Jan. 13. 2016
Health Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

With a new year, or even a new season for that matter, comes open space for creating new rituals, new habits, new goals, and ultimately new routines. Creating a morning routine is one of, if not the most important thing you can do for your health and wellbeing on all levels. I’m not just talking about making coffee, getting ready for the day, eating breakfast, I’m talking about taking it deeper and living with intention behind your morning routines. Let me elaborate…


One of the first things I chat with my clients about, during goal setting, is the importance of a morning routine. It’s that important that we talk about it within the first two sessions. Morning routines are far more than habits, it’s in my opinion, essential for overall wellbeing. The way we set up our mornings is the way we set the tone for the entire day. Do you ever have those mornings where you’re rushing around trying to do “all the things” leaving yourself feeling frazzled and disconnected the whole day? I’ve been there, done that, and been back there several times especially last year when everything was so busy and things were happening left and right in both my professional and personal life. And guess what, the days where I felt overwhelm, burnout or stress were the days I didn’t practice my morning routine…in mindfulness. That’s the key here, being completely conscious and aware of being in the moment and carrying out your morning routine. To give you an example, I’m going to breakdown my personal morning routine as of January 2016 and subject to change as I change (’cause you know, we all do and gotta go with the flow of life). So here we go:

+ 5:00 am: wake up only looking at my phone to turn off my alarm and putting it away. Saying an intention or mantra for the day, whatever comes to me or asking myself how I’m “being” in that moment and go from there with setting my intention for the day.

+ 5:15 am: drinking a liter of cold water while heating up water for a Matcha Tea Latte, Coffee Elevated, or warm water with lemon– it just depends on my mood that morning! Then I’ll start making a pre-workout green smoothie, green juice, or grab a piece of fruit. Super simple.

+ Intermission: things like using the bathroom (if you need help with digestion check this eBook or for more specific concerns let’s chat 1-1), changing for the gym, driving to the gym, etc.

+ 6:00 am: Move that bod time! My workouts vary from season to season and then I also switch them up on a weekly basis to make sure I’m muscle building (adding in hypertrophy exercises) followed by body weight and plyometrics (adding in higher cardio fat burning exercises). Again, I know my body and this is how I’ve designed my workouts to be but everyone is so different; if this is something you all are curious about I could write a blog post on my routine as well. Depending on my workout or what my morning schedule looks like with work, I’ll happily walk for a good 45 minutes to an hour at the park (if the weather is nice) or on the treadmill listening to podcasts, answering your comments on social media, etc. Walking is one of my favorite forms of movement.


+ 7:30-8:00 am: Back home, [newly added, I have an infrared sauna at home now and have been using that for at least 30 minutes post workout before I shower]. Then, I shower then set up for morning meditation. I practice contrast showering– I know, hold on it might sound crazy, but contrast showering means you shower with alternating hot and cold water. Towards the end of my shower, I do about 20 seconds hot, 10 seconds cold and back again for several rounds, the last round is a cold round and then I hop out. Contrast showering not only wakes up your nervous system, but it’s also a form of cold thermogenesis which does far more than burn fat, it dilates your blood vessels allowing a greater flow of oxygen to your cells, activites BAT (brown adipose tissue- the kind of fat that actually burn white fat), increased cell longevity, better immune system, on a mental/spiritual level it just wakes you up! Start small, when I first started I would do 10 seconds of cold water at the very end of my shower and then hop out- letting your body naturally come back up to normal temperature, this also allows it to adapt and work a little harder to get back to basal.

You can read more about My Skincare Routine: Body and Face Edition. I’ll be doing my minimal makeup routine here soon as requested!

+ 8:15-8:30 am: Meditation time! My favorite time of the day. I light a candle to burn sage and wood incense then start reading. Somedays I’m fine without reading and I just want to hop right into prayer then meditate on intentions and let it flow. Other days when I’m feeling particularly stressed or emotions are high around that time of the month or whatever life has thrown my way, I’ll pick up a book to help center and get in the “zone”.

My favorite books that line my shelves are: The Power of Now, Awakening the Buddha Within, 10% Happier, Big Magic, The Alchemist, Rising Strong, 40 Rules of Love, etc. (check out my AMAZING instagram post where the NS community shared their favorite books, it’s such a great reference for mindful-centered books.

How I meditate might look vastly different than yours and that’s okay! Some of you might try guided meditations, meditation audio, mantras, etc. You find what works for you and do that- who cares about what everyone else does it only works and helps if you’re listening in to what truly makes you happy.

+ 9:00 am: I meditate for a minimum of 15 minutes each morning, but some days if I’m feeling really great and diving deep- I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation so I’ve been loving being there for 30 minutes or more if my work schedule allows. Again, I realize not everyone has the freedom of setting their own schedule, the goal is to know where you can shift things around in your morning, wake up earlier, etc. to make it work for you.

+ After meditation I always follow it with breakfast! Some of my go-to’s in rotation depends on my workout intensity and goals that season. In a nutshell: Simple Oat Pancakes, Overnight Oats, fruit with a Mood Boosting Cocoa Smoothie.

+ 9:15ish am: Open up work and I feel refreshed, focused, and energized to power through straight until lunch with a couple breaks to grab tea, etc. Throughout my work day I try to be as mindful as possible of my breath, always having a mind-body connection which takes a lot of practice, and I have a hunch this is a lifelong practice and I’m okay with that.

Tips to creating space for a morning routine…

because that’s sometimes half the battle!

  1. Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier…that means, going to bed 30 minutes earlier! #beautysleep
  2. Write out your morning routine
  3. Now close your eyes and envision yourself practicing that morning routine. This helps work out those little “in between” steps you might not think about
  4. Make time for your digestion. Yep, you heard it and I’ll say it again, make time to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning every morning.
  5. Go with the flow. The first time you start your morning routine it might be best to start adding in 1 thing at a time and then working up to it.
  6. Be “selfish”, embrace this time all about you, for you.
  7. Change with the seasons! My morning routine stays pretty consistent year round, but I’m always checking in with myself about how I can improve or switch it up if I’m feeling stagnant
  8. Just. Do. It. Try it for 2 weeks straight and report back to me — but I think you’ll have positive outcomes from it.


Have any questions? Ask! I hope that sharing my personal routine helps you cultivate your own routine and ritual, doing things that you absolutely love and that make your heart and spirit happy. I’d love to hear some of your morning routines and I know this is a topic we chat about in the NS Society– let’s start the conversation here as well.

xx McKel

main image photography @kelseycherry