Interview: Joy Elizabeth Bythrow of Mornings Like These

If you've ever had the pleasure of coming across the Mornings Like These feed on Instagram, you understand why we were instantly drawn in: serene scenes, ritual celebrated, and a sense of enveloping ease.  But, Mornings Like These is more than a beautiful collection of photos, it is a movement started by Joy Elizabeth Bythrow of "presence and mindfulness" born out of the realization that everyday could be one of beauty, every moment could be moving, and every action could have meaning. 

Founded from this simple, yet revolutionary, idea, Mornings Like These now has over 48,000 followers around the world who have shared over 800,000 of their own images of how they celebrate ritual and savor every moment. We had the opportunity to talk with Joy about her mission and how we all can incorporate more intention into our every day.

DIW: What was your original inspiration to start Mornings Like These?

Joy: Mornings Like These was born out of my depression. I know that seems heavy to say right up front, but one of my goals in life is to release the stigmas surrounding mental health. I was in a dark place about three years ago, feeling stagnant in my life and unenthused. I was overworked and tired. I went on a trip with some girlfriends and undecidedly woke up at 6 AM. I watched the sunrise from the window and had my first truly calm, peaceful moment in months. I remember telling myself I wanted more mornings like this one, and at that very moment, MLT was born. I didn't want to start a brand. I wanted to start a project that inspired me, and encouraged others, to catalog moments of gratitude; moments where they acknowledge the abundance of good in their lives at the start of each day. 

DIW: What did you do before MLT?

Joy: I changed my major so many times. My last and final endeavor was Interior Design, which, nope. I don't do that. I went to Belgium to be an au pair for a year then came home and joined the salon industry, which I did for many years.

DIW: What were you hoping MLT would be or do?

Joy: As MLT picked up stamina and grew faster than I ever imagined, I felt pressured to "make" it something. I thought I wanted to open a shop. Then I tried to start a volunteer group. Everything flopped because I was trying instead of letting it naturally take shape. I took a step back and I feel more secure with Mornings Like These than I ever did before. In the creative community, there is a lot of pressure to establish yourself and prove your worth. I quite frankly don't care at all about that.

DIW: How did that vision change as MLT became so popular?

Joy: I realized MLT is still my brand and that brand grew out of a need and not a want. I needed to feel peace in my life and I needed to create a safe, inspiring place for myself to grow. Mornings Like These offered me that, whether or not I opened an online shop or made a name for myself. I went through a period of "but people will forget about me if I don't do something notable"... I can hands down say those feelings are gone. We do things for our own self worth and reward, not others. 

DIW: When I first discovered MLT several years ago, I really fell in love with your distinctive style of images. For lack of a better word, they feel calm. How did you develop your style? Were you a photographer before MLT?

Joy: I took photo classes in school and learned on a film camera. I stayed away from digital for a long time. Then I just picked up a camera and started shooting one day. It took me years before I started calling myself a "photographer." I felt like I had to prove myself before I used that word. That's garbage. Believe in your abilities and claim your space. Say what you are with pride. I started taking the photos that I wanted to see. That's what matters, right? I prefer emotion and nostalgia in my photos. Freezing time, if you will. That's where my passion lies. 

DIW: What lessons did you learn as you started that business?

Joy: Get out of your head. If you're second guessing yourself, don't. Just do what feels right to you. Your gut instinct is your best one, always.

DIW: Is there anything you would change or do differently?

Joy: Absolutely not. However, If I could go back, I'd remind myself that I don't have to be anything more than what I am. Go at my own pace. I don't have to go any faster than I want to. If we are constantly worried about getting ahead or going fast enough, we miss what's right in front of us.

DIW: What does a day in the life of MLT look like?

Joy: I wake up, make breakfast for my husband and I, read, get ready for work and head out the door. I work with my girlfriends as a floral designer for the woman-run business, Sweet Root Village. I've been with them for a year and a half now and it's been the greatest year and a half of my life. On the weekends, I work on my freelance projects and photography jobs for other clients. No two days in my life are the same and I absolutely love it.

DIW: What do you see for the future of MLT? Have any exciting projects or updates you can share?

Joy: At the moment, nothing too exciting. My husband and I have been trying for children and I am on the fertility journey with so many other women. My focus right now is to bring light to the dark places women are in. I want to discuss more openly fertility and miscarriages and bring love to the women who struggle alone. I'm trying to find the right platform online to do this.

DIW: Our issue is about the Danish concept of Hygge. Tell me about you relationship with Hygge?

Joy: Hygge has been a favorite concept of mine since I was abroad in 2010. Bringing excitement and intimacy to the ordinary is my favorite thing. Every morning, I am excited to be alive. To be in my space. To have my home with my husband. To practice our ritual of breakfast together. We revel in the simplicity and honesty of what is; a shared meal together, connecting before the day begins. This is hygge to me. Celebrating the honesty in our daily lives, not the frills.

DIW: Do you have any essentials that make your home, space, life feel more Hyggelit?

Joy: A nook in your home where you spend most of your time. A favorite teacup. A favorite blend of coffee or tea. A corner of books filled with all the literature that inspires you most. Thick socks. Your favorite wine. Your home should be filled with the things you love and only that. When you invite loved ones and guests to your home, your home will be so representative of you that all will feel warmth and welcome.

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DIW: What tips do you have for people who are craving life with more intention or who are learning to "celebrate ritual”?

Joy: Start with one small thing. As I said before, find your favorite things and make time for them. For example, find a favorite blend of coffee. You will be excited to wake each day and grind it, brew it, and drink it. That ritual will start a ripple effect of intentionality in so many aspects of your life.

To find more of Joy and Mornings Like These, visit the site and Instagram.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Ray is a former child forensic interview specialist, reformed home decor blogger, writer and editor (who has a difficult time being serious whenever there is a camera around). She is proud to be the co/founder of Do It Well, Co.