Life can be challenging in so many ways. Ever felt that your day takes over and “bosses you around” rather than you being in charge of your own life? That you lose sight of what’s important in the frenzied rush of daily life? That your busy-ness becomes overwhelming and counter-productive?
One interesting idea that can be quite helpful is to carefully and deliberately try to set the tone for each day, each day. It’s about starting your day in a mindful manner that is calm, focussed, constructive, and positive. It comes down to the first one-to-two hours of your day and here are some ideas you might find helpful:
- Manage the alarm. Most of us need to get up at a certain time (work, school, appointments, etc.). And while the romantic notion of living “alarm-clock-free” has appeal, the reality is that being late, or just risking being late, actually creates more anxiety. So for most of us, on most days, we will be better-off using an alarm. When you do use an alarm we suggest that you:
- Set it a few minutes early so you have some wiggle-room on your morning routine. This seemingly-small point can actually make all the difference to your morning and your whole day.
- Get up first-time. The snooze button is ultimately not helpful since all it really does is delay the inevitable.
- Stretch. Most of us do not do enough stretching and flexibility-training. First thing in the morning – literally as you get out of bed – is a great time for some gentle stretches. It helps you physically and it actually can become a moment of meditation (a bit like a mini yoga session). Just a quick 5-minutes is all you need, although by all means do a bit more if you like.
- Move slowly. Do not rush or panic. Your day is going to be busy. You may have traffic, deadlines, rush and so forth. Much of this is unavoidable. But you do control the first minutes of your day. Once you have got up in good time (time to spare) you should be able to calmly move through your morning, without undue rush. Make this a rule you live by.
- Plan carefully. We suggest you think about your plans for the day, what you’d like to achieve or do, etc. you might want to think about the day before also (what went well, what went wrong, lessons….). You might like to write down some “notes for the day” or similar. Quite early in the morning you should have a clear picture of how you want your day to proceed – planning this, picturing this, is time well spent.
- Avoid screens. We probably all spend too much time on our devices. Early mornings are not a good time for social media, you tube videos, etc. This tends to be “noise” in our minds and noise is the last thing we need early in the day. We know how tempting it is to “get back online”, to “check-in”, as early as possible each day but think about it carefully. Does this add value, really? How important is it, really?
- News? Many of us have a habit of catching up on the news in the mornings. Typically this involves TV and or online news. We think this is a poor way to start your day (same reasoning as for social media; it tends to become “noise”) and we suggest delaying this as long as you feel you can. Maybe it can wait until you are in the car on the way to work? Maybe it can wait until your morning coffee break? We know this is likely to be a challenge for some people (habits are hard to change) but we do suggest delaying or limiting your early morning news if you possibly can.
- Be active. The morning is a great time for some active living. It might just be a short walk with the dog or it might be a full-on gym session or something in-between. But either way we do recommend some active-living in your mornings.
- Eat well. Healthy nutrition is critical for wellbeing. Your mornings are a great opportunity to eat well. Doing so sets up a healthy day on many levels and if there is one time of day when we really must eat well, it is early in the day. A bit of “junk” is perhaps understandable and allow-able later in the day sometimes, but it is really never a good idea in the morning.
- Hydrate. Of course you want caffeine, and plenty of it, in the mornings. We are not anti-coffee (up to about 3-4 cups a day) but please also drink some water (500-10000ml) in the first hour of your day. It is likely you have had no fluids overnight so now is the time to “catch-up” on hydration.
Our mornings are precious. And important. In many ways they shape and determine how the rest of our day will unfold. There are many ways to start your day well, with the ideas listed here just some that you might want to consider. The list is no-doubt incomplete and some ideas will not work for you, but if you invest some time considering all of this, and developing an approach that works for you, we think you will benefit. It comes down to mindful living, to becoming deliberate and balanced in your life. Mornings are a great place and time to start!
Written by Dr Colin Burns