• Richie Crowley

Morning Routines Are Not Just For The Wealthy

We must coexist with respect, especially within wellness conversations that have one shared goal: to be healthy.

On December 3rd, I woke up and walked 12 steps to my meditation cushion where I sat in silence for 20 minutes. Then I walked to the kitchen, drank a jar of lemon water, and went outside to move naturally. I chose to run. When I returned from my run, I moved through a short yoga sequence for recovery, and then switched my phone off from airplane mode to begin fielding the day’s notifications.

I was ready for it.

I had opened my day with a series that prioritized myself and reminded me that I control the actions of my day: a benefit of my morning routine.

In the cluster of push notifications that soon filled my home screen was a text from a friend with a link to Marina Koren’s The False Promise Of Morning Routines and a note that read “Curious to hear your thoughts on this.”

The text implied I’d oppose the contents of the article, so before clicking, I reminded myself to read with empathy. Too often, we arm our disagreements with defense, rather than embracing conflict with curiosity and sinking into debate. Disagreements serve an educational purpose. So, as I read Marina’s words, I welcomed her arguments. I was curious about this “false promise.”

We all have different relationships with wellness. We all have different relationships with mornings. And we all have different relationships with morning routines. These relationships range from ritual to fairweather, from circumstantial all the way to non-existent. And that’s ok. The respect we give to these differences then must also extend to an author criticizing the trend of morning routines, the same as we would our co-worker doing Whole30 or Movember. We must coexist with respect, especially within wellness conversations that have one shared goal: to be healthy.

I began to read.

As a former professional athlete and current keeper of a morning routine, one would think my edit of this piece would be filled with red ink.

It’s not.

I have no issue with the citing of a study suggesting we have biological predispositions to being early risers or night owls. Yes, I would have been more curious or satisfied if the study had more than 133 people, but this is a start. Studies like this are often used to justify poor sleeping habits or 90 hour work weeks (“I’m just a night owl” says the person sleeping 4 hours per night) and hopefully, more research will be done on this to benefit those truly with a biological predisposition to nocturnal tendencies.

And, I have no issue with the use of Richard Branson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jack Dorsey, Arianna Huffington, Mark Wahlberg, Marla Beck, or Tyler Haney as martyrs for inaccessible or glorified morning routines. If anything, I owe the author a thank you for introducing me to individuals I will now include as role models. If these individuals are the poster-people for morning routines, sign me up. I admire their success and aspire to one day be as impactful as they are to our world.

“For many people, this turns out to be a time of day you can have for your own priorities before everybody else in the world needs their piece of you,” Laura Vanderkam.

I appreciate the author for acknowledging that morning routines may be habit in action, but that they symbolize more. Like myself, many use the ritual of a morning routine as an expression of self-care, and as Laura Vanderkam notes “a time of day reserved for our own priorities.”

In a time where our phones have replaced televisions, computers, housekeys, and alarm clocks, the moment our eyes open, we risk seeing 37 notifications, eliciting immediate responses and allowing the first thoughts or actions of our day to be controlled by those we respond to. Our intentional actions quickly become replaced by robotic reactions. Insert anxiety.

Morning routines interrupt this. They ground us.

So, if I have no issue with these items, and even have gratitude for the introductions and acknowledgments, then what do I have an issue with?

It begins with the frothy latte.

We need to respect each other’s decisions and preferences so long as they don’t harm or disrespect others. And we must extend this to the investments of our peers. If a person wants to sip a frothy latte each morning, what harm or disrespect have they done to us? If a person chooses to spend their disposable income by investing in themselves and our local economies, why should we shame or discourage them? The purchase of a frothy latte, or any other coffee concoction or green-ish juice, is an independent decision made by and for the person purchasing it. Whether it is ritual, routine, or a special treat, their action is at no point an invitation for others to criticize how they begin a day.

The same respect must also be extended for an individual’s choice of the three activities mentioned: Meditation, Yoga, Running.

If anything, we should celebrate these:

In a world where we respect the decision to have a morning routine and just let people be, the worst thing we’d have is a population of potentially less depressed, less anxious, and less stressed people who are a bit happier. I like the sound of that.

Now, my soapbox is not turned over to provide elementary lessons about respect for others, as these are only small stones lain before the bridge this author patrols beneath as the troll of morning routines. What upset me most about this piece was the assertion that morning routines are only for the wealthy.

“While everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, not everyone has the wealth to make time for an hour on the treadmill by delegating tasks to personal assistants, nannies, and chefs.” — Marina Koren

When did we decide that wealth and wellness must come hand in hand?

Wealth may make life easier, but to promote that in order to have wellness, one must have wealth, only provides excuses for individuals that, thanks to this author, are discouraged from investing in themselves because they believe they can’t afford to.

This may not have been her intention, but that’s how it is communicated to those with less “wealth.” Too often, especially in health and wellness, those with less money are informed that they can’t participate due to their income levels.

This article enforced a mythical barrier.

Upgrading oneself has more to do with what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset (the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed) than the so-called “price-tag” the author believes it comes with.

But, the author is not to blame. She is a child of American capitalism and consumerism, which constantly communicates that, in order to advance, we need to purchase. So in addition to developing a morning routine, may I suggest we also unfuck ourselves and our relationship to money and wellness?

The truth is, you can have wellness without wealth.

If a morning routine begins with a good night of sleep, you don’t need to purchase it. You don’t need CBD oil, or Melatonin pills, nor a weighted blanket. You need a bedtime.

My suggestion would be to lean into the natural world, and begin winding down as the moon rises with a good book and some warm tea. Let me go further by suggesting you cancel your Netflix and Youtube TV subscriptions that interfere with your sleep and make your mornings reactionary. These cancellations may just return $720 to your pocket each year, that’s a vacation. Now, you’ve made money by having a morning routine. Didn’t Warren Buffet say something about learning how to earn money while you sleep? Spoiler: he has a morning routine.

This same disassociation between wealth and wellness can be applied to meditation, yoga, and running too.

So don’t be fooled. You are not broken, and you do not need to be fixed with a for-purchase brokenness-theory product. Wellness can be had without wealth, and the lowest hanging fruit doesn’t have a barcode.

Nor a 3 am alarm.

Morning routines don’t have to begin at ridiculous hours of the morning. Sure, by definition, a morning routine “should” be before noon. But rather than bicker about the window of time one engages in this routine, let’s dismiss the time restrictions and collectively celebrate anybody investing in themselves to put the best version of themselves into the world. If you, like Jessica Valenti are a late riser and begin your morning routine at 10 am. Feel free, feel empowered. And if you’re The Rock in the gym at 4 am, keep on putting yourself first.

A morning routine is an act or series of actions designed to welcome ourselves to our day, and it’s important to find the most sustainable practice for ourselves. It’s not a “hack.” It is a symbol of self-care and a reminder that we are in control.

I’m grateful that the author chose to pen this because her words have provided the grounds for conversation and the space to speak to those who are financially limited that have a desire to have a morning routine.

But I ask her to please not weaponize the frothy latte, villainize impactful leaders, or strengthen the mythical barriers to wellness. You do not need a nanny or a chef to upgrade your mornings. You already have the resources within you to join the ranks of the elite, rather than wake up with a bundle of anxiety every morning. It’s your choice, just like everybody else. Anxiety or Excellence.

Richie. Human.


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