing that nagging need to scroll.
Bring on the creativity
I consider myself to primarily be a creative, and I truly believe that we all have that spark of creativity inside of us. But sometimes, life gets in the way. To help myself intentionally make more space for creativity, I keep a cup full of pencils and pens and a couple of notebooks on the kitchen table. In the mornings, I often doodle with my daughter at the kitchen table over breakfast for a few minutes. On the weekends, I draw and paint in the mornings. I do this sometimes for three to four hours to keep my skills sharp and to help inspire new ideas.
Whether I dedicate a few minutes or a few hours to nourishing my creativity each day, . . . the morning is the best time to tap into my imagination.
Whether I dedicate a few minutes or a few hours to nourishing my creativity each day, I have noticed that the morning is the best time to tap into my imagination. It’s like each day opens itself up to us with a potential opportunity to create something beautiful. And it’s up to me to decide whether or not I seize that opportunity.
If painting or drawing isn’t your thing, gardening, playing with clay, working on puzzles, or a musical instrument can have a similar effect—these activities have an almost meditative quality to them. Creativity isn’t about the output. It’s the process that matters the most. That’s the liminal space where the magic happens, where we reconnect with ourselves and the things that fulfill and nurture us as evolving beings.
Reading a physical book
On days that I wake up early and the house is quiet, I pick up a book or a magazine.
There is something incredibly gratifying about turning tangible pages. I love the smell of paper, feeling the pages between my fingertips, and getting lost in other worlds. On mornings that I don’t have time to sit and read for an extended period, I like to read short essays, articles, or poems from books like Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life by Cleo Wade. Even reading a few lines can inspire something in me that has ripple effects throughout my day. (And yes, issues of Fast Company and lots of shelter magazines also have a sacred spot on my nightstand!)
Get your heart pumping
I try to move my body every day, whether I am taking a jog, riding my bike around the neighborhood, or stretching in the backyard. I like to follow it up with a dip in the jacuzzi or an outdoor shower. The key is changing up my environment and getting some time outdoors. And I love the double-whammy of endorphins plus vitamin D.
Let there be light
Like many of us, my home and workspace have merged into one, so it feels especially important to keep multipurpose spaces free of stagnant energy to allow productivity and creativity to flow freely.
My favorite way of refreshing a space first thing in the morning is by opening up the windows and letting the light and fresh air in. If you notice dusty buildup on your windows, give them a good cleaning, hang some lightweight cotton curtains, and watch them dance in the breeze when the windows are open. Listen to the birds outside, stare up at the sky, and feel the sun on your skin. This is a great way to get grounded in the morning and connect the indoors with the outdoors. The simplicity of these activities will help you spend less time digitally plugged in and, most likely, stressed, and more time connecting with what matters to you.
Justina Blakeney is a designer, artist, entrepreneur, and best-selling author who believes good design increases the quality of life and creativity is the key to having an amazing home. She is the founder and director of Jungalow, a direct-to-consumer bohemian home decor and lifestyle e-commerce platform. She lives in L.A. with her husband, daughter, and 52 houseplants.