Since November 14th of last year, I have woken up every day before sunrise to sit outside on my eastern-facing porch and write down what I’m thankful for.
The night before I began, I enrolled in a course called Cultivating a Sacred Life Rooted in Haudenosaunee Teachings with Kahontakwas Diane Longboat. Diane challenged each of us to commit to a morning thankfulness practice. In the Haudenosaunee tradition, each gathering, each ceremony, each day, begins by giving thanks.
I accepted the challenge. Since then, my morning practice has grown to include three questions.
But before I share them, I have a question for you:
How do you start your day?
Do you wake up feeling joyful and eager for what’s ahead? Do you feel sluggish, like you’d rather not get out of bed? Or do you feel rushed, disappointed with yourself for having stayed up looking at Instagram far too late again last night?
I invite you to think for a moment about how you feel as you start your day.
Then, think about how you’d like to feel.
That way you want to feel—happy, full of life, prepared for whatever comes next—that is how I want you to feel, too.
To help you bring happiness and beauty to your day, I want to share with you the three good morning questions I’ve been journaling with since that morning in November.
Here they are:
Good Morning Question #1: What am I thankful for?
One of the best-proven facts about happiness is that gratitude generates joy. For example, in The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes,
“Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.”
If you want to bring happiness to your day, start by saying thank you.
You can think about the big things like your health, family, friends, or work. Or, you may focus on the little things that you might typically overlook—the feeling of a comfy blanket, the birds chirping outside, a glass of water. Every sunrise, every breath, every heartbeat is something to be grateful for.
Good Morning Question #2: How is my heart?
Many people begin their days—go through their entire lives, even—without first checking in with themselves. But how can you discern what you really need, what to prioritize, and what to let go of if you don’t know how you feel? You can’t.
When you tune in to how you feel in your heart and your body, you gather the necessary information to make the big decisions and the small ones. Granted, you may not like how you feel. But emotion is information.
When you acknowledge how you feel, you strengthen your ability to start making conscious decisions that turn your ship in the direction of a more beautiful horizon. Of course, turning your ship around can feel scary and hard, and knowing how your heart feels often does not provide an immediate solution. But it is the first step in creating a life that brings you joy.
And if you struggle even to know what you feel in the first place, I encourage you to seek the support of a therapist or somatically-informed coach.
Good Morning Question #3: How can I be in the right relationship?
When I say right relationship, I mean a way of interacting that respects both yourself and whomever you are interacting with.
You might consider your relationships with other people such as a partner, kid, friend, coworker, boss, employee, or fellow community member. It can include non-human beings such as pets or plants. And you may bring to mind your greater community, a group you care about, or the world as a whole. I specifically ask myself How can I be in the right relationship with the land?
As Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development (one of the longest-running studies on adult life and happiness), says in his TED talk, “The clearest message that we get from this seventy-five-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
So, there you have it. Three good morning questions to bring happiness and beauty to your day:
- What am I thankful for?
- How is my heart?
- How can I be in the right relationship?
If you ask yourself these questions every day, over and over again, they will change you. If you get into the practice of asking even one of these questions, you will feel more joy. Perhaps not immediately, but definitely, over time.
And you may even start to wake up with the sun.