Small changes, big results

Years before having a family of my own, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law in which he admitted that his favorite time of day was in the morning, before his children had woken up. Not understanding how exhausting parenting can be, I was shocked by his admission and judged him harshly. I pegged him as a "bad" father who didn't appreciate how amazing children are and I imagined my future parenting mornings filled with sunlight, making homemade pancakes and lots of cuddles from little people whom I loved more than words.

Now, having been a parent for over 10 years, I understand exactly what my brother-in-law was saying. Parenting is wonderful, but it's nonstop work, and sometimes I need a break from the minutiae of it all.  Much like my brother-in-law, I've found that the only moments I have alone are early in the morning, when no one else is awake. During that time, I love tip toeing downstairs, pouring myself a hot cup of coffee and scrolling through Instagram. 

For months, this has been my go-to morning routine and I've relished every single indulgent, brainless moment of it. I love that golden hour when no one needs anything from me and I'm able to zone out, laugh at silly memes and compare my insides to other people's outsides. 

Recently, though, I noticed that even after an hour of alone time, I wasn't feeling recharged and ready to tackle a new day. Instead, I found myself feeling resentful when I heard my family waking up and shuffling around upstairs. Those sleepy sounds signaled that I was seconds away from being back on mom duty, and I still had a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish before the day began. Plus, after seeing all of the amazing things other people were doing on social media, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling of never being quite good enough. That frustration, coupled with a great article I recently read about how our daily routines have the power to change our lives, made me seriously question how I've been spending my free time.  

Being on social media for an hour each morning did not mean that I was in some kind of habitual crisis, but I knew that using that time more productively would help me to feel less frazzled throughout the day. Plus, studies show that spending too much time on social media can have a negative impact on our mental health, so I wondered if limiting my time on Instagram might actually make me feel happier. 

Making even the smallest adjustments to our routines can seem difficult, so the first thing I did was come up with a plan for how I wanted my mornings to look. I tried to be realistic about the changes I wanted to make and decided that the best way for me to accomplish my goals was to divide my free time into two blocks. My hope was that I could use each block of time as a way to make my mornings more efficient, which, in turn, would make my entire day run more smoothly. 

Now, instead of staring at my phone while I wait for the coffee to brew, the first thing I do in the morning is some light stretching. Standing in my kitchen, I spend my first block of time taking some deep breaths, doing some sun salutations and touching my toes a few times. I hate exercising first thing in the morning, so trust me when I say that these small movements are nothing fancy, but I've been amazed at how they've helped me feel so much more energized and ready to face the day. 

My second block of time is devoted to making lists. As it turns out, the extremely simple act of jotting things down on a piece of paper has been a great motivational tool for me. In the past, I've often felt overwhelmed by all my daily tasks and excelled in procrastination, but being able to physically see my daily goals has made me feel much more grounded. Plus, there is no better feeling than striking through items on a to-do list. 

I've been practicing my new morning routine for a few weeks now, and I'm amazed at how much more productive and relaxed I feel. No longer does it seem like my free time has been wasted, and when I hear my family waking up in the morning, I'm excited to see their sweet faces. By putting forth a little effort, I've been able to make a few positive changes to my life, and that's worth taking a break from Instagram.

Lana Shovlin is a Springfield mother of three who loves her family as well as the occasional times without them.