Since I have been living in New York City for 12 years, I am intimately familiar with the “daily grind” and the adjoining morning rituals many working people have.
Does any of this sound familiar: 7:00am alarm blast wakes you, pull yourself out of bed, half asleep jump in the shower, dress, (get kids ready, if you have kids) leave house for work by 7:45am, on the way eat half a bacon, egg and cheese, some coffee, get to work by 8:30am, say your morning pleasantries to friends, check some emails and ESPN (guys) or Page Six (girls) and jump right in and start the day once the caffeine kicks in around 9am.
The majority of people I have counseled over the years have had morning routines similar to this, and the purpose of this article is to tell you how much better it can be. It is important to realize that what you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, and habituating an effective morning custom can do wonders for your life. By following the seven suggestions in this article, you will start to feel more alert, healthier and stronger as you begin your day.
You will become more productive at work, and improvements will begin to happen in other areas as well: your workout routine will become stronger, you will become more organized, and all of a sudden you will be able to do all those things that you thought you never had time for. What’s amazing is that all of these things can happen by changing the things you do when you first rise:
Water. Drink a full glass of water as soon as you wake up. This is critical for the health of your body as you have just spent the last 7-10 hours with no food or drink. You are dehydrated and your entire system desires water to arouse the joints and muscles, and stimulate activity of your organs (especially in the digestive tract). As you drink this glass of water, feel the liquid going into your stomach and get a sense of the body waking up and responding to its lubricating effects. Water is calming for the mind as well and by making a habit of drinking water upon waking you are establishing a healthy pillar of activity first thing in the morning!
Stretch. Now that your body is nice and lubricated, and you feel more awake with water inside you, it is imperative to stretch your body. You have just spent the last several hours in a period of physical inactivity, and you will soon be embarking on a full day of movement so it is crucial to check in with your body and give it a good stretch from the head all the way down to the toes. This is a wonderful way to begin preparing yourself for a successful day, and I recommend spending at least 10 minutes doing a varied routine of full stretches. If you are into Yoga, performing the sun salutations is a great practice and can certainly get you going.
Meditate. Meditation is an extraordinary practice that has innumerable health benefits and dates back thousands of years. Through meditation you commit yourself to the practice of listening within, and by sticking to it you will develop increased awareness, stronger intentions and enhanced patience. After a productive morning stretch, take 15-20 minutes and let everything go and just be. Sit (or lie) quietly in a comfortable area where you know you will not be disturbed. I highly recommend reading a book, listening to an instructional CD or even attending a class on meditation as you get more into it. If you do not meditate, or think that you don’t have the ability, you should and you do! It is an incredibly powerful practice to add to your morning routine.
Visualize. At the end of your meditation, as you start bringing yourself back to the day ahead of you, it is ideal to spend a few minutes visualizing your intentions. During this time, you want to feel as though you have already accomplished all your long and short-term goals. Visualize yourself reaping the benefits of these achievements and flex the muscle of your imagination to actually see and feel what it is like to live in your ideal world. In the beginning, this will be a more difficult exercise for you (like meditation) but can literally help make your dreams a reality if you practice it with purpose!
Journal. Keeping a journal is a fantastic practice for those of you who lead very busy lives. After a healthy meditation and visualization, spend 5 minutes to write down the things that are on your mind. There are no rules for keeping a journal, just write anything that comes into your head. It may be things you hope to accomplish that day, long-term goals, relationship issues, or perhaps an inspiring idea that sprouted while meditating. Keeping a log of the things that transpire in your mind will help you get perspective within your life, and can be extremely therapeutic as well. When you see things written in your own hand, you begin to see yourself from the outside and journaling can really set you going in the right direction.
Eat. For those of you that skip breakfast, let me give you one word of advice: don’t. Like I mentioned earlier, your body has just fasted for several hours while you were sleeping and you need food for energy. Be very careful not to inundate yourself with foods that have a high concentration of sugar and other simple carbs. Although these foods may solve the low energy issue, simple carbs will not sustain you and will 1) make you even more tired once the short term burst is over and 2) create some pretty detrimental health issues over the long run if eaten in excess. Eat a balanced breakfast: Whole grain cereal and berries with some green tea; two hard boiled eggs, a banana and organic, decaffeinated Chai tea; Get creative and start making health shakes for breakfast that are full of anti-oxidants and will give you a ton of energy!
Be Grateful. As I am making breakfast, brushing my teeth, watering my plants and getting dressed and doing everything else I do in the morning I purposefully feel grateful for everything that I have in my life. If you use no other attributes discussed in this article, begin implementing a thankful attitude in the morning for the people and things you have in your life. Some people I have counseled argue that they have nothing to be grateful about; but the beauty of this emotion is that you can feel appreciative of anything. Sometimes I am just thankful that my eyes work properly, or that I can feel the air flowing down my nose and throat passages. By being grateful you will attract more of your intentions into your life, and it is very powerful to begin your day with an “attitude of gratitude”.
In conclusion, many of you will inevitably think “well this is all great, but I do not have the time to do any of those things”. First off, I will argue that you absolutely have the time. Perhaps you just have to wake up earlier, or maybe you have to replace some of your existing routines, but I guarantee you can find the time. Second, these seven attributes are suggestions, and if you are just starting out on this path it is best to ease into it and begin with a few of the steps. Starting tomorrow, drink a big glass of water and stretch and see how you feel. If you like what you see, turn these actions into habits and begin expanding to other suggestions when you are ready. The morning is a wonderful time to set your base for the rest of the day, so use the time wisely and I assure you will see huge rewards!
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