Prioritizing Self-care and Wellness with Morning Pages

Having a morning pages practice can help you to get out ahead of the worried feedback loop, prioritize self-care and wellness activities, reset your nervous system, and develop a greater inner-awareness. 
Morning pages for self-care

Have you ever experienced feeling scattered or distracted throughout your day? What about overwhelm? Anxiety? A panic attack? When your brain is in a fight or flight state you likely will not be able to get off the mental merry-go-round by continuing to be in your head. Having a morning pages practice can help you to get out ahead of the worried feedback loop, prioritize self-care and wellness activities, reset your nervous system, and develop a greater inner-awareness. 

Research has also shown that integrating expressive writing (stream of consciousness) as a form of self-care into your regular routine can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety and stress, improving overall wellbeing, and promoting a sense of calm.

A Dose of Self-Care When Stressed

When you write or draw, your prefrontal cortex is activated, which essentially becomes an “off switch” for your stress response. Engaging this different part of your brain through a creative outlet, allows you to get out of that anxiety-inducing loop. 

I was reminded of this the other evening, while listening to an episode of the Mel Robbins Podcast, 5 Expert Lessons That Will Change Your Life Forever. Around minute 23:00 Robbins shares a clip from an interview with Harvard Associate Professor Dr. Luana about proven strategies to prevent or stop a panic attack. Dr. Luana highlights the power of “creating a pause” when you feel yourself spiraling. 

Her trick? Take a piece of paper, write down your thoughts or emotions, and then link them to a specific behavior that is triggering for you. The takeaway? Writing or drawing are simple but effective ways for calming your mind and body before you become overwhelmed. 

Set Up Your Self-care Ritual for Success

To get started with morning pages, set up a routine or practice that works for you. I invite you to reframe “self-discipline” as another version of “self-care.” Engaging with this type of practice, ritual, or routine (choose a word that resonates), while it can trigger our “achieving” mind, is actually a high-level of love and kindness for yourself. When we are able to maintain a high-level of care for ourselves, we are able to show up as our most authentic self, which not only benefits us, but those around us, and ultimately the world. So, as you set up your practice, be sure to honor yourself by making the time and giving yourself permission, honor the practice and set an intention, and be clear about your ‘why’. 

Then, take a moment to think about the logistics,

  • Choose a time of day when you are most alert and focused, such as first thing in the morning or during a quiet moment in the evening. 
  • Decide on the length of your morning pages practice, whether it be a set amount of time or a set amount of pages and commit to sticking to it. 
  • Setting goals for your morning pages practice can also help to keep you motivated and accountable. Be sure your goals are attainable. If you have not ever had a morning pages practice or anything similar, I wouldn’t start with 10 minutes, 7 days a week, for a month. I would try 3-4 days a week and see how you do. 

Once you have decided, give it a try for about a month with no attachment and see how it goes. Then take inventory of what works and feels good, and let go of what doesn’t. It is okay to change it up all together, to find what best honors your self-care and wellbeing journey. 

Remember: No Rules, No Judgment

I have never been one to keep a traditional journal. Sitting down to write what is on my mind or what happened that day does not come naturally to me. However, I do have a journal and I write in it often. My path to a morning pages practice was realizing that it doesn’t have to look or sound a specific way. By writing freely and without judgment, you can release any pent-up emotions and gain clarity on your thoughts and feelings. It can also set you up for the day to have a clearer mind, direction, and purpose. 

Be open to the possibility that each time you write, it might look different. Be flexible. Some days you will write lists, incomplete sentences, map things out, or even draw pictures or designs that represent how you are feeling, where you are at or what direction you want to go in. Maybe you are like me, and some days a braindump could be a helpful first step. 

Be sure to remember that just because it is a “list” doesn’t mean it needs to be a “to do” list. It could be a list of dreams or things you wish to call in or manifest. It could be a list of what you want to let go of, of the things that are no longer serving you. It could be a gratitude list. 

Whatever inspires you, write it down, and just go with it! 

Anchor Your Morning Pages with an Activity that Boosts Creativity 

For me, morning pages (and journaling in general) are most powerful and inspired when paired with another grounding activity. I use grounding as a way to prepare myself to write. 

Here are a few of my favorite grounding activities: 

  • Move your body (go for a short run, walk, or do 10 sun salutations)
  • Listen to a favorite song or album and draw
  • Connect with nature (sitting outside or walking barefoot in the yard!)
  • Sit for breakfast and coffee
  • 5 min of breathwork / meditation
  • Pull a card from an oracle or intention deck
  • Read a short passage from a favorite book
  • Listen to a favorite podcast or audio book
  • Connect with a friend (phone, text, voice memo)  
  • Write a postcard or a letter to a friend
  • Travel – travel, by nature, puts me in a headspace that is ripe for writing, contemplating, wondering, and noting things I am experiencing.

Like any grounding practice, a morning pages routine can go anywhere you go. In fact, a journal is something I always bring with me when I travel.  I find that my motivation and ability to write expressively flows even more easily when I am traveling. It is also a little known fact that both travel and introspective activities like morning pages, can lead to transformation, and we are pretty sure that’s not a coincidence.  

A pathway to a calmer, more centered, and resilient you

Like many things in our lives, we go through phases. The food we eat, the exercise we try, the shampoo we use, even this morning pages practice may evolve, stop, and start back up. One thing is for sure, it can be an empowering experience that has positive results.

Embrace the simple yet profound act of morning pages, and discover a pathway to a calmer, more centered, and resilient you.

Got a morning pages practice or similar routine that sets you up for the day? Inspired to start one? Share your journey to self-care and wellbeing in our Create Joy Facebook Community, and discover like-minded individuals and a network of goal-oriented travel enthusiasts. 

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