Benefits And How To Build A Routine, Per Experts

How you spend the first moments of a new day can have a big impact on the rest of those 24 hours. For many go-getters, mornings can be described in one word: fast. But, on social media, a “slow morning” is the newest wellness trend intended to set you up for success by helping you stay mindful, manage stressful triggers, and soothe your nervous system. Instead of rushing into a busy routine in the A.M. and hustling to be productive right away, gentle mornings encourage you to have more purpose and intention behind your day, right from the start.

While specific slow morning activities vary from person to person, the term has become a shorthand for an idyllic, solitary morning routine, and it’s something that you can try out as soon as tomorrow (even if you feel like you don’t have a lot of time). And it’s not just about moving at a slower pace—even the busiest, most energetic early birds can implement the principles of slow mornings and still reap the benefits.

Slow morning rituals can offer anyone—from the early riser to the chronic snooze-hitter—an opportunity to prioritize self-care. Here’s how licensed therapists recommend implementing the slow morning approach—and the mental health benefits associated with it.

Meet the experts: Shani A. Gardner, LCSW, is a licensed therapist and owner of Soulful Grace Therapy. Jennifer Chain, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and owner of Thrive for the People. Olivia Verhulst, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist in NYC.

What is a slow morning?

During a time when hustle culture is the norm, slow mornings are a reminder to pause and prioritize your health—and it’s up to you how you want to spend them. “Examples of a slow morning can look like claiming time for solitude, reflection, body movement, stretching, exercise, or meditation,” says Olivia Verhulst, LMHC, therapist based in New York City. “[Slow mornings] involve a lot of the practices that our mind and body do inherently crave, but we don’t always make time for.”

While there’s no hard and fast rule for specific activities to do during slow mornings, the key might be mindfulness, or a “nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment,” says Shani A. Gardner, LCSW, therapist at Soulful Grace Therapy. On TikTok and Instagram, people show themselves cultivating mindfulness through practices like journaling, skin care, sitting outside, making breakfast, or tidying their spaces.

“Slow mornings have an air of mindfulness because it’s actually not about what’s next [in your day]—it’s just about what’s happening right now and doing something that feels good for you,” Gardner says. Instead of waking up and immediately thinking about future tasks—or rushing to check work emails or doom scrolling on Instagram—slow mornings encourage you to focus on the present and be more intentional about how you want your day to go (before the to-do list gets out of control).

Benefits Of Slow Mornings

First, a slow morning approach (as opposed to a rushed routine) can help you manage your emotions better. “If you’re not adding intentionality, mindfulness, or slowing down, the alternative is to move on autopilot,” Verhulst says. Taking it easy in the A.M. helps you build self-awareness and gives you intentional time to be reflective and process how you’re feeling emotionally, she says.

Slowing down can also soothe your nervous system, Gardner says. Why? Starting your day in a frenzy puts you at risk for pushing the boundaries of your window of tolerance—what psychologists call the optimal state where you feel calm and grounded and are best able to manage your emotions, she says. “If you start your day hyper-aroused, anxious, or stressed, you’ll probably bring that [with you] throughout the day,” Gardner says. “The whole day can feel intense or a little bit more sensitive, versus having a ‘slow’ morning when you have dedicated time to feel grounded, calm, and connected to yourself or to others,” she says.

Finally, a slow morning can help spark creativity, says Jennifer Chain, PhD, a psychologist at Thrive for the People. Allowing your mind to wander freely—especially through mindfulness practices often associated with slow mornings—can have a positive effect on creativity, per a recent study. And ultimately, starting the day with self-care is a good reminder that you matter. “Oftentimes, we end up doing things for ourselves at the end of the day—if we have time, or if we have any more energy left, then we’ll focus on ourselves,” she says. “The slow morning movement promotes ourselves as one of the most important people that we need to take care of.”

How To Have A Slow Morning (Even If You Don’t Have A Lot Of Time)

Let’s be real: If you have a demanding work schedule, or children or other family members to take care of, it can feel impossible to find time for a luxurious, slow start to the day. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, Gardner says, and a little can go a long way. Plus, habits accumulate with practice, meaning if you can only carve out five minutes today, you might be able to build up your routine and find more time in the future, says Chain. In other words, start small.

Here are 11 rituals that can help you create a slow morning routine:

Perhaps Monday is a “journaling” day, but on Tuesday, meditation helps you stay calm before a long day of meetings. Find what works for you, and know that it’s OK if your routine doesn’t look exactly the same every day—what matters is that you take time for yourself to move slowly on a consistent basis. Mix and match as many of these practices as you’d like based on your preference and lifestyle, and you’ll be on your way to a calmer morning in no time.

What To Avoid During A Slow Morning

Your exact routine is up to you, but there are a few things you might want to avoid if you want to be calm in the A.M. The first is negative self-talk, says Verhulst. If you’re overly critical of yourself and struggle with self-esteem or being kind to yourself on a regular basis, practices like gratitude journaling have been shown to help.

Another activity to limit or avoid? Social media. “There’s research that shows that even just a few minutes less of screen time a day can promote mental health and actually decrease feelings of loneliness,” Chain says.

Scrolling your feed might seem like a peaceful morning activity, but you don’t have much control over what you see on social media on a given day, so it could get overwhelming. (Think: Some mornings your feed may be cluttered with videos of cute animals, but on other mornings, it might be a stressful headline or a picture of your ex’s new S.O.) On mornings when you’re confronted with a lot of new information, you’re asking your brain to process and interpret a lot in a short period of time, which can be a lot, says Gardner.

You don’t have to entirely avoid current events, ignore social media, or neglect your work email, but to care for your mental well-being, you may want to give yourself some time to acclimate to a new day before opening yourself up to the many things competing for your attention. Instead, you can swap out technology for a mindful, slow morning routine ritual. And remember: A little intentionality goes a long way.

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Olivia Luppino is an editorial assistant at Women’s Health where she covers health, wellness, and fitness.


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