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When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
I’m a morning person, always have been. I wake up around 5 am and bounce out of bed joy-filled, enthusiastic and ready to consume the day. My energy is at its peak and I feel as though nothing can stop me. However, up until five years ago, I didn’t realize how my morning routine was undermining my ability to be the very best I could be. In truth, it was creating blocks to my most authentic life.
You see, I’ve learned that what you do when you first wake up in the morning is a solid gage of not only the quality of your day but by extension the quality of your life.
The cure for this is to create a realistic morning routine - a set of rituals that works for you and you alone. There are myriad ways to accomplish this, but I’m going to share the eight that have made the biggest difference for me. I’m not just talking about starting the day off on the right foot – but truly changing your life in just about every way imaginable.
#1 - Hydrate First
As soon as you get out of bed down a full 8-to-16-ounces of clear water. Before your morning coffee or tea, before you take a shower, before you do anything else, drink your water.
Your body has been in a state of fasting all night, and this liquid miracle will rehydrate you, make your brain feel more alert, and jumpstart your metabolism. It may also help to fill up your tummy so you don’t overeat at breakfast.
#2 - Stretch
Roll right onto the floor (or if it’s too hard for you, lay back down on your bed) taking five minutes to stretch your body. Lay on your back, clasping your knees to chest. Roll from side to side. Remember to breathe deeply throughout your stretching. You’ll most likely hear your spine and joints gently popping as you elongate. Stand and stretch your arms overhead as you gently stretch from side to side. Kneel on the floor and then place your forehead on the ground. Stretch your arms over your head and gently elongate your spine. Be gentle. Think and move like a cat.
Stretching in the morning improves circulation and helps to increase the blood flow to your muscles. More blood in your muscles translates into more energy in the morning. It also increases blood flow to your brain and sharpens your concentration.
#3 - Tea Meditation
I gave up morning coffee consumption five years ago when out of habit I would lurch from my bed to the kitchen to kidnap an entire pot of bullet-strong Joe and plop down at my desk for the next five hours slamming cup after cup as I bulldozed through work. Hours later when Panache would make it to my desk I was a barking, short-tempered, over-caffeinated hot mess. My gut was ruined and I suffered terrible diarrhea most days. I don’t need to tell you that I was so toxic by noon that nobody wanted to be around me.
Now, my morning tea prep is a grace bestowing meditation ritual. I walk slowly, barefoot to the kitchen feeling my feet from heel to toe on the ground. Each step bringing me fully into the present moment. I take down my favorite over-sized Asian blue ceramic cup and put the water on to boil. I turn on music that speaks to my soul as I await the whistling of the tea kettle (absolutely no electric tea kettles for me. I love the old-fashioned sound of a kettle’s whistle.) And then I pour the water over the tea and watch it steep.
I have to admit this small practice is one of my favorite of the day. When you fully engage in what you’re doing with presence and mindfulness, everything becomes a meditation.
Meditate! Pray! Journal! You don’t have to cross your legs, buy a yoga mat, or say “Ommmmm” (though you certainly can if that works for you). Nor do you need to burn a candle or sit in the dark. Even if you take just five minutes to close your eyes and clear your mind of all thoughts, you will find that it begins your day with a peacefulness that you are able to recall at a moment's notice.
If you have trouble quieting your mind, find a guided meditation that works for you. Find a quiet space, put on a headset, close your eyes, and let the narrator guide you through the meditation.
Actually, any activity that produces a zen-like calm will provide the same effect as “true” meditation, so try mindful walking (also called walking meditation) or coloring in one of the new coloring books for adults. Even repetitive activities such as knitting can help your brain achieve this meditative state, so be creative and find out what works best for you.
#5 - Next a Good Breakfast
Eat your breakfast. A GOOD breakfast. Not sugary cereal or a donut, either. In order to transition your body from a resting and fasting state to a state of consistent energy, you’ll need all three macros to be present in your breakfast: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Easy on the simple carbs, big on the protein and fat.
The simple carbs will give your body and brain immediate energy in the form of glucose. Protein will help replenish the amino acids your muscles need to rebuild after their overnight fast. And fat will help keep you fuller longer, so that you’re less tempted to indulge in a mid-morning snack of that leftover box of donuts at the office.
Try organic steel cut oatmeal (so much better for you than rolled oats). Eggs are always a smart choice, full of protein that will help you jump start your morning. Greek yogurt is great! An excellent source of vitamins and minerals, it also contains probiotics for your gut and is lower in lactose with twice the protein of regular yogurt. Almond butter on an apple is a wonderful way to start your day. The good fat and fiber in the almond butter are great for your cardiovascular system. In addition, an apple a day really just might keep the doctor away. It turns out that apples are chock full of antioxidants and flavonoids that reduce the risk of several different types of cancer.
Remember, you don’t have to eat a lot - but you do have to eat. Both your body and brain need more fuel than just a cup of java to wake up and live right for the day!
# 6 - Exercise For Your Body and Mind
Exercise is your friend. I’m positive this comes as no surprise to you, but you may groan at the suggestion. Here’s the thing: even if you’re the perfect weight for your body, even if you’re in excellent physical health, you still need exercise.
For your brain! Creating a day filled with energy and peace relies greatly on your brain producing the correct chemicals to accomplish that. Those are the feel-good chemicals called endorphins, like dopamine and serotonin, and the best way to get that endorphin dump is to exercise!
We’re not talking about spending an hour in the gym every morning. No, even a brisk walk around the block will accomplish what you need where your brain is concerned. So do it for your brain!
#7 - Practice Gratitude
Take a few moments to express gratitude to the Creator as you see it, him, or her. Notice and give thanks for those things that are abundant in your life - health, your family, your adoring pet, finances...heck, you can have gratitude for nearly anything that is something you value! Even if it’s just a single thought a day - “Today I am grateful for [fill in the blank].” - this facilitates a peaceful, loving, and happy mindset.
# 8 - Open Yourself to Possibilities
Affirm what it is you’d like more of in life. Affirmations are incredibly powerful little statements. Utilized each morning and night, you actually set your subconscious mind in motion to figure out how to achieve what it is you desire.
Affirmations can be used in so many positive ways. If you want to achieve a greater level of success, affirm that it is already so. If you’re nervous about a presentation you have to give at work, affirm that you will deliver your presentation with ease and confidence. If you wake up with little energy after a bad night’s sleep, affirm to yourself that you feel awake and refreshed, and you have abundant energy. Your subconscious will then work to make it so.
I’m passionate about this morning piece. As we collectively uncover positive ways to create your most authentic life possible, be inspired by today’s advice. It takes, on average, 66 days to create new habits. So let’s begin today. Add a new ritual every 4 to 5 days and over time, I promise, you will see remarkable results in increased energy, joy, and peace.