Jan. 13. 2016
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Creating a morning routine and following it as consistently as possible can lead to provide shifts in your life.

Routines are all about creating small daily practices that add up and transition into long-term habits. That’s why something as simple as a morning routine, can impact your health and wellbeing in many ways.

Creating more space in your life to do the rituals and routines you need to feel your best, is a key part of taking care of yourself. When we talk with our students in The Method program about morning routines, we’re not just talking about making coffee, getting ready for the day, and eating breakfast — we’re talking about starting your day with more intention and purpose.

Manifest A Great Day

One of the first things I chat with my clients about in our initial consultation is the importance of a morning routine — it’s so important that we often cover that education prior to diving into anything nutrition related.

Morning routines are far more than habits it’s a routine essential for maintaining and contributing to your 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?

We’ve all been there before.

The days where we tend to feel more reactive, emotionally charged, overwhelmed or stressed are typically days where we feel disconnected with ourselves, our goals, and our vision of health.

Taking even 5 minutes to yourself counts as a morning routine! As long as it’s a time where you’re present and connected with yourself in the moment, your morning routine and what you do that in time will look different than mine, your friends, your partners, and anyone else’s. That’s the beauty of finding what works for you and what doesn’t.

To give you an example, I’m going to breakdown my personal morning routine as of 2019 and subject to change as I change because that’s life. So here we go:

McKel’s Morning Routine

First thing

I 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” at that moment and go from there with setting my intention for the day.


I drink a liter of filtered water while heating up water for a Matcha Tea Latte, Coffee Elevated, or hot tea — it just depends on my mood that morning! Then I’ll start making a pre-workout green smoothie, Good Morning Juice, or grab a piece of fruit. Super simple.

Before working out: reading a few chapters from a book, reading the news or new nutrition studies, and catching up with what’s going on in the world right now, and then getting ready to workout.


Movement! My workouts vary from season to season and then I also switch them up whenever I feel the need to, typically it’s due to boredom. I’ve been an avid Barre3 student and typically do this 6 days a week. 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.


Back home from working out, I’ll typically do some sort of facial massage before I get into the shower like gua sha (it feels great on tense jawlines!) then shower. I practice contrast showering towards the end of my shower, which is alternating hot and cold water. 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, activates 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!

My tip is to 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. Just let 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.


Meditation time, which is still the best part of my day. Some mornings I have 3 minutes, others I’ll have 40 minutes so I just go with the flow and do my best with the time I have. I really enjoy the routine and spiritual ritual of getting connected with myself and getting grounded. Part of that for me includes my ancestral tradition of burning sage and sweetgrass while giving gratitude and thanks to the earth for the many ways it provides for us, connecting with ancestors, and saying a sequence of prayers and the into meditation I go.

Somedays I need a little help getting centered if my mind is going everywhere, so for those days, I’ll read a few chapters from a book that I love and then meditate on that subject. 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 good — we’re all unique and so should our journeys! 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.


Breakfast time is most often a smoothie, but I switch up the ingredients all the time for nutrient variety. It’s the best thing for my mornings since we walk to the office 90% of the time with Luna. Easy, portable, nourishing!


Open up work and most days after taking this much time to myself, I feel grateful, refreshed, focused, and energized to power through straight until lunch with a couple of breaks to grab a tea, etc. Throughout my work day, I try to be as mindful as possible of my breath, always having a mind-body connection that takes a lot of practice — it’s a lifelong practice and I’m okay with that.

How To Find A Morning Routine That Works For You

I share my morning routine with you as this is a glimpse into my current life now, but it will change as our lives change and I’ll go with the flow when that time comes. Above all, this isn’t meant to be comparative, just use this as a framework and a guideline. Take what you think will work for you and leave the rest behind!

  1. Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier. This also means going to bed 30 minutes earlier.
  2. Write out your morning routine to visualize all the potential challenges or barriers you might come across. That way you can strategize and plan for those when they arise.
  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. 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.
  5. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. Embrace this time all about you, for you.
  6. Don’t get too rigid about your morning routine because life happens and you’ll have to stay creative and open to try new things.
  7. Try it for 2 weeks straight and see how you feel.

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.

*updated 2019