For most of us, mornings tend to be associated with the heavy feeling of thinking about the day ahead. Especially during weekdays when waking up is met with a sense of urgency-- rushing to do this and that, leaving you anxious and restless.
While you may think that busy equates to being productive, more often than not, we end up doing too much, leaving us physically and mentally drained, which makes it more difficult to accomplish tasks more efficiently.
Since work fills up most of our day, it is crucial to set aside time for ourselves – not only to relax at the end of the day, but also to charge up and keep ourselves in check right before the day starts. One of the most common things we neglect is our body. We overuse and abuse it without giving it the proper care and maintenance it needs to function properly. The same goes with our mental health, it needs the space for quiet time, to re-set and bring ourselves into balance.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to be a daunting task to squeeze in your already full schedule. You’d be surprised that 1 minute everyday of healthy morning habits can do wonders, and will significantly impact your day in a positive way.
Here are 5 things you can try for better mornings:
- Decide on a consistent waking and sleeping time
It’s common knowledge that lack of sleep affects our mood, mental clarity, and overall energy levels. Apart from getting enough sleep, keeping a fixed schedule of when your head hits the pillow and when you wake up is just as important.
Our bodies follow a natural cycle, called your "circadian rhythm", or in lay man’s terms, your internal “body clock”. This natural cycle helps to subconsciously regulate a pattern of alertness and sleepiness at appropriate times within a 24 hour period.
Having consistent sleep and wake times, even during the weekends when you don’t have to, is necessary, so that your body clock doesn't get confused. The regular schedule allows you to get more quality sleep when you need it, and gives you more alertness and energy when you are supposed to be awake. It is also very beneficial from a general health perspective for balanced functioning of your immune system, metabolism, and hormones.
Sleep times and needs can obviously vary from person to person, but whether you're a morning person or a night owl doesn't really matter, the important thing is to establish a consistent pattern that works for you.
- Move and stretch
This might seem obvious as we tend to catch ourselves stretching involuntarily as soon as we wake up. But there’s a really simple and powerful way of doing it that will make you feel alive and ready for the day, giving you the greatest benefit in a relatively short amount of time.
Think the 80/20 rule. So what is it?
Well the best way to jumpstart your system first thing in the morning is by moving your spine in all of it's six ranges and directions.
- Start by standing up and then slowly and gently bend your body forwards and backwards for 10 repetitions. Start with small movements and increase the range with each rep as your body starts to warm up without causing yourself any pain.
- Repeat the same process but this time instead of bending forward and back, laterally flex or bend the body side to side with the arms stretched high for 10 repetitions.
- Lastly, lying down on the floor keeping your knees bent, slowly let your legs lower to the left and then right keeping the upper body and shoulders flat on the floor. This creates a gentle spinal twist to the left and right, repeating for 10 repetitions.
- When you do this, you improve the blood flow throughout your spine and body, which gives you the boost of energy that you need to start your day. It also helps loosen that morning stiffness sometimes felt when getting out of bed.
- BONUS TIP: if you have time, repeat the same three sets of movements for your neck. Forwards/backwards, then laterally bending the neck left and right, and finally rotating your head to look left and right. 10 reps each.
This is not necessarily a 1 minute activity, but doing this for 5 minutes will make all the difference in how you feel in the morning.
- Mindfulness practice for 1 minute
When worried about the day ahead, or if frustrated about fixing a problem today that arose from a mistake yesterday, it prevents us from being in the present moment. We might be present physically, but not mentally, because we are caught up in the past and/or the future – both of which are out of our control.
When your mind runs freely and wanders off wherever it wants to, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed and clouded with useless information or negative thought patterns. But we have to remember that we are NOT our thoughts. One of the most powerful, liberating things to know is that we can control what goes on in our heads. We don’t have to be prisoners to our mind; we can direct it, and train it, until eventually, we master our thought patterns and being more present becomes second nature.
The simple technique of focusing on the breath can be used as a mindfulness practice, by anybody without too much difficulty.
Try this at home: As soon as you wake up, find a spot where you can sit up straight and comfortably, with your legs crossed and with your arms to your side or on your legs, where it feels natural. If you’re sitting on a chair, sit up straight with your legs on the floor. Breathe in and breathe out. Focus your attention to your breath. Your mind will eventually wander, it’s normal. But just keep calmly re-directing your attention back to your breath without reacting. Feel the rise and fall of your chest, your stomach, and everything about your breathing. It may seem silly at first, but starting to develop the habit of doing this even just 1 minute everyday and building from there will make a huge difference.
Mindfulness helps us gain a better understanding that what we feel is often just a reaction to what we are thinking. Being mindful and developing mindfulness helps to clear and focus the mind allowing us to be more in tune with ourselves and others and puts things into perspective.
- Gratitude practice for 1 minute
Similar to mindfulness, practicing gratitude everyday, especially in the morning, trains our brains to steer clear of the default negative thoughts. When we take a moment to reflect on the beauty around us, the things that we have, the people in our lives, we realise how blessed we are. Even when there are a lot of hurdles, we can always find something, no matter how small, that is good in our current circumstances. It helps us gain an optimistic view of the world, which in turn, leads us to receiving more of what we want.
There’s always a silver lining to everything, so finding the good in a bad situation is an example of being grateful. Even being grateful for something such as getting 8 hours of sleep the night before is important to maintaining good health.
Make a list of the things you are thankful for everyday. You can write it down or mentally take note of them in a form of a prayer. Whatever works for you. The process is more powerful if done immediately after the "mindfulness practice" mentioned in the previous tip because it primes you for gratitude. This sets you up to feel more happy and positive and you’ll be surprised at how your day becomes less threatening. As the saying goes ,“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”.
- Drink a glass of water / lemon water / 1 minute smoothie
What you ingest upon waking really impacts how you feel throughout the day. Drinking a glass of water (preferably warm) first thing in the morning wakes up your internal organs, including your digestive system, and helps increase the flow of oxygen in your body. It also hydrates you after hours of sleep, and helps to detoxify your body.
Same goes with hot lemon water. Aside from being a good source vitamin C it also helps flush out toxins, and aids in regulating the balance of acid and alkaline your body (ph levels).
You can also opt for a superfood smoothie instead of a heavy carb loaded breakfast like toast or cereal. It is light but nutrient dense so you feel satisfied, and can give you sustained energy throughout the day. Ideally, a smoothie should have a proper protein compliment, some good fats, supergreens for it's natural multivitamin content, antioxidants, trace minerals, pre and probiotics, and digestive enzymes. If you’re busy, just preparing a 1 minute smoothie with all these ingredients should do the trick (it's why we created Yoga Food ;)
Mornings don’t have to be a challenge. All it takes is a few tweaks in your daily habits and to give yourself five minutes of your time to make a significant change in your overall health, well-being, and productivity.