We all want to live on the sunny side of the street, shining as our best and happiest selves.
The dark alleys of our mind threaten to distract us from our fundamentals and tempt us to take a seemingly innocent stroll down their joy-stealing and energy-sapping walkways.
You may have noticed the inner gremlins seem to be loudest in the morning; they take advantage of us in our groggy, comfy, cortisol-filled state and strongly suggest ignoring our commitments and sleeping in “just this one time.”
Sound like a trusted friend?
That voice in our head can create havoc on our plans, as well as our self-esteem, if we trust them to be true and cave to its apathetic pleas.
In trying to find tools to wrangle this cyclical monkey mind whose default is chaos, I have found a few tricks that keep me consistently happier and focused on living the best life I can imagine. And it starts with the morning.
With awareness and practice, here are four essential morning tricks that will ensure the day is started off right:
1. Have a plan and set an intention.
Having a plan in place keeps us on track and enjoy our inner experience. Deciding the plan the night before lets us schedule a snooze button push, do light stretching and have a minute of deep breathing and grateful thoughts.
Morning plans let us lay out what we’ll need to automate around any lost motivation: having our breakfast picked out, the coffee set or our workout shoes ready. Our chosen morning thought helps guide the mind to staying on track and living in the light.
My favorite chosen thought is, “I trust life’s process knowing I am fully supported and that my best self will rise ready to give my gifts to the world today.” And another favorite is, “What miracles will I perform today?”, as suggested by famed spiritual coach and author, Gabrielle Berstein.
Automating the mind is incredibly important. With us as the rider and our mind as the horse—by having a focused direction—the horse can see and head toward reduces the chaotic desire to run in circles and throw us off. Not knowing what will spook it, it is important to have a preset plan as to how we aim to have our morning and day go.
“When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” ~ Bill Phillips, Body for Life
2. Schedule a 30 min buffer.
Some of us savor our snooze buttons; some of us need to be allowed to move slowly some mornings. Most of us have something unplanned pop up. From coffee stained shirts, car trouble, to traffic, knowing we consistently create wiggle room for life to happen increases both our inner peace and our trust in ourselves.
With our cortisol levels lower and limbic system sending less frantic stress signals, we can calmly react more effectively to life’s challenges while improving the quality of our experience. Double Points: If we use a part of that 30 minute buffer to meditate, we effectively train our brain to react better to stress, help our horsey mind stay more consistently on the path, and increase our willpower muscle!
“Practicing mindfulness through a seated breathing meditation or slow flow moving meditation will train the brain and increase willpower.”
~ Kelly McGonical, Stanford PhD professor & yoga instructor
3. Get the blood flowing.
The first part of your day cannot be dreaded to-dos! Put on some music, have some green juice, do light stretching and a few gentle pushups or sit-ups—you will not miss the sleep once you feel the difference!
Schedule a morning workout and see if serious sweating makes your whole day different. Studies have shown cardio workouts to be comparable to anti-depressents in effect on mood as well as clearing the cobwebs of the mind, improving focus, prepping the metabolism, and releasing tension and anxiety.
“Exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression. Experts say not exercising is like taking a depressant. Here’s to getting our exercise on!
~ Brian Johnson, PhilosopherNotes & entheos.com
Morning exercise is by far the best gift I can give myself to ensure a decent day. Even light exercise like a walk has substantial benefits. Allowing the brain to fill with endorphins and get going is my number one super secret ninja trick to beating my morning gremlin.
4. Get an accountability partner.
Whether it’s a twice a week morning workout buddy or a texting friend wishing you good morning and reminding you to meditate and be kind to yourself, having someone whom we have to show up for makes all the difference.
Despite being world class at making excuses for why we didn’t show up for our self, disappointing others is just that much harder. Keeping on task takes a village, especially with our master negotiator, the inner gremlin, sabotaging our best intentions. If we prefer a little more structure, Ali Schiller offers affordable accountability services in a group setting to keep us sticking to our game plans.
“What would your life be like if you did what you said you were going to do? You deserve to have those things that you want. My role is to make sure there’s a place and a space and a context where you can do that work.”
~ AliSchiller, Accountability Works
So let’s plan to feel good, set our alarm 30 min earlier, get the blood flowing and bring friends along for the ride. Here’s to making it a great morning and showing those gremlins which type of morning is our fabulous reality!
*Bonus: My morning best self routine:
Start with five minutes laying down stretch routine in bed with five minutes of deep breathes. Bring your knees into your chest, do a spinal twist and grab the back of your legs opening my hamstrings. Circle your joints and fill your belly with breath.
While the body is breathing and stretching, fill your mind with preset focusing mantras on how you want to feel that day and what you would like to contribute as a lover, sister, coworker, friend and human. What gift do you have to give that day and how do you want to handle set backs?
When you feel a little more ambitious (or have scheduled it in), move onto a yoga mat in the living room for a ten-minute gentle slow flow that matches breath and fluid motions. (Three mornings a week, I hop on my bike for an hour and a half ride or hit a spin class at Crunch fitness.) Any cardio counts, as long as you build up a sweat for at least 30 minutes. Everything has to be set out the night before, so when the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., you’ve made it much easier to show up for myself.
Have a back-up for when you are really panicking or beating yourself up: A five-minute meditation on self-empathy. Rest one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart, and breathe deeply.
Sara Plummer is a UCLA alumni; writer; event & brand specialist; event planner for Alibi Lounge; wellness, fitness model & entertainment professional; MBA candidate who spends her free time adventure traveling, cycling, practicing, teaching yoga and spin. She adores being outside near positive people or inside sitting to meditate. As a Los Angeles native, Sara’s enamored with her move to San Francisco and is loving working with the beautiful company, LiveWeal.com, helping conscious businesses. Her side passion project is a controversially titled couple’s therapy book that deals with the limitations of our outdated primal brains and our resulting vast gender differences. Her hope is to help couples enjoy each other fully by honoring how we were designed. She can be found at www.saraplummer.com, www.liveweal.com and www.goodgirlsguide2.com.
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Assistant Ed: Josie Huang/Ed: Bryonie Wise