‘good morning to you, fair and gracious daughter’ – Shakespeare
The morning is a part of the day when we’re usually following routines and habits that have been ingrained over a long period of time. When this occurs, we can easily just breeze through tasks, attempting to get up and go quickly. The significance of time and place can go unrecognized, and we can set ourselves on a course that reflects that lack of investment. I think often about ‘investing’ in ourselves as individuals. It can be within our diet or health, experiences we have, or simply by reading. The beginning of the day though, is such a fitting time to invest, as we can set ourselves off on a path filled with great returns.
At the 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven advised students to make their bed upon waking, and to do it well. You can be proud of completing this simple task, and it can be a reflection of the work you do further on throughout your day. Click here for the speech. The make-your-bed advice starts at about 4:40.
I usually can’t make my bed right after waking…because Matilda and my dog Jackson are still sleeping there. But I do appreciate the idea, and I come back a little later in the morning to complete this. It also reveals to me that we are all very different in how we do things at home…so there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to mornings. Some enjoy coffee while others take tea. We can all find our own habits that lead us to a successful day, and employ them upon waking.
Here are some ideas that have been working for me:
You Snooze You Lose – I’ve battle with the snooze button for years, and whenever I press it, I feel guilty, like I’m losing, and that I’m not supposed to be doing it. Instead of smashing that snooze, I turn the alarm off and take a deep, cleansing, mindful breath. It’s like a soft signal to the rest of my body that I’m going to get up now. I also feel and think
about appreciation during that breath. I might be considering how fortunate I am to get another day, or cherishing the fact that Matilda and I will somehow grow today, or simply smiling and coveting the first moment that is only mine…this breath is all happiness, all love. Part of my ability to find this happiness, is the fact that I really love my mornings now. So I’m looking forward to getting downstairs and starting with my day. It used to be grumpiness and negativity and why so early and 10 more minutes. It took some searching and practice to get to where I am now, but I’m actually surprised at how making a few small changes has led to such an awesome awakening.
Early Bird Gets the Worm – Wake up earlier. It’s that simple. This is somewhat related to not smashing the snoozer button, but it’s also about just setting an earlier wake time goal. Sleeping a little bit longer and then waking up to rush through tasks mindlessly, leaves you feeling chaotic…and success within whatever you do will be fleeting. It’s similar to driving fast. You’re more stressed, under more pressure, and not being mindful of all of your moves. I’m currently waking at 4:45am, and I’m working toward 4:30am. For a while, I would sleep as long as I possible could, and hope that Matilda would also sleep late…waking when she would get up. But I found that I could rise early, and have about an hour to just invest in myself. I can’t stress enough how beneficial this has been. Waking up early, and feeling that you’re up before most others can give you a sense of accomplishment, regardless of what you actually accomplish. You’re already ahead!
The Elixir of Life – Before you go straight to the coffee pot, hydrate yourself a little. You’re body has gone without food or water since bedtime. Don’t immediately take in coffee, which is a diuretic. Gulp down a half glass of water or so. Similar to the deep breath I take upon waking, I like to think of this bit of water as another signal to my body to start up again…also as a lubricant to all of the systems in the body…or a swell to the river that delivers nutrients throughout. Then I go to the coffee. I make and set up my coffee maker the night before, and have it brew at the same time as my alarm clock will go off. That way, it’s one more sound to help wake me, and I can actually smell the coffee from my bedroom…which is just the best! Sometimes between the water and coffee, I take a shot of what I call the Elixir of Life. A tumbler glass is best for this. Squeeze the juice from half of an organic lemon in. Add a spoon full of honey (from your zip code is best…or from your own bees!). Then add cinnamon. This drink has many benefits. I’m not sure what any of those benefits are, other than the fact that it is ‘invigorating’. By the way, when did you last do something that was truly invigorating?
Breathe – Find some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice that works best for you. I have a large window that faces east…and that faces a large corn field, allowing me to take in a far off horizon. It feels great to sit on the floor near this window, with the sun on my face. Depending on the time of year, and when I actually decide to sit, I can be present during a sunrise. It feels like the sun strengthens me for the day. I haven’t done the research on this either, but I know some that struggle with depression can be prescribed more sun. I think it raises levels of serotonin. Whatever it does, it feels good. I spend 10-15 minutes just focusing on my breath here. I have two analogies for meditation. One, is that it is like doing a cleanse on the mind. It removes cancerous deposits, distractions, junk, filler, useless stuff, and allows all systems to function in harmony. My other analogy is more techy. Meditation is like a disc clean up and defragmentation of the mind. That works right?
Lead and Paper – Write in a journal. There are many methods for this that can be helpful. I’ve been simply writing the date and then a few sentences about how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about. I also use it to wish happiness on someone else for the day (See a previous post here for more on this). You never know…you might be the one I’m wishing for! Then I write down 2 or 3 things I want to get done or focus on that day. I took this from Leo Babauta. He calls them M.I.T’s, or Most Important Tasks. By connecting these M.I.T.’s to goals that you have, you’ll make sure to complete objectives along your journey. Use a real pencil. Find some extraordinary stationary (can those two words go together?). And just write.
Move – Run, do yoga, pushups and situps, cleans and presses, handstands, ride your bike. Find something fun that get’s your juices flowing. When training or exercising in the early morning, a great motivating factor is the feeling that you’ve completed a workout and showered before anyone is even awake. Do it!
Cold – I’ve taken hot hot showers for almost all of my life. From time to time, I would cool it off at the end just a bit. This winter though, I came to love COLD showers. I don’t mean a little cool. I call it 9 o’clocking because my shower control is at it’s absolute coldest when it’s in the 9 o’clock position. If you haven’t tried this…you have to. Shower as you would regularly, but about halfway through, shift your faucet to about half cold – half hot. This will feel pretty cold. But that’s nothing. When you’re all rinsed of soap and conditioner, turn your faucet to the absolute coldest setting. Just commit to it. You’ll thank me later. Put your head directly under the water and start there. Once your head is almost frozen, make sure your entire body gets sprayed with the icy stuff. No joke, the first time I tried this, I laughed out loud uncontrollably. After doing this? You’ll feel like a beast, and that there is nothing you can’t do that day. And…it will be the second invigorating thing you’ll have done before other’s have started their day!
Try some of these and comment on your experience below! And by the way, thanks so much for reading this far!
Music: The band Amber Run put their instruments down for this great collaboration with the London Contemporary Voices choral group. It’s majestic. Click here for it!