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|Starting Your Mornings Right – journal, bowl of fruit, hot beverage|
Mornings. They can often, unfortunately, be a stressful time – getting the kids ready, breakfast made and dishes done, and everyone out the door on time. Not always an easy feat! And if we’ve had a late night, with less than optimal sleep, it can be even harder. I certainly have been there. Throughout my teens, young adulthood and early married life, getting up early was difficult. I always said I was a “night person”, that mornings just weren’t my “thing”. Then motherhood came and with it, massive adrenal fatigue and diagnosed Hashimotos (though I may have gone undiagnosed for a number of years). And I found that I was having massive trouble getting up, even when I really wanted to! It took many, many months, and some real determination, to change that habit. It started small. And, for me, it started with yoga. I found I loved yoga. It dawned upon me suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. I couldn’t get enough! I just had to do it everyday, even if just for 30 minutes. From there it was wanting to get in the yoga but still have my mornings, when C was in preschool, free. And getting up earlier was born. What I’m learning is that having a good start to the day can be a simple, and truly wonderful, experience.
I now regularly wake just before 6, and my husband has said he’s “genuinely amazed”. Change is possible, and I believe it begins with thinking about self-care. To me now, that early morning is my time. Time before my love C wakes and I need to focus on her. Time before I prepare for the day. Yoga is one of my favorite ways, but I’ve used others from this list – and some I still hope to try. Especially with winter coming, spending some quality time before the day begins can bring us into a warmer, more open space. And who doesn’t need some more of that in their everyday lives?! I know I sure do!
10 Ways to Start Your Morning Right:
1. Yoga. This, most mornings, is what I do first thing upon waking. In warmer weather, I’ll throw open the French doors to our backyard and just feel the cool breeze wash over me while I practice in my living room. There’s something about doing the movements as the sun is coming up that makes me feel alive. And I love how I can connect to my body, stretch and heal it. Some mornings I go for more intense, but most mornings I do a moderate-intensity flow. For many years I would go gang-busters with intense cardio or weight lifting, but I would always end up hurting – and feeling discouraged. Yoga is teaching me to listen to my body and what it needs for exercise. (This by the way is something I plan to teach my daughter, that her body is unique and to not compare what she can do physically with what anyone else can do. To listen to what her body tells her. Aha! Something else yoga has given me!) If yoga isn’t your thing, walking, or something more intense like running or kettlebell workouts. But movement certainly can start your morning right.
2. Meditation. I often meditate on Scripture, pulling lines that affirm me and who I’ve been called to be. Even just one or two, for five minutes, is refreshing. It brings such a sense of peace and centering, to do this. I will often “chew” on the phrase, repeating it over in my head and letting each word really sink in. The beauty of this is it can be done before I’ve even gotten out of bed! There are other ways and method of meditation, of course, including writing the affirmation down and saying it out loud in the mirror. This is just what I’ve found works best for me.
3. A Hot Beverage: I did say simple! And it doesn’t get much simpler than this. I rotate between roasted chickory root “coffee”, matcha latte, turmeric milk and water with a squeeze of lemon. Even in warmer weather, I usually find my body prefers something warm first thing, or at least room temp. Having stopped drinking so many smoothies means this is usually my main “drink” for the day, so I’ll often add in collagen or MCT oil (I like this one) for a bit of extra nutrition and to fill me up.
4. Skip Breakfast: Intermittent fasting is gaining in popularity, and it’s no wonder: it has been shown to improve blood sugar, reduces inflammation and even protects the brain. Wow!! There are different ways to fast, including my primary way, the 5/2 plan (you eat regularly 5 days away and on 2 you eat a 500 calorie diet), but going from dinner until lunch / late lunch (~16 hour fast) has also been shown to be as effective. But if you have a hot beverage with a spoonful of cream and / or coconut oil (hello bulletproof coffee!) you will not only NOT break your fast, you may find getting till noon or later without eating easier. (Note: if you currently have Hashimotos and are struggling, IF is probably not going to be helpful to you. Read here for more.)
5. Light a Candle: Symbolic of bringing light into the darkness, candles have long been used to evoke a particular mood or experience. Just lighting one changes the atmosphere for me. For a very long time, I felt candles were a “luxury” and wouldn’t bother spending money on them. Then, several months ago, I read a blog post by someone who felt the same way, but started buying them as a way to make winter a better time of year for her. I could totally identify with that, so now I have a small collection of candles with intoxicating scents like clove, cardamon and vanilla (this is the one I bought). My original intent was to burn one while taking a detox bath or before bed, but I think lighting one upon waking, especially in the winter when the light hasn’t come up yet in the early morning, a wonderful idea.
6. Journaling: I love to write, always have – but journaling is one method or technique I haven’t gotten into. I have a huge collection of beautiful journals, and all are blank. The only time I journaled was when I kept track of what I ate on a daily basis – designed to help people weight, it only fueled an eating disorder for me. (This is why understanding what is best for YOU and not the person beside you is so super important.) But there is plenty to suggest (or, more likely, prove) that journaling is incredibly good for you. Want to learn more about who you really are? Journaling will take you there. What about passing on something for future generations to read? Journals can be passed down to future generations that will one day cherish those words. One major roadblock that has kept me from journaling is this notion that each post must be somehow deep, insightful, wise..but nothing is further from the truth! Even just writing down something that happened in your day is a way to center yourself and focus on what’s important. This is a goal for me, to spend just five minutes each morning journaling. Although you don’t need any kind of special notebook, it’s always nice to have beautiful journal to open up (this one is functional and sweet).
7. The Miracle Morning: This concept and book, written by a survivor of a head-on truck collision and several extreme lows in his life, chronicles the process of embracing a particular set of steps each morning that can, as he puts it, “transform your life”. And for many, many people, it has. Each morning, practice these “Life S.A.V.E.R.S.”: 1. Silence: meditate. Get silent. 2. Affirmations: repeat mantras that speak directly to your best vision of yourself and your life. 3. Visualization: picture your life as you dream it to be. Picture the steps, the process, the outcome. If you can see it, you can achieve it! 4. Exercise: we all know the benefits of exercise. Mood-boosting and focus-inducing, it should be something we do, period. 5. Reading: not fiction or a magazine, but something that contains the highest form of wisdom. 6. Scribing: write about what you’re excited about. Do all six of these S.A.V.E.R.S. every day. Although the time to do this can be as short or long as you want or need it to be, he recommends starting at 5. I highly recommend this book – it’s very motivational. And while I’ve never been hugely into life coaches and the like, Hal Elrod’s story and subsequent plan to help you succeed is especially compelling and common sense.
8. Paint / Color / Knit / Other Art: Painting, coloring, whatever kind of art is soothing and within your ability level, is a great way to begin your day. In my twenties I found a great love for making seed bead necklaces, and would often work on a project first thing in the morning. It’s a beautiful thing to watch a creation of your own design come to life. And anything that involves repetitive motion can be very soothing. Now, although I don’t often do it, I find the same fulfillment through painting. Adult coloring books are another very soothing – and popular – way to find expression.
9. Get outside: Even though it’s getting colder here, I still enjoy bundling up and stepping out for a walk first thing (I usually do it on weekends when hubby can be here for C). But this – just BEING out in nature – is a different thing. Recently, I was on a short hike with C and found that I could not handle just being still. I wanted to check my phone. I wanted to get on to the next thing. But I simultaneously recognized there was something wrong with not being able to just be silent, be within myself and not constantly moving or doing. It was hard! But that’s the point of getting outside first thing in the morning. It will surely be downright difficult the first week or so. But give it time, and, like the process of journaling, you might find yourself going about your day calmer, more focused, and more content.
10. Re-evaluate goals for day / week / month: Ever make goals or plans for the upcoming days, weeks or months but find yourself at month’s end forgetting them or finding very few actually got accomplished? I’ve had that happen, for sure. Putting goals to paper is really just the first baby step. They need to be regularly re-evaluated: are they still do-able? Still important to you and worth pursuing? Have new ones emerged? Mornings can be a great time to do this, and it doesn’t need to take long. I know that when I’ve re-examined my goals I’ve set it helps me feel more focused and better prepared to tackle them!