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The magic of a morning routine - Guest Blog: Caroline Danks, LarkOwl

Today's blog is the first in a new series we've introduced.

We love sharing the tips, routines, discoveries and learnings of others. And we also love growing and diversifying the networks and #squads of other fundraisers.

So, guest blogs will now be a monthly feature and we hope you enjoy the variety

Today's inaugural Guest Blog comes from the lovely Caroline Danks of LarkOwl in which she shares her morning routine, the cornerstone of self care and wellbeing routine

To find out more advice, hints, tips and learning about wellbeing in the charity sector, why not join our Charity Wellbeing Hub

Thank you Caroline!

I’m a sucker for a morning routine. A common theme in personal development circles is the benefit of a consistent morning routine and is widely understood to be a keystone habit of wildly successful people.

There are books dedicated purely to this topic, Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning being probably the most famous, though I think that this one is WAY better and much more realistic for the average person (who doesn’t have a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, their own plunge pool, several nannies and housekeepers and complete autonomy over their own working day…).

For a focused and productive day, morning routines typically comprise of a mix of the following activities:

· exercise

· meditation

· journaling

· visualisation

· gratitude / prayer / mantras

· hydration / nutrition

· coffee

· planning for the day ahead

Note how chucking an ipad at your toddler then scrolling through Twitter whilst having a lie-in is not on the list.

Extreme morning routines often start incredibly early. According to his website, Robin Sharma’s book The 5am club will enable the reader to’ discover the early-rising habit that has helped so many accomplish epic results while upgrading their happiness, helpfulness and feelings of aliveness’.

My morning routine

I’ve experimented with my own morning routine over the years. The biggest challenge I face in getting it right is striking a balance between ensuring I get enough sleep and giving myself time so that I’m not rushing around once my routine is complete.

Despite being a morning person, the 5am thing doesn’t work for me. It’s too frickin’ early! It leaves me feeling jet-lagged, exhausted by early afternoon and from 6pm, somewhere between ‘pumpkin’ and ‘wicked witch of the west’.

In terms of prioritising activities or wellbeing and productivity, sleep comes first (for me at least…)

At the moment, and on a good day, my morning routine looks like this:

6.00 ish EXERCISE

If I don’t do it first thing, it doesn’t get done

After a period of injury, I’m really enjoying getting back into running. Sometimes I prefer a walk, a dance workout on YouTube (if it’s REALLY raining), a short circuits session or (if time / weather allows), a swim in the sea or a paddleboarding session

I’ve stopped listening to podcasts / music on my run to allow my thoughts the opportunity to wander freely. My equivalent of meditation

This is the hardest bit of my routine, especially when its dark and cold and I’m tired. I have to remind myself of the benefits of moving my body first thing in the morning. These are numerous and really help me to have a productive, distraction free (very important!) working day.

Post swim selfie, my happy place…

6.45 YOGA

I like to do a short a yoga practice every day, especially coming off the aforementioned period of injury. Benefits of yoga range from improved flexibility, peace of mind, clarity, relaxation and strength. A regular yoga practice is a great antidote to hours spent driving and / or sitting at a desk.


This is where it gets a bit wacko. Bear with.

Wim Hof is a Dutch endurance athlete who has set many world records for (amongst other things) his ability to endure freezing temperatures wearing not very many clothes.

He believes that his method (which has been tested and verified by scientists all over the world) can enable humans to control their autonomic nervous system and thus prevent and limit the spread of disease. He was famously once injected with e-coli bacteria and using his method (mainly breathing, cold exposure, stretching and meditation) was not impacted negatively by the presence of the disease in his body.

His mission is a ‘world free from illness’ and he believes that all humans are capable of replicating his achievements. He doesn’t see himself as special or superhuman.

So, after my yoga, I do a few rounds of breathwork before jumping in the shower. I try to end my shower with a blast of cold water.

Cold exposure has many benefits including increased alertness, an improved immune system and can boost mood. For more on the science, check out this article.

By 7.30, I’m all done, dressed, drinking my coffee and cracking on with my housework / making breakfast.

I’m a long way from perfect and very much a work in progress.

  • Sometimes I sack it all off, switch off the alarm and grab some extra zzz’s.

  • Sometimes I prefer a cuddle in bed with my man, coffee and a chat (before rushing around and panicking to get everyone out of the house on time)

  • Sometimes the yoga and break work is blissful and goes on too long (again, more rushing and panicking).

Being a fundraiser is hard

Being a fundraiser, a business owner, a partner, a mum, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a homeowner is hard

We are all busy and have competing demands, priorities and objectives, many of which have seen the lines between them blurred in recent months. For me, my morning routine is an hour of selfish indulgence which gives me focus and clarity for the day ahead.

Getting started

Morning routines can be as simple or as complex as you make them. The idea common to all of them is that your routine is time spent completely alone. For those of you with small children who like to wake before dawn, this can prove challenging. Some ideas to get started:

  • Try waking a little earlier than you normally would to give yourself some extra time for these new activities

  • Lay out clothes (if you’re planning to exercise) the night before

  • A splash of cold water on the face or cleaning your teeth first thing can help to take the sting out of the early morning

  • Leave your phone downstairs and commit to not looking at it until your routine is over

  • Feel free to just pick one or two short activities to start (e.g. a cup of coffee whilst watering plants in the garden, a ten-minute guided meditation)

  • Explain to your family your plans. Gently ask your kids not to disturb you before a certain time (and be sure to give them bonus hugs once you’re done).

  • Include elements of ritual to make the routine special. For example, In December, I light an advent candle to accompany my yoga / breathing. Incense, a beautiful new yoga mat or journal (treat yourself!) and music are other ways to make this time really special.

Do you have a morning routine?

Inspired to try one?

Tweet me @LarkOwlUK and let’s compare notes!

Caroline Danks is Director of LarkOwl who provide consultancy and training in voluntary and commercial income for the non profit sector.

To receive a weekly article from Caroline, sign up to LarkOwl’s newsletter here.

To find out more about working with Caroline, visit LarkOwl’s website.

#wellbeing #fundraising #fundraiser #charity #charities #selfcare #routine #carolinedanks #larkowl #yoga #CharityWellbeingHub

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