My 10 Morning Routine Essentials

By Sara McGlothlin

As I am typing this, it’s 6:35am. I can hear my 9-month old start to wake up on the monitor beside me. In the years before baby, it would be another two to three hours before I even opened my laptop or looked at my phone. The early hours were devoted to “creating space;” journaling, reading something spiritual, meditation, movement, and eating a nutritious breakfast mindfully were my only priorities before 9am. That all came to a screeching halt in June 2021 with the birth of my son. What’s space? Taking care of the baby, taking care of the dog, peppered with household chores and getting ready for the day pretty much sums it up. But I’m a big proponent of the airplane oxygen mask philosophy. While it may look and feel different, and come in a smaller package than before, self-care is still very important to me. Here are my ten morning routine essentials, which combine to create a great start to the day…even when the rest of the day is chaos.

Skin care. 

This may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but until very recently, I only washed my face at night. I recorded a Healthified Podcast episode with Cayla of Nutrition Preferred, and this was one of her morning self-care tips. I thought it sounded like a lovely way to start the day, so I tried it, and now I crave the cool water and skin hydration first thing. A couple of years ago, I switched my skin care to Tula; I use their face wash, eye brightening balm, and moisturizer. I also use this Witch Hazel facial toner. Lastly, I use a jade roller for about ten seconds, which also offers a cooling sensation to the skin. This isn’t where my facial skin care stops however. See below for more!


Overnight, you become very dehydrated, so drinking water when you wake up is pretty important. I have a 24-ounce cup I keep on my bedside table so it is the first thing I see. I drink it while I’m walking downstairs. Before I get to the coffee pot, I have consumed over a third of my daily water intake. If this amount seems too much, 8- to 16-ounces will suffice. 


I love everything about coffee. From the ritual of it, to the taste, smell, and warmth of it, to the way that it wakes me up. Sorry not sorry. Someone once told me I should drink celery juice instead, and it went in one ear and out the other. Sure, that would probably be better for my skin, digestion, and energy levels, but this is one upgrade I’m not going to make. Plus, studies show that drinking up to a certain amount of coffee has its benefits. I vacillate between drinking it basic (black with a splash of oat milk and monk fruit) to making it bulletproof. I have been back on the bulletproof train in recent weeks, and have immediately noticed the change in my morning hunger levels and sugar cravings throughout the day. Speaking of hot coffee, I drink from an Ember cup, which has been a game changer. It keeps it hot for hours. No more microwaving! 


From the moment I start washing my face, to the walk down the stairs with my water, to the blending of my bulletproof coffee, my mind is spinning with everything I need to do that day. I catch myself a million mines away from the present moment. So after I pour that first cup, I sit down on the floor and hug my dog. It immediately drops me into the now, while showing him a little love. Oxytocin all around. If you don’t have a pet, a partner, child or yourself would work just as well! 

Natural light.

I have to let the dog outside anyway, so I go with him to expose myself to early morning light and enjoy another moment of presence. I take a couple sips of coffee, at least five breaths, and think of things I’m grateful for. This not only regulates my circadian rhythm, but also my mood, and helps to establish a more positive tone to the day. 


There have been periods when my journaling practice has been a bit more robust. From free-writing what is on my mind, to tapping into my intuition (I talk more about this in my Counting Colors online course), I am a big believer in putting pen to paper. Nowadays, it’s a twenty second exercise of writing down three things I am grateful for, and three things I am excited about that day. Afterwards, my cup of coffee and my mindset are glass half full. If you are new to journaling, The Five Minute Journal is a great place to start. 


I will be honest, before having a baby, I would spend at least an hour reading something spiritual and uplifting. I am a big fan of anything self-help! Always a student, I love learning about ways I can become a better version of myself. I still try to read each morning, but most days, I am glad to get through a chapter. My current read: The Power of Regret by Daniel Pink

Full disclosure: It is only after I get through all of these little rituals that I even pick up my phone. Sometimes this routine takes twenty minutes, sometimes it is an hour, but these things always come before looking at my phone. As soon as I do, I can feel that shift to other people’s agendas. It is crucial that the early morning moments are for me and my family. I also don’t keep my phone in my bedroom. It sits on the charger on a completely different floor of my house. 

Skin care continued. 

I love anything cold on my face in the morning. Starting with cold water and a jade roller first thing to using an ice roller and face mask a little later on. I also run a gua sha tool all over my face as well. These things have their benefits, but I honestly think it simply feels good! 


Ideally, I would exercise before my first meal of the day. Whether it is going on a walk, or attending a yoga or barre class, or doing a short strength training session at home, I prefer to do so in a fasted state. I not only feel stronger, but this also has metabolic and hormonal benefits. If I am not able to fit in movement until later in the day, I try to at least fit in some stretching, push-ups or sun salutations in the morning. 


I love breakfast. I started a natural foods company around breakfast. There have been times in my life when I eat breakfast at 8am and others when I am not eating until 11:30am, but it always looks like breakfast. Years ago when I read Max Lugavere’s book, I experimented with fasting until noon and breaking my fast with a large nutrient-dense salad, but after a couple of days, I missed breakfast so much that I chalked this attempt up to “it doesn’t work for me.” That is what I want people to realize: when it comes to one’s health journey, and nutrition especially, we need to do what works for us. That is why I always encourage people to stay curious, become a student, and try on different things to see what fits. Currently, I am loving a green smoothie bowl with Granola Clusters or some yogurt with an Oat Bar

What are your morning routine essentials? The list doesn’t have to be very long. Of course if I am traveling I might not be able to incorporate all of these items, but my non-negotiables would hydration, coffee, gratitude, movement, and of course breakfast. Fortunately, Gratisfied products are perfect for on-the-go! 

You Might Also Like: