Morning Rituals

How To, Personal, Wellbeing

Morning Rituals: Or, How to feel less like a zombie at 6AM

A couple of posts ago, I shared what I’ve been doing to become a Morning Person. In today’s post, I’ll be going into more detail around my morning rituals. I’m finally getting to the point where I don’t feel like a miserable mess when my alarm goes off, so I’ll try to share what’s been helping me.

Optimize your alarm clock

I don’t have one of those nifty dawn-simulating alarm clocks (though it is definitely on my wishlist), but my phone has two sweet settings that seem to be helping wake me up in the morning:

1) A smart alarm: Three minutes before my set wake-up time is mean to go off, a soft and gentle wake-up warning will start to sound. Sometimes, this is all I need to wake me up in the morning, often without waking up Erik. I have the option to snooze my smart alarm, and wait for the actual one to go off three minutes later.

2) Bright lights: When my proper alarm goes off (currently set to 6:30 am), it is accompanied by the flashlight on my phone turning on and off. It’s a little thing, but that bright light in my room has really been helping me get awake and oriented in the mornings, especially during these dark winter months.

Rev up your metabolism with Cayenne Lemonade

I went into detail about my beloved Cayenne Lemonade in last week’s post, so I won’t go into too much detail here. All you’ll need for this morning elixir is a mug of warm water, the juice of half a lemon, and a couple shakes of cayenne pepper (I recommend starting small if you are not a fan of spice). This Morning Elixir will help get your digestive tract moving by encouraging the secretion of stomach acid in preparation for breakfast, but it will probably also make you poop, so be prepared for that.

Have a protein-packed breakfast

Indulging in a protein-rich breakfast first thing in the morning will help keep your blood sugar balanced for the day ahead. That means that you’ll be more focused and satiated for longer than if you’d had a more carb-centric breakfast. My favourite protein-packed brekkies often include a plant-based protein shake, a bowl of quinoa porridge, or a few scrambled eggs.

Work standing up

I know that while sitting in a comfy chair first thing in the morning, I’m more likely to fall asleep than get to work. So I try to do some work standing up.

If you’ve got a standing desk, then lucky you, feel free to use that. Since I do not have a standing desk, I’ve found that a kitchen counter or island does the trick. Disclaimer: This may only work if you’re a short little lady like me. If you are not a shortie, maybe try adding a stack of books to your counter and see if that does the trick.

Matcha it up

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but last summer, I was finally able to kick my coffee habit. On the very rare occasion when I’ve let my desire get the best of me and have a cup, I’m very quickly reminded of why I stopped (it makes me feel like complete garbage). However, I am also somebody who really enjoys the ritual and camaraderie of visiting my local independent coffee shop, so I’ve taken up with another significantly more healthy vice: Matcha Lattes.

Matcha is an antioxidant rich green tea powder, with a fresh, grassy, and bitter flavour. I’ve heard that it can be an acquired taste, but that was not my experience at all. I loved matcha lattes the moment my first sip crossed my lips. My local cafe makes them with almond milk and a squeeze of honey, and they are to die for, IMO. I’ve also heard that they’re quite high in caffeine, but they don’t affect me in at all the same way that a cup of coffee or espresso-based beverage does. For me, they provide more focused, calm energy, which is a vast improvement from jittery, sleep-deprived me of yesteryear.

Bonus Tip: Pop a melatonin 20 minutes before bed.

Most nights before bed, I take a Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in your body responsible for sleep. In its supplement form, it can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. It has been a bit of a godsend for me because I often have a restless mind when I’m lying in bed at night. And even once I’ve fallen asleep, that anxiety can sometimes leave me tossing and turning throughout the night. It doesn’t work every night, but when it does, I am very grateful to sleep peacefully through the night. And I feel a lot more well-rested the following morning.

How to Have A Lovely Day

How To, Personal, Wellbeing

How to Have a Lovely Day

The idea for a How to Have a Lovely Day post comes from Sara Du Jour’s post by the same name. When I read it, I was immediately inspired to write a how-to from my own perspective.

So, without further ado: I had a day off and decided to Have a Lovely Day. Your idea of a Lovely Day may look different from mine, but if you also happen to have the day off of work, feel free to follow along.

Start the day off with a cup of cayenne lemonade.

Squeeze half a lemon into a cup of warm water. Add a couple shakes of cayenne (make it as spicy as you can realistically handle). You’re ready, Freddy. Sip away. Drink it all up before you have anything else to eat or drink. This stuff is like a magic elixir for flushing out your digestive tract (By this, I mean that it will make you poop. Have fun.), supporting liver detoxification, and giving your metabolism a spicy kick in the pants. Unf.

Enter: Bed Yoga.

Take your cayenne lemonade back to bed with you so you can work on stretching out that beautiful bod in the comfort of your bed. If you aren’t sure what to do to wake up your body, throw on a YouTube video (Yoga With Adrienne is one of my favourites) or grab an issue of Yoga Journal. YJ always has a section of awesome little sequences you can do whether you have ten, twenty, or thirty minutes to spare.

Is your cayenne lemonade gone? Good, because…

It’s time for a healthy breakfast.

On this particular day, I opted for a quinoa berry bowl. I made a big pot of quinoa on Sunday which makes it really easy to put together breakfast bowls or to bulk up a salad. You know what they say, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Get lost on the internet.

Like many other people I have surveyed — in a super official way, of course — my getting lost on the internet is a daily occurrence. I try to use this time to watch videos and read articles and blog posts that will inspire my focus for the rest of the day.

Spend time on your passions.

Do things that make you happy. Engaging in creative pursuits and having an outlet for your thoughts and ideas is life changing. I use this time to work on my Thousand-Words-A-Day Project, attend a life drawing class, or make something fun in the kitchen. Sometimes, I’m also passionate about binge watching Orange is the New Black or controlling various lives in The Sims (because I’m coo’ like that…), and that’s okay too. It’s your day off. Enjoy yourself.

Snack mindfully.

Make sure whatever you’re snacking on includes a healthy protein or fat source. You don’t want to be eating foods that are going to leave you with hypoglycemic and ravenous half an hour later. If you’re going to have a piece of fruit, slather it in nut butter or have it with a side of trail mix. I had leftover turkey burgers in the fridge, so when I found myself feeling a bit peckish, I had one of those with a giant scoop of hemp seed guacamole. Later on, I smeared organic peanut butter on apple slices and sprinkled them with cinnamon and dulse. (Dulse, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is a kind of seaweed. Sea veggies are a total superfood. They’re a great source of trace minerals, particularly iodine. I may do a sea vegetable-specific blog post in the near future. And show you my seaweed collection!)

But also, clean something.

I know what you’re thinking: Eff no, I am not cleaning on my day off. And if that’s your outlook, that’s totally fine. For me, cleaning something is cleansing, whether it’s purging my closet or sweeping the kitchen floor. It feels good to take care of my space, and keep it feeling safe. Like, I’m not afraid to lean on a counter top and come away with a sticky elbow. By keeping my space neat, I feel more focused and feel less lingering anxiety.

Exercise.

My workout routine changes frequently, especially during the warmer months (RE: When it isn’t winter.) when a hike or a lakeside walk isn’t too far out of reach. Lately, I’ve been alternating between yoga days and rock climbing days, which complement each other wonderfully. Bring some movement into your day by doing exercise that is fun and feels good for your body. Tune in to what your body needs on a given day, and go for it!

Get some Vitamin G.

While we’re on the topic of hiking and lakeside walking, spending some time in nature is mega important for having a lovely day. My day doesn’t feel quite right without breathing in fresh air, or taking in the sight of magnificent Mother Nature.

Dinner.

I try to taper my meals off toward the end of the day, eating much less for dinner than I would for breakfast so that my body can focus on things while I sleep that night. Important things like resting and repairing itself.

Bed time rituals.

I often have some trouble getting to sleep at night, so I aim to start winding down right after dinner. This ritual always typically requires having a book in one hand and a hot beverage in the other. And snuggly blankets, because why not.

For the rest of the evening, I’ll curl up on the couch and read or watch a movie with Erik.

And then it’s off to bed with me.

How do you make your days lovely? Leave a comment and let me know! 🙂 

Finding Inspiration in Ordinary Places

Design, How To, Wellbeing

Finding Inspiration in Ordinary Places: How to get out of a creative rut

I have this book called Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal. It’s a journal that asks you the same question on the same day for five years. One of the recent questions it posed to me was “What is your recipe for creativity?” On days when I find myself in a bit of a negativity pit (read: When I’m in a rut!), I would likely find this question impossible to answer. But on this particular day, the moment I looked at the question, I knew the answer immediately. I suppose that’s because I was feeling inspired that day, and I answered thusly: Warm beverages + Time spent in nature + Inspiring friendships + Observation + Absorption = Creativity.

Here’s my my recipe for creativity, in case you were curious.

Warm Beverages

I feel like this is a bit of a “duh” ingredient. Pick your favourite warm beverage. Sip it, ruminate, ideas will come to you. I, personally, really like tea. And matcha lattes.

Making Lemonade Out of Those Lemons

In my personal experience, on “Negativity Pit” days, inspiration doesn’t come easily, if it comes at all. You can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to find you because Negativity Pits can last a hell of a long time. But I find that you can usually course correct a little bit if you are able to produce something meaningful despite a lack of inspiration. In situations like these, I will latch onto whatever is going on in my head, whatever strange, looping thought, no matter what it is, and try to turn it into something else. Try to explain it in a way that might be meaningful to somebody other than me. This often happens in the form of a free-writing session, or a poem, or a journal entry. Just something that will get me creating in a way that comes naturally and easily to me.

Time Spent In Nature

I cannot shut up about how inspiring nature is. I love a nice crisp day out, walking through tall trees, along running water, maybe with somebody to bounce ideas off of, maybe not. I feel most alive when I’m spending time out in the fresh air. Bring a notebook, a pen, a snack, and a giant bottle of water. Be prepared to pee in the woods. (Try not to be alarmed if a mosquito bites you on the bum. #lifelessons)

Inspiring Friendships

In a recent post, I wrote about how you tend to become an amalgamation of the people that you spend the most time with. So pick good people. Spend time with people who encourage you, who love you, who support you. Pick people who are more successful than you and learn from them. Success through osmosis, no? Flock to friends who are smarter than you, even if you find them intimidating. Because they will teach you things and make you even more awesome.

Observation and Absorption

This tip is one that I learned in art school many years ago. Observe the world around you, and gather inspiration from there. People watch. Evesdrop. Read from a wide variety of subjects, writers, and time periods. Read all of the motivational notebook covers at the bookstore. Branch out from the usual genres of music that you listen to. Consider connections. Become that insane detective making yarn diagrams on their walls. Explore these things in a way that is fun and meaningful to you. Creativity isn’t just what’s in your head, it’s what’s outside of it too.

If you have any recommendations based off of how you find inspiration, I would love to hear them. Leave your comments down below.

More later. xxoo

Beautiful Books I’ve Read Recently

Book Review, Design, Monthly Favourites

Beautiful Books I've Read Recently: A Handful of Books to Inspire You

I have had the pleasure of reading a bunch of beautiful books over the last few months. Today, I’ll be sharing a few that I think you’ll enjoy!

1) A Monster Calls

This book BROKE me. A Monster Calls is the illustrated story of a boy coping with his dying, terminally ill mother. I don’t remember the last book that made me cry so much. But in addition to being heartbreaking, it was also incredibly sweet and beautiful. It discussed the topic of grief in a unique way. Jim Kay’s illustrations were lovely, as always. A Monster Calls is a book that will make you want to give your loved ones some big hugs. 

2) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

I couldn’t help but throw in a couple of the design books I’ve recently enjoyed. Just My Type is an entertaining guide to fonts, interspersed with stories about the history and drama of type. Whether you’re a type nerd or not, this book is a fun and helpful one for any designer’s shelf.

3) Paper Girls Vol. 1

If visual storytelling is your cup of tea, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls is a must-read. It tells the story of a squad of newspaper girls who suddenly find themselves transported from 1998 to a very strange 2016. The art in this series is STUH-NING, coloured in this super cool, muted-sunset sort of palette. Can’t wait for more!

4) How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul (New Expanded Edition)

Yay, another design book! This one has been recommended to me as a must-read for all designers. And having read it, I wholeheartedly agree. How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul is a guidebook for designers of all experience levels. Specifically, Adrian Shaughnessy how to be a designer from a business perspective, using his personal experiences to illustrate his points. I highly recommend this book!

5) The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a crazy beautiful book. It’s a spooky fantasy story, that reads almost like a children’s book, but with a more adult perspective. It’s a really quick read for if you don’t have a ton of time to read for fun. Prepare to be equal parts inspired and creeped out.

Anyway, friends, that’s all I’ve got today — just a quick shortie post for you! More soon. xo

More soon. xxoo

How to Become a Morning Person

How To, Wellbeing

How to become a morning person: Easing the transition

When I was younger, I would never have guessed I would become a morning person. I would stay up all night, sleep in until past noon, and feel frustrated with myself for not making better use of my day. I’m still not a full-fledged Morning Person, but I’m working on it. Today I’ll be sharing what’s been helping me get on track.

Why become a Morning Person

When I left my day job, I wanted to spend some time finding focus and clarity in my life. I had several goals in mind when I did so, but mostly I wanted to start maximizing my day by taking back the morning. This was a scary thought because I am very naturally a night owl (read here: A Complete Insomniac). I worried that I would end up hating the whole endeavour and “let myself down”.

The thing about “letting yourself down” is that it isn’t based on anything absolute. When you fall off the wagon, remind yourself that it isn’t a big deal, brush yourself off and hop back on tomorrow.

Becoming an early riser means gaining a special part of the day that few other people have. You’re fed/exercised/washed/ready-to-work and it isn’t even eight o’clock. (I know you’ve been telling yourself you don’t have time to work out. Now you do.) Plus, you get exclusive access to a beautiful sunrise. Early mornings feel quiet and private. They are your opportunity to ease into the day and take some time to yourself.

Making the transition to lark

You might be asking yourself,

“What’s so great about being up at some godforsaken hour? Nobody else is awake. I need enough coffee to feel alive when I’m up at eight. I don’t even want to think about what it’s like to be mobile even a minute earlier.”

And I’m not going to lie, there is definitely a transition phase during which you may feel like garbage.

I know that when I worked a day job, I had to be at work at 7:30 am. I dreaded the thought of going to this job. I would hit my snooze button five or six times before leaping out of bed, skipping breakfast, and chugging a latte on my lunch break. It didn’t help that I would stay up late the night before to savour as much of my free time as possible.

Now that I’m not dreading what is coming to me when I wake up, Erik and I have the alarm set for nice and early (How does 5:30 sound?). I like to wake up slowly before heading out into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The tone of the morning is really set by the things that you do…

The night before

How you spend your evenings has a direct relationship with how your morning is going to go.

Keep a running to-do list

If you’re the kind of person who will lie awake at night worrying about everything you have to do tomorrow, then you aren’t alone. I’m right there with you.

I’ve found that using a to-do list app (like Wanderlist) has been helpful. Whenever a new task comes up, I add it to the list, even if it’s in the middle of the night. That way, you aren’t staring up at your ceiling until four am worrying about what you’ve forgotten.

Have a treat to look forward to

Have an idea of what you’re going to have for breakfast in the morning. Dig up that awesome smoothie recipe you’ve been eyeing or some fancy overnight oats that you’ve been dying to try. Food always lures me out of bed.

If there is anything that you can do the night before to simplify your morning prep time, make it happen. Chop up that fruit, soak those oats, and pick that outfit the night before. Leave yourself less to worry about in the morning!

Have your workout for the morning planned

Have a movement plan for your mornings, like a few rounds of Sun Salutations or a quick stroll around the block. It feels great to get your workout out of the way earlier in the day. Often when it’s left for later, it keeps getting pushed back until suddenly, it’s night time and you’re too lazy to do it.

Early to bed, early to rise

Get to bed early, and make sure that you give yourself time to wind down before you do so. Read, have a cup of tea, take a bath with a couple drops of lavender essential oil and some epsom salts. Feel free do all three of those things at once, and/or whatever else you feel like doing to wind down. Ensure your best quality of sleep by making sure your bedroom is cool and dark.

Morning rituals

Create a routine for yourself that helps signal to your body that it’s time to wake up. Drink some tea, watch the sunrise, do some stretches, eat your yummy breakfast. When you go through your ritual, your body will begin to recognise that bedtime is over and the day has begun.

And a final piece of advice:

Don’t give up. Making new habits for yourself is hard. Often, it requires breaking some old bad habits. Try it for at least 21 days (which is how long it takes to form a new habit), and see if it works for you. And if it doesn’t agree with your body, that’s okay too. Every body is different, but don’t knock it until you try it.