There’s no denying that getting out of bed can feel near-traumatic sometimes, especially in the winter, or when you aren’t looking forward to the day’s responsibilities. It can be so easy to get into the habit of staying in bed until the last conceivable minute, leaving you perpetually rushing to get dressed and out the door on time. As you’re scurrying about, perhaps mentally reprimanding yourself for not having enough time, your stress level rises, you’re less likely to eat a healthy breakfast, you’re primed to have abrupt, careless interactions with your family, housemates, or pets, and you’re more likely to forget things you need for the day. You might leave the house already exhausted. But what if your morning routine could actually decrease your stress and set you up for exactly the kind of day you want to have? Here are a few ideas to encourage your day to start on the right side of the bed:
1. Get organized the night before. Staying up fifteen extra minutes to get yourself organized, pack a lunch, get your work bag ready and figure out what you want to wear the next day can help make your morning flow with ease. With these details already worked out, you can use the time to focus on setting intentions for your day, or just enjoy a few minutes of quiet all to yourself.
2. Relax before bed. Try to stop watching TV, using the computer, exercising, or eating about two hours before you go to sleep. During the two or three hours before we sleep, our brains need time to wind down and release melatonin, a hormone we need to enter states of deep rest during sleep. As night falls, the pineal gland begins releasing melatonin into the bloodstream. In turn, we begin to feel sleepy and the body prepares for rest. Using this time to relax will support your body’s natural sleep cycle. Try meditation, reflecting on what you are grateful for, listening to soothing music, writing in your journal, or taking a bath.
3. Wake up earlier than usual. I get it—this one’s tough and it seems counterintuitive when you don’t feel rested enough as it is. But getting up early creates a wonderful spaciousness to your day. Many people find that the early morning is their most productive time. Try moving your wake up time back in 15-minute increments, until you’re getting 30 or 45 extra minutes (or more!) to yourself each day. Give yourself time to adjust; be gentle with yourself.
4. Before getting out of bed, set your intentions for the day. Imagine that the day ahead of you is a giant circle (or any shape you like) floating above your bed. Now, think about what you want to happen during the day. Your intentions and desires can be either general, such as having honest interactions with each person you encounter, and specific, such as finding a great parking space or having a productive meeting with your boss. Take each thing that comes to mind, put it in the imaginary circle, and visualize it happening during the day. Keep any negative thoughts out of your circle. Also, try writing down your intentions and reviewing them at lunchtime and again later that evening.
5. Right before you get out of bed, do a quick body scan. Starting at the top of your head, bring your awareness to each part of your body, and notice how it feels. Is there tension in your face, or stiffness in your neck? Go through your body until you reach your toes, trying to notice how your muscles, skin, and energy feel.
6. Drink lemon water. Try and make this one of the very first things you do after getting out of bed. Drinking water with freshly-squeezed lemon supports your liver in flushing toxins, and will help create a healthy, alkaline environment in your body. Personally, I love to drink warm water with lemon and/or apple cider vinegar in the morning.
7. Stretch. Take about five minutes to do some simple, slow movements and feel any places where your muscles might be tight. Reach both arms up to the sky and stand up on your tiptoes. Repeat. Open your legs shoulder-width apart and bend forward. Reach your hands towards your feet. Repeat. Twist side to side a few times. Make up your own routine with whatever gentle movements get your blood moving.
8. Greet the day. Take a moment to open the curtains and welcome in the light, or better yet, put on a sweater and step outside your front door. Notice the color of the sky. Feel the air on your face, take a few deep breaths, and give thanks for a new day.
9. Do a 5-10 minute meditation/deep breathing exercise. Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or intimidating. Keep it simple and peaceful. Try lighting a few candles and concentrate on breathing in and out deeply, slowly and gently.
10. Make a gratitude list. Taking stock of all the things you’ve got going for you puts you in a mentality of positivity and sets the tone for more awesome things to come your way. Include even things we might take for granted, such as basic necessities. See how long you can make your list.
11. Write “morning pages.” In her inspiring book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron (http://juliacameronlive.com/) suggests writing three stream-of-consciousness, handwritten pages each morning as a way to connect to our creativity and unlock our inner selves. It doesn’t matter what you write; just commit to writing three pages each day and let it flow. Morning pages can help you figure out what your priorities are, identify patterns or behaviors that are keeping you from achieving your goals, and be honest with yourself about your emotions and desires.
12. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Mindfulness means being present in each moment. It means paying attention to what is happening around you and what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. The opposite of mindfulness would be just going through the motions. In the morning context, this might mean groggily stumbling into the kitchen and making coffee without even realizing what you’re doing. So, instead, bring a conscious awareness to your morning tasks. While making breakfast, notice the smell, color, and texture of the foods. Don’t let your mind drift off or make mental to-do lists. Instead, feel the temperature of the air in the kitchen and notice the color of the counter-tops. Feel your feet on the floor and appreciate each body-nourishing ingredient you’re adding to your meal. Really be there. When your mind begins to wander, and gently come back to the present by re-directing your thoughts. When you connect to your present experience, you give your mind a break from worrying about the past or the future, and thus, greatly reduce stress. Continue this practice throughout the morning and beyond.
There are hundreds of ways to create your own mindful morning routine. Different routines will feel good to each of us, so it’s important to find what works best for you.
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Photo: Tana Gandhi via Flickr