Do you ever have mornings where you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Have you felt tired, rushed or frustrated? Have you ever stopped to wonder why?
Last year, I found myself feeling reactive when I woke up most days. It wasn’t until I spent 17 days at Phool Chatti ashram in Northern India that I realized it was a lack of routine and discipline that generally caused this negative state of mind. It has taken me nine months to figure out a morning wellness routine that works. And now that I’ve found it, it has completely changed my life! The result? A happier, calmer and better version of myself. I would like to share my step-by-step routine and recommendations with you.
1. Wake up early with a gentle alarm. Find an alarm clock that doesn’t startle you upon waking and set it for 30 minutes before your normal wake-up time.
2. Do not look at any electronic devices. As tempting as it may be to check your email or Facebook notifications on your smartphone first thing in the morning, don’t do it. The reason for this is simple: our subconscious minds are the most impressionable during the first 30 minutes in the morning. The information we choose to consume during those sacred moments will affect us, either positively or negatively, for the remainder of the day. Therefore, I have found great benefit in not looking at my phone or computer until after my routine (see point #7 below).
3. Drink a glass of warm lemon water. I keep a pitcher of room temperature water and lemons on the kitchen counter. Every morning I slice and squeeze up to one half of a lemon into a glass and drink. Lemon is a natural energizer; it hydrates and oxygenates the body so it feels revitalized and refreshed. The benefits are many: it strengthens the immune system, aids digestion and constipation, combats mouth bacteria, hydrates the lymph system, aids in weight loss, decreases wrinkles and blemishes, reduces pain and inflammation, reduces phlegm, cleanses the liver and strengthens the brain. What’s more is that lemon has an alkalizing effect on the body and the higher and more alkaline your pH, the more your body is resistant to any kind of disease.
4. Brush your teeth. The lemon water doesn’t taste as good after brushing teeth with minty toothpaste, so I recommend drinking lemon water before.
5. Stretch. Take a couple of minutes to stretch your body. First, roll your shoulders forward and backward. Then, reach your arms up overhead and bend to one side, then the other. Next, bend each leg at the knee and pull your ankle towards your gluts. Finally, shake out your arms and twist from side to side. These simple movements will increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as well as loosen your joints and muscles after a night of sleep.
6. Sit down and prepare your space for meditation. I have a special area I have created for meditation that includes pillows, books, a candle, incense, stones and a singing bowl. To prepare the space, I light the candle and incense before taking a seat on a pillow.
7. Read inspiring words. Because our subconscious minds are so impressionable first thing in the morning, take a few minutes to read something wholesome and meaningful to you. It could be poetry by Mary Oliver, a classic novel by Henry David Thoreau, a couple of passages from the Bible or teachings from the Buddha. Currently, I am reading Essential Readings by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. I read a couple of pages each morning and notice it connects me to the eternal importance and beauty of the living life in the present moment.
8. Meditate. I like to vary my meditation exercises, so some mornings I simply count up to 10 several times using my breath. Other mornings, I might listen to a guided meditation using the app Headspace or use mala beads while repeating a mantra I learned at an ashram: om tryambakam. On average I tend to meditate for 10 minutes or so. The important thing is to be consistent and disciplined to sit every morning because it has a cumulative effect. Now, I look forward to this sacred time to reconnect with my true self and can’t imagine a morning without it.
9. Write down your intention for the day. I learned this practice from Jenai Lane, the author of Spirit Led Instead. Using a journal, write down your intention of who you want to be today. For example, Today my intention is to be present, loving, grounded and productive. What we find is that if we practice being, the doing tends to happen on its own. If you have time to journal, I also recommend it. Try and write simply one page in your journal per day, or even one sentence. It’s the practice and consistency that matters, not the amount of words you write.
10. Eat breakfast. Numerous research studies suggest breakfast benefits your brain and overall health. Breakfast eaters are leaner, healthier and feel more energized, to name a few. Even if you aren’t feeling hungry, eat something wholesome and nutritious, such as oatmeal with fruit, nuts and seeds to reward your body for taking such good care of you