By Dr. Kneale
Does the start of your day really matter?
Do you think of your morning routine as part of your health? Even if you are retired, does it truly make a difference?
A typical start to your day might include getting up and making coffee, taking a shower, feeding your dog or cat, finding the perfect outfit, grabbing everything you may need, and starting up your car thinking of what you are going to order at the coffee shop.
Or maybe you work from home and as soon as you wake you check your emails, messages, and social media accounts. From there one thing leads to another and before you know it an hour or two has passed by.
The above was my morning routine for over 20 years. And, my daily habits stuck with me even when my work transferred from the office to home. I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel and did not know one day from the next.
The start of your day can affect the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The autonomic nervous system regulates many functions in the body. There are two branches of the autonomic nervous system which are the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch activates the brain, muscles, thyroid, and adrenals and enables the body to respond to stress. It defends the body against attack (fight or flight) and tends to break down the body. The parasympathetic branch activates the liver, kidneys, spleen, stomach, small intestines and colon. It is associated with healing, regeneration and nourishing the body. The parasympathetic branch tends to build up the body. Problems with this nervous system are very widespread and can cause hundreds of symptoms such as digestive issues, inability to eliminate heavy metals, poor sleep, blood sugar problems and others.
Below is the perfect example of the sympathetic branch taking over:
You jump out of bed knowing your day has a full schedule. You feel panicky as your heart pounds faster, your breathing speeds up and a feeling of tightness covers your entire chest. The rest of the day follows suit. Everything is hurried, rushed, and you still feel anxious. It may take all day or most of the day for this overwhelming feeling to dissipate.
Most people can probably relate to the above scenario because we are quite revved up due to our fast pace of living and trying to fit everything in.
If we jump out of bed and rush through our morning, we are missing an enormous opportunity to create habits that make us happy, healthy and just down right calmer for the whole day. I am not saying to just think positive and everything will be perfect. We have to put a bit of thinking and repetition into circumstances that we actually want.
I was accustomed to waking up and starting my day practically holding my breath! I never stopped to ponder about what I was grateful for or what my vision for the day might be because I was just TOO busy, so I thought. I have since learned to love my morning routines. After a year of changing my undesirable morning habits, I not only enjoy my mornings, but the calming, happy feeling has oozed into my every day endeavors with my family, business, at the post office, in the grocery store; every aspect of my life has been affected.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
30 Ways to transform your mornings
1) Stay unplugged: delay checking your phone, iPad, laptop, and computer this is by far the most important.
2) Stretch for 5 minutes before getting out of bed. Here is one that is under 5 minutes and is very gentle Morning Stretches.
3) Think of something that makes you happy: family, friends, the weather, an upcoming event, a memory.
4) Affirmations: https://www.successconsciousness.com/affirmations.htm these sayings can help to motivate and change the way you think (or stop you from going down some path you want to avoid). My suggestion is to make a list that resonates with you.
Some that I like for myself: My body is healthy. My day will be filled with happiness. I am enough.
5) Take a cold shower: I usually start with a warm shower and then gradually cool it down until it is cold. Hot showers have their benefits, but for waking up and starting the day, a cold shower may be better. https://www.theinertia.com/health/hot-vs-cold-the-great-shower-debate
6) Hug your family. If you live alone, hug your cat, dog; give yourself a pat on the back.
7) Keep a gratitude list: look at your list and add to it regularly; maybe you are more of an auditory type: say them out loud daily and add to them.
Example: I am grateful for my family, my health, friends, career, going to the movies with my daughter
9) Come up with an intention for the day: For example: smile at everyone. Work toward an accomplishment even it if is baby steps, think before you speak.
10) Take some deep breaths. Humans breathe shallow. Deep breaths help with oxygenation and relaxation. Here is a 2 minute video Breathing Technique. As you breathe, it should feel like an expansion all the way around your body including your back where most of your lungs are located.
11) Make a cup of your favorite tea or coffee: put in a to-go cup.
12) Take a 10 minute walk: helps to relieve any muscle aches, improves circulation and oxygenation.
13) Listen to your favorite book during your commute or while at home
14) Listen to uplifting music during your commute or at home: I love “Let’s Get This Started” by The Black Eye Peas, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bob Marley.
15) Pet your dog or cat (my chickens do not like this but I keep trying),
16) Pray depending on your beliefs.
17) Read scriptures or whatever books that helps you (even just one line).
18) Read a funny quote (I have a collection that make me laugh out loud).
19) Make a vision board and look at it every morning. Here is one technique: Vision Board
20) Hydrate with water: helps with thinking, your muscle, digestion, skin, removes toxins
21) Smile: it can lift your mood, reduce stress, and help bond with others. Don’t feel like smiling? “Fake it until you make it” works in this instance.
22) Healthy break-fast: when you break the fast, eat something healthy such as left over dinner, eggs or vegetables. Try to avoid sugary foods when you first eat because your energy can crash rapidly which can lead to a low energy day.
23) Do some yoga poses: here is a link for beginning yoga poses 6 Minute Beginning Yoga
24) Write your to-do list the day or night prior (and only put a few things…long lists create more anxiety and never get done, sets you up for failure and not a great way to end a day). Click here to read how to figure out what tasks you have to do and which ones help to make progress https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/eisenhower-decision-matrix/
25) Think about and set aside what you need for the next day so your morning runs smoothly. Could be paperwork, healthy snack and/or lunch, laptop, phone, personal items, gym clothes, water, books, etc..
26) Pack a snack so that you have nutritious food during the day: some berries, soft boiled egg, raw cheese, an energy bar (Quest bars, B Up bars, Human Food Bar), left overs, cut celery, carrots, broccoli, nuts.
27) Enjoy some natural sun light: even if it is raining, go outside for a few minutes if possible: helps with vitamin D production, calcium and phosphorus absorption, aids in mood and performance
28) Write down an idea that is inspiring such as writing a poem, a dream vacation, starting your own business.
29) Make your bed: https://www.today.com/news/navy-seals-advice-grads-make-your-bed-every-morning-2D79695461 If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
30) Expect everything to go right! I am sure you have heard the saying to expect everything to go wrong so you won’t be disappointed or surprised. If what we think can become our reality then I would rather expect everything to go right. Try it. Have you ever thought something was going to happen and it did?
Making permanent changes in your lifestyle takes some time and perseverance. After a few weeks your habits turn into your routine. My suggestion is to pick one from the list above and stick with it for a couple of months before adding another. No two people have the exact morning routine but you want one that makes you happier and healthier.
Your life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) is the originator of passage meditation and the author of 40 books on spiritual living.
Love your morning routine!
Dr. Kneale has been researching natural healing for over 20 years. DrKneale.com