Each day you wake up is a fresh start, a new chance to live in alignment, achieve your goals and continue a calm and fulfilled life. But it’s far too easy to start your day in a bad mood if the first thing you do when you open your eyes is checked your work email and see a negative message or flick onto social media, instantly starting your day with comparison and competition. Instead, why not start your day with positive habits and rituals that will allow you to begin on the right foot, setting you up for a day of mindfulness and presence?
Here we recommend our top six morning habits to start a mindful day.
Check In With Your Feelings
Checking in with your feelings can be a great way to start your morning, as you are able to be completely honest about your thoughts and feelings before anything else gets in the way. Whether you wake up feeling calm, stressed, anxious or simply just tired, journaling about it can help. Not only does journaling each morning allow you the space to explore your feelings, perhaps digging into the real reasons behind your emotions, but making it a daily practice also enables you to track your feelings, looking back over the week/month/year to see what things affected your mood. The Artist’s Way, a world-renowned creative recovery book, helps you get into the practice of what they call your ‘Morning Pages’ a daily ritual of writing three pages of long-hand, free-flow journaling as the first thing you do each day. This 12-week programme helps you instil the practice and you’ll be amazed at how much you learn about yourself through an action as simple as stream-of-consciousness journaling.
A Breathing Technique: Pranayama
Pranayama is a breathing technique used in yoga. Prana is a Sanskrit word that means energy, breath, or life force and Ayama means extending or stretching. Thus, the word “pranayama” translates to the control of the life force. In simple words, we can, to some extent, control the way that we breathe.
Start by sitting in a comfortable seat or a floor with a tall, straight spine. Close the eyes and bring the awareness inside. Observe the thoughts with non-attachment. Now, take a long, deep breath through your nostrils until you feel you reach the full capacity of your lungs. Hold your breath for a second or two and exhale slowly through both nostrils. You should feel the air on the roof of your mouth as you exhale. Repeat up to 30 times.
Mindfully Enjoy A Drink
Most of us start our days with a glass of water and a cup of tea or coffee to get us going but often we’ll do this while reading the paper or the morning news headlines, or while rushing round after the kids as they get ready for school. We barely stop to enjoy the taste of the drink, let alone be mindful about it.
Having a morning drink ritual is a great way to squeeze 5-10 minutes of mindfulness into your day. While the kettle is boiling or the coffee machine is brewing, take a couple of minutes to yourself to close your eyes and breathe. Take deep, meaningful, mindful breaths, drawing the air all the way down into your belly and expanding your lungs. Research from the Standford University School of Medicine shows that slow breathing helps to induce tranquillity, allowing you to drop into a more meditative state.
You might also want to consider swapping out your caffeine-based beverages (that give you a quick fix in terms of energy) for something like a detoxing hot water, lemon and ginger or a tonic of water and apple cider vinegar to help keep your gut healthy.
Move Your Body
Our next top tip for starting a mindful day is to move your body. Getting active allows you to wake up your body, stretch your muscles out that may have tightened overnight and get your metabolism going. It also floods your body with endorphins helping to boost your mood and reduce and stress or discomfort.
Whether you opt for slow and stretchy yoga practice, a quick fix Hiit workout or go out in nature for a morning walk or run, you’re sure to feel better after moving your body. Research from Harvard shows that “even a short bout of any cardiovascular exercise wakes us up, speeds mental processes, and enhances memory storage and retrieval, regardless of our fitness or fatigue levels”. Plus, exercise is good for your overall health and wellbeing, increasing life expectancy, cognitive function and mood.
Eat A Nourishing Breakfast
Beginning your day with a healthy, nourishing breakfast not only gives you the fuel you need to accomplish your daily tasks, but it’s also believed that starting with a hearty, healthy meal helps you make better choices throughout the day. Research suggests that having a breakfast that is high in protein can help prevent unhealthy snacking later on and that eating in the morning helps to kickstart your metabolism.
Ideally, you’ll want a meal that is well balanced with protein and carbs (with a low glycaemic index and plenty of fibre) to allow the energy to release throughout your morning, adding fruits and veggies into the mix to work as antioxidants and to fill your body with nutrients.
You can find loads of healthy breakfast recipes here!
Leave Your Phone Behind And Plan Your Day With Pen And Paper
It is a well-established school of thought that highlights the benefits of avoiding technology first thing in the morning (and last thing before bed) as it is so easy to get distracted when looking at your phone or tablet or when flicking on the TV. This can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety that will ruin all hope of being present and mindful.
Even those of us with the best of intentions of having a mindful morning can get side-tracked by the news, a notification or an email alert, so the best thing to do is to leave all technology turned off until you’ve completed your morning rituals and you’re ready to start the day.
In line with this, it can also be a good idea to write up your day’s to-do list with an old school pen and paper, so that you can prioritise the tasks you want to get done for the day without getting distracted by expectations or ‘shoulds’. If you don’t find a normal to-do list very inspiring, why not try bullet journaling, a beautiful way to organise your tasks? Bullet journaling helps you get excited about your to-do list by making it a ritualistic experience, helping you feel accomplished each time you tick something off your list.
So, there you have it, our top six habits for starting your day in a mindful way. Do you follow these morning practices? What other morning rituals do you have that help you to be more present and mindful? Let us know in the comments below.