I used to wake up and immediately feel anxious. I would have persistent dreams about working, so in essence, I wasn’t really resting, I was just working with my eyes closed. When I woke up, I would start the day feeling like I was already behind, like I had to rush into consciousness and get right to work.
My old habit was to stumble to the tea kettle to make hot water for coffee and then stumble back to bed to wait until it screamed. I didn’t feel confident about facing the day until the promise of caffeine was imminent.
Sometimes I would meditate or practice asana or do spiritual-ish or healthy-ish things after coffee. Sometimes not. Sometimes I would start checking my email and Facebook while I was still in bed and get lost in a two hour click hole. Frankly, that’s what happened more often than not.
Starting the day right was one of the first habits I tried to integrate into my life. Even before Body Thrive I started to recognize that rushing into my day with a brain and body full of undigested material was exhausting.
In the past three years, my morning rituals have varied greatly. They have changed and evolved with the seasons and with my increasing sensitivity. Whatever the exact details of my morning ritual are, though, I always have them.
Right now, my alarm clock is birds chirping. I usually wake up before it goes off, and I always look forward to hearing it. Sure, it’s the same birds everyday singing the same old songs, but it never fails to remind me that the world is bigger than the inside of my head and the inside of the house.
Every time I hear them, I remind myself that birds probably never say to themselves, “Oh shit, it’s time to get up.” They are naturally motivated by instinct to have the best morning possible, because the best morning means feeding themselves and their family and ensuring the continuation of their line.
Those are high stakes to get up and out into the world with the right mindset. And while it might be easier to be distracted by social media and consumerism, the fact is that the stakes are that high for us, too. The way we move through our days determines our happiness and success.
The first thing I do each day is go to my altar, light incense as an offering to Spirit and offer water to my higher self. It is both a recognition that there are powers greater than me and also that I am capable of greatness. It is a recognition that the abundance in my life is both a gift and a responsibility.
Then I fill my water glass and sit down to plan my day. I write down three things I am grateful for, three things I need to get done, and what my goal is for the day. This gets my brain in a goal-oriented mode that is relaxed. By this time, I know what I need to get done and how I am going to do it.
While I am working in my journal, I drink a quart of warm (almost hot) water. I try to poop, but this won’t usually happen until later in the morning. Still, I try, because I have faith in the habits and that they will work eventually. I am trying to relax about the fact that this isn’t happening for me, yet, but sometimes it makes me feel a bit impatient.
Whether I poop or not, it’s time for my body to move. I do a few sun salutations and focus on the breath. Then I sit down for a brief meditation. I usually use “let go” as my morning mantra.
If it seems like a lot to do before breakfast, it is, but it really only takes me about 30 minutes. I am usually going right from here to practice asana for 1-2 hours. If I’m not, I do 15-30 minutes (at least) of asana or other breath based physical movement.
Here’s the thing, y’all. I don’t do these things in the morning because I have an easy life and not that much to do, I do it because I have a jam-packed schedule and a shit ton of things to do. I wake up at about 5:45 and have to be out of the house by 6:45 to get my wife to work.
I have six pets to feed. I have to be dressed, drop off my wife, and be ready to practice, teach, or assist my teacher by 7:30. I do not get to walk in the door depressive or frantically caffeinated. It is my job to walk in the door present-minded and ready to go.
If I didn’t start my day right, my whole day would go wrong.
If you want to start your day feeling lighter, brighter and happier, here are a few tips:
- Get Enough Sleep. Seriously. You are not going to start the day right on five hours of tossing and turning. Your body needs to rest in order to maintain physical and emotional stability. If you don’t prioritize rest, you will pay the price with your body and mind and probably your money.
- Start the Day Right Even if You Didn’t Get Enough Sleep. This may seem to contradict my first tip, but the reality is that sometimes you won’t get enough sleep and it will be tempting to try to drown yourself in coffee and rushing as a way to cope. It won’t work. Sure, you might get going, but you won’t feel good and it won’t last.
- Set Yourself Up for Success. Set out your water glass, your yoga mat, your meditation cushion, the clothes you are going to wear, or whatever. You know what you need to do the things you want to get done in the morning. Make it easy for yourself.
- Have a Plan. If you aren’t sure what your morning routine is, you probably aren’t going to be able to have one. Write your plan out on a post-it note and stick it to your alarm clock so that you remember right away how you want to start the day.
- Be Flexible with Your Plan. Your morning rituals are going to evolve. Sometimes you will feel like dancing instead of sun salutations. Sometimes you will need more meditation. The important thing is to have a consistent structure than can change over time as you need it to.
- Prioritize Spirit. It’s really easy to move in to each day with ambition. We all have lots of things to do. Before you start doing things, make sure that you are in the right frame of mind to be the person you want to be in the world.
- Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good. Woke up too late to do twenty minutes of cardio before you walk the dogs? Fine. Compromise. Walk the dogs quickly. Don’t have time left to mediate? Okay. Practice mindfulness while you do the things that you aren’t going to skip. Just because you aren’t going to do your whole routine in the order you wanted to doesn’t mean that you can’t bring the spirit of starting the day right into your morning.
They say that the early bird gets the worm. It is true that getting up early might make you productive. But it’s the relief that early morning productivity ensures that is the real prize. The early bird also gets that sense of assure accomplishment.