Mornings. You either love em’ or hate em’. Regardless of the love-hate relationship with mornings, they have a huge hand in defining the rest of our day. A sluggish morning (for me at least) usually fades into an afternoon still in my jammies having accomplished basically nothing. A task that should take ten minutes and minimal effort all of a sudden turns into an hour-long project. Alternatively, mornings spent accomplishing mini victories (yes, that includes the satisfaction of simply making the bed) start me off in a productive groove that follows me throughout the day.
By using our time in the morning to better ourselves both mentally and physically we lay a foundation for a healthy and balanced day. Time, of course, is the next question. Where does one find time to spend contemplating whether they are balanced or not? You’ll be happy to know that these five easy mental and physical morning exercises only takes me about 15 minutes; five of which are spent fumbling groggily for the lamp switch.
The best part of these five, natural, effective morning habits to encourage a productive day is that they can be done before you even get out of bed in the morning. How easy is that?
1. Mental Check In
As soon as we wake up it is so easy to instantly jump to a mental to-do list for the day. Instead of planning how you’re going to fit in all of your errands, give yourself a minute or two to do a once over. Check in with yourself physically and mentally. Did that cardio work out yesterday leave your thighs sore? Are you anxious about that big presentation? Don’t judge or act on any of it, just notice. This is the day’s starting point, there’s no right or wrong. Knowing where you start the day is important when it comes to handling the day’s emotional fluctuations. By taking time in the morning to note the day’s moods, you are able to be more understanding of your emotions and reactions later in the day and in return, avoid being too hard on yourself.
2. Gratitude Journal
Nothing gets my mind into a positive groove like journaling my gratitudes. This takes my, “please don’t make me get out from under the covers!” attitude to, “I’m thankful to be wrapped up, warm and safe.” Whether it’s a full page worksheet or a quick name-three-things-you’re-grateful-for, listing your gratitudes helps train your mind to see the silver lining. For ease and convenience I keep my gratitude worksheet on my nightstand so it’s one of the first things I see (and therefore have no excuse to skip) in the morning.
This morning’s gratitudes:
-I’m grateful to get to write and share my love for natural living.
-I’m grateful to have a job that encourages my success.
-I’m grateful to spend some extra time with my cuddly and loveable Australian Shepherd, Baxter.
3. Pranayama Practice
Sometimes physical activity within five minutes of waking up just isn’t going to work. The sluggishness hasn’t worn off yet and a little extra energy is needed to wake up the body and the senses. Pranayama is the answer! Pranayama refers to Life Force, otherwise known as the breath. Using our respiratory system strategically through different breathing exercises either stimulates or relaxes our mental activity depending on which side of the brain is getting more oxygen. Breathing through the left nostril relaxes the body, where as breathing through the right nostril energizes. To create a balanced state of mind (and hopefully a balanced day) let’s do alternate nostril breathing to bring equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain. This will encourage mental clarity and level-headed thinking.
Place the pointer and middle finger of your right hand in the center of your forehead, keeping your elbow at a 45 degree angle. Using your thumb and ring finger, take turns closing off the right and left nostril following the directions below:
Use ring finger to gently close left nostril
Use thumb to gently close right nostril
Continue with this pattern.
Repeat for a few rounds or until you sense mental alertness and clarity. Focus on the inhale instead of the exhale as we are trying to wake ourselves up.
4. Gentle Bed Yoga
And now we’re ready for some physical movement. Start easy, with some dynamic breathing linking your breath to repeated movements like this:
From a seated position (legs can be straight out in front or criss-cross-applesauce), with arms resting by your sides, inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale, gently release them down. Repeat three to five times.
Wake up the spine with a side bend:
From the same seated position, inhale your arms overhead once more. Track the shoulder blades down the spine, giving the neck some space. Pull the front ribs in toward the spine. On the exhale, leave the left arm extended and place the right fingertips six inches from your right hip. Inhale, find length in this simple pose by reaching out through your fingertips. Now, exhale as you gently reach overhead and to the right. A slight bend in the right elbow is alright.
Rest here for a few breaths, waking the side body up. On an inhale, come back to center. Release left arm down.
Repeat on the other side by extending both arms overhead again, but this time leave the right arm extended and gently bring the left fingertips to meet the bed about six inches from the left hip. Repeat the gentle side bend like we did on the first side. Inhale back to center.
Detox with a gentle twist:
This pose requires you to bring your legs to criss-cross-applesauce if they aren’t already there. I like to stuff my sheets or pillows under my knees for extra support. Inhale and extend arms overhead. Instead of dropping the right fingers in line with the hip, place them six inches out from the hip and four to six inches back. Remember this is early on in the day, so don’t force a twist, simply guide your body and let it rest where it feels comfortable. Take a deep inhale reaching out through the crown of the head. On the exhale bring the left hand to rest on the left knee as you use your abdominals to revolve the left ribs toward the wall on your right. Be gentle. Inhale and exhale. Breathe. On the next exhale gently rotate back to center, your head being the last thing to turn to face the front.
Repeat turning the other direction. Inhale arms above head. Exhale place left fingertips six inches out from the hip and four to six inches back. Inhale, sit taller. Exhale, bring the right palm to rest on the right knee. Inhale, root down through both sit bones. Exhale, draw the belly button toward the spine and revolve the right ribs to the left side of the room. Rest here, settling into the gentle twist. Breathe. On an exhale gently come back to face center, bringing your gaze forward last.
5. Set an intention
By now I hope you are feeling more awake, energized and motivated to take on the day. The last part of my before-you-get-out-of-bed-morning-routine is to set an intention.
The most important aspect of an intention is to make it something you have control over. If you begin feeling flustered or out of time throughout the day come back to the intention you set and reevaluate. Here are some sample intentions, but find one that works for you and your goals:
-Meet new challenges with drive and excitement.
-Create something beautiful.
-Think before speaking.
-Practice kindness and understanding.
-Be gentle with yourself.
Morning routines are specific to each and every person. These morning habits work wonders for me personally to feel awake, focused and driven, but don’t be shy when it comes to modifying for your own personal morning flow!
What makes you have a good day? Tell us about your morning feel-good rituals. 🙂
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Photo: Siddarth Kothari via Unsplash; Peaceful Dumpling