issue #266: how to build a morning routine 🌞

Issue #266 - April 29, 2022
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A cozy dose of comfort for your inbox. A weekly newsletter with musings on and recommendations for downtime.

Charcuterie boards are a picnic must, right? Art by Carolyn Yoo, GNI's Artist in Residence.

Good morning! 

For the past two weeks, I’ve adhered to a strict 6:30am wake-up time to go for a long walk. As a non-morning person, this is a big deal! 

The reason for this shift is boring, but it comes down to this: for me, helping me feel my best right now means lowering my cortisol and stress levels, which are typically high in the morning. Because the advice, “just stress less!” is the most unhelpful and even counterproductive, I decided to make tiny tweaks to my daily routine, starting with earlier mornings.

So far, I feel less stressed, more at ease, and it’s just so nice to have a daily ritual I can look forward to. Having 2-3 hours just to myself each morning to walk, read, and workout feels like the height of luxury. In case it’s helpful for you, I’m sharing my routine in detail further down in today's issue.

Q for you: Do you have a morning routine that helps you relax and ease into the day? Please email me all the deets (be specific! do you have a favorite morning "spot"? a morning book you're into right now?), plus some pictures if you have them, and I’ll share them back.

Also in today’s issue: Ali Slagle, recipe developer, writer, New York Times contributor, and cookbook author, has generously shared a delicious recipe from her new cookbook, I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To), which I've now dubbed a go-to book for my weekly meal planning sessions. Read on!

—Alisha Ramos (@alisharamos)

This Week's Recommendations

  1. Tuning into the world's forests for a calm moment. Ahhh.
  2. Celebrating the return of one of my favorite podcasts, Still Processing. Loved this episode about whether the age of streaming means it's the end of the road for TV theme songs.
  3. LMNT is a tasty electrolyte drink mix with everything you need and nothing you don't. That means a science-backed electrolyte ratio with no sugar, no coloring, no artificial ingredients, or any other junk. Get your free LMNT sample pack here—you only cover the cost of shipping.  Sponsor 
  4. Keeping this pretty picnic blanket in mind for those upcoming warm and sunny days.
  5. Wondering if this is the new anti-Instagram app? It chooses a time at random each day where you have to snap a photo of your life, no matter how "ugly" it looks. Honestly, it sounds refreshing! I don't want more Reels, I'm sorry!
  6. Cooking this turkey burger recipe and considering slapping it onto our easy weeknight meal rotation, it was that good.
  7. Want a deeper night's sleep? Beam's CBD hot chocolate helps you fall asleep, and stay asleep—with zero sugar and only 5 calories. Sip 20-30 minutes before bedtime and enjoy a cozy night's rest. Get up to 35% off with code GIRLSNIGHTIN Sponsor 
  8. Vehemently imploring that you don't need a special bra for that tricky wedding guest dress, you just need these. Trust me. Plus: they're infinitely reusable.
  9. Sprucing up the garden and convincing myself that no, I don't need more flowers or plants, but if I did, this seems like a cool new e-comm spot to order bulbs from.
  10. Calling fellow sweatshirt devotees: I have this one and it's perfect for spring weather. It's a bit longer (good for leggings), not heavyweight but not lightweight either, and the fit is just oversized enough (size up). Sizing goes to 3X.

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How to Build A Calming Morning Routine

Define your core intention.
The first thing I considered when designing my new morning routine was...what is my intention? Why am I doing this in the first place? For me, that intention is to bring my cortisol down in the morning and help me feel calm, centered, and ready to enter my day in a tranquil state vs. a frantic one like in years past. :) For you, it might be a little less scientific and as simple as, "I want to carve out more reading time in my life" or "I want me-time before the rest of my family wakes up."

Design your mornings around a few "core activities" that will feel good to you.
Below are the four "core activities" that I aim to do each morning. I treat these less like a rigid to-do list, and more like a framework. It's okay if I didn't get to something one morning! Stressing about getting my routine "right" is counterproductive. For you, maybe it's defining just 1 or 2 activities.

1. Make a warming, comforting drink…that *isn’t* coffee.
Woof, this one was hard to adjust to, but coffee messes with my cortisol levels, so I’m slowly weaning myself off it. Instead, each morning, I make a delicious and creamy chai latte with this product that has a blend of herbs and less caffeine than a cup of coffee would. Best of all, it’s quick. All you need is hot water and an electric frother to get the perfect, creamy “latte.” Sometimes I’ll pour a splash of almond macadamia milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon in.
2. Go for a 30-minute walk while listening to something…and without checking my phone.
This is the backbone of my whole morning routine and has become the highlight of some of my days. Movement is so important to me right now and I love having this gentle movement first thing in the morning. Getting outdoors, seeing what's blooming in our neighbors' yards, and taking deep breaths makes my body physically relax. Movement doesn't have to feel punishing for it to benefit your body! If I'm craving a little more movement, I'll add on a Peloton strength training session after.

What I listen to on my walks usually depends on my mood, but it could be music (I like this chill playlist), an audiobook, or a podcast. (Getting hooked on a great audiobook has been a gamechanger: I can't wait to wake up, go for my walk, and listen. Last week, I listened to A Court of Thorns and Roses. This week, I finished the Big Feelings audiobook. Next, I might try the romance novel Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez.)

Lastly, an important “rule” I’ve set for myself during these walks is to not get distracted by emails or the “outside world” just yet. That means no newsy podcasts like The Daily.

3. Eat a nutritious breakfast…instead of nothing.
This sounds boring but…I used to not eat breakfast. Ever! Now, I usually make one of these go-to easy meals: avocado smash on sourdough toast sprinkled with everything but the bagel seasoning and hot sauce, or cottage cheese with fresh fruit and maple syrup drizzled on top.

These simple changes help me ease into my day feeling more centered, calm, and feeling great that I had a few hours to just myself in the morning.* If you have a morning routine you're really into, I'd love to hear from you!
BONUS! I asked today's guest, Ali Slagle, on what makes up her morning routine:

“My brain’s best hours are right when I wake up, so typically I roll out of bed and into the kitchen to start developing recipes. But first: coffee. Some mugs make coffee taste better, don’t you think? I like the feel of this mug; its unfinished outside is like an oatmeal scrub for my hands. Then I set up my station with my cutting board, knife, favorite spoon, and notebook. I know most people don’t spend the 7 o’clock hour with fish stews and corn pastas, but one of the great things about being a freelancer is setting your own hours…by 3:30 I’m pretty much useless.” —Ali Slagle
The bounty of spring veg both raw and charred. For 4.
Recipe by Ali Slagle.

Soy sauce
Spring veg
Ramen noodles
Frozen edamame
Sesame seeds

-Good hot, warm, or room temp.
-Instead of ramen noodles, use soba, dried or fresh udon, or lo mein.
-Brown tofu or ground chicken or pork before adding the vegetables in step 4. Remove, then add back with the sauce.

Reprinted from I Dream of Dinner. Copyright © 2022 by Alexandra Slagle. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Mark Weinberg. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the rindfrom an orange. Squeeze 1 cup juice from 2 oranges into a large bowl. To the OJ, add the rind, ½ cup tahini, and ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce. Finely grate 1 tablespoon ginger into the bowl, season with S&P, and stir.

2. Trim the stem ends from 2 pounds spring veg (any mix of asparagus, green beans, snap peas, snow peas). Thinly slice on a diagonal ½ inch thick. Add half—only half—to the bowl, season with S&P, and stir to combine.

3. Add 10 to 12 ounces ramen noodles (preferably fresh) and ½ cup frozen, shelled edamame to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, then stir into the sauce.

4. In the same pot, heat 2 tablespoons neutral oil over medium-high. Add the remaining half of the vegetables. Season with S&P and cook, stirring just once, until browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. Add everything in the sauce bowl and cook, tossing until the sauce is warm and glazy, 1 to 2 minutes. Shower with toasted sesame seeds.

This Week's Reads

  1. Is it trash or is it recycling? Why plastic keeps us guessing. A fun and educational interactive. (The New York Times)

  2. That Harry Styles interview in Better Homes & Gardens. !!

  3. Young Women Are Self-Diagnosing Personality Disorders, Thanks To TikTok (Elle UK)

  4. Do I really need to be on social media? Same. (The Cut)

  5. Is Gen Z really anticapitalist? “On TikTok and online, the youngest workers are rejecting work as we know it. How will that play out IRL?” (Vox)

  6. Why Am I So Socially Awkward? It's Autism, I Finally Realized (A Cup of Jo)

  7. Reminder: the internet has no boundaries. (Mimi Zhu / Instagram)
Get your sheet pans at the ready. We're giving away 5 copies of I Dream of Dinner (so you don't have to) this week! 

To enter, refer a friend to subscribe to this newsletter between now and Thursday using your unique referral link. Winners will be pulled next Thursday at noon ET.
Refer A Friend, Win The Book
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