A healthy body, spirit, and mind are just a few simple habits away.
I know this because over the years I have gathered up the following, in a quest for balance throughout the day. On their own, they have an incredible impact. Together, these habits create a fertile bed for a life well-lived.
As a general rule, I wake up quite optimistic. Do my habits have anything to do with my exuberant view of mornings? Do they help me tackle the day with vigor and enthusiasm?
I daresay yes! They are like old friends to me now, my foundation for a productive and mindful day.
Some of these habits have been with me since childhood, others, I picked up over the years as I learned more about what my body needed.
Of course, there are days when I skip one or two because I’ve slept in or, you know, life happens. But overall, these have become a ritual that feeds my need for grounded-ness.
In truth, they have changed my life for the better.
1. Begin with gratitude.
Because I live on the edge of a great forest, I am often awoken by birdsong. Now, no matter where I am, my ears are trained for the sounds of nature upon rising.
Birdsong has taught me about gratitude.
What if I had no ears to hear, or there were no birds at all, (there has been a serious decline in songbirds due to agricultural pesticide use), or I forgot to listen.
When I wake up, I acknowledge the gift of birdsong and go on to being grateful for any number of things. Some days, instead of listing the many things I could be grateful for, I think of just one, and then contemplate what life would be like without it. That really opens up my eyes to anything I’ve been taking for granted. Like my thumb, for instance. What would life be like without my thumb?
Do you see what I mean? So much to ponder.
I get out of bed already soul nourished and feeling entirely blessed.
2. Hot water with lemon and honey.
This is a habit from childhood. My parents made me drink this when I was sick with cold or flu and luckily for me, I so thoroughly enjoyed the taste that I insisted on hot water with lemon and honey every day.
The hot water (or warm) wakes up a sleepy liver and sluggish colon after the night, the lemon a liver cleanse, and the honey, with its anti-bacterial properties, adding a boost of immunity.
An awakened and healthy liver produces what we need in bile to digest food which in turn helps with weight management.
Do try to use organic lemons and local, unpasteurized honey for the most health benefits.
I find this drink spectacular for clear, collagen-rich skin and if I add a slice of fresh ginger it also helps with morning nausea and upper respiratory congestion. We do an awful lot of cleansing while asleep, and need to flush out toxins before eating solid food.
If I had to choose one healthy habit in life, this would be it.
3. Move the energy.
Undoubtedly, humans are pure energy and energy must move!
Before I even leave my cozy, warm bed, I perform a couple of yoga moves to limber up.
One is the child pose, and the other is the cat/cow stretch.
The child pose is a gentle wake-up for my muscles and doubles as my bow to the Universe; a humble pose that lays my forehead to the ground, my Namaste with all that is.
The Cat/Cow stretch moves spinal fluid and activates communication between the base of the spine and the brain. It releases Kundalini energy (picture a snake winding up around a tree) which is the center for wisdom and grounding.
After this, I may take a short walk or re-bound (small trampoline, soft bounce) to move my blood and lymphatic fluid. Or I might do a gentle, half-hour morning yoga practice.
I cannot under-recommend what any type of exercise/stretching will do for your health and productivity during the day. Not to mention your mental acuity.
4. Make the bed.
I’ve never hated making my bed. I know some people do, but I’ve always found it meditative.
It’s a ritual I look forward to, it’s silent, contemplative, and moving meditation.
I feel good about how my room looks with my nicely coiffed bed, and take my time doing it.
I could be wrong, but this one habit has the potential for making one more organized, productive, and cognizant of details.
My day begins with order, and I face the day with a deeper calm. Just try it, you might find this a time when you greet yourself in silence and do come to enjoy the minutes spent preparing your bed for your next sleep.
Another positive? Should mother pop over, you can be sure she will be ever so proud of you. It’s worth it for that reason alone.
5. Greet the world.
This one is simple. Greet the world by stepping outside.
You might walk through the garden, or stand on your balcony and shout ‘Hello World’! (Don’t worry about the neighbors, they’ll get used to it, or join you in the habit), or walk your neighbors’ dog if you haven’t one of your own, or just stick your head out the window.
It’s all about connecting with our surroundings, and for many of us, nature has been pushed to the background of our daily activities.
Don’t forget about Mother Earth. That breath of fresh air gives context to who we are in relation to the great big world and allows for the healing that only nature can provide.
6. Wait one hour to check the phone messages/FB/etc. upon waking.
This is my newest and most difficult practice.
(One hour?! But the whole planet is waiting for me to check in!)
When I started writing for Elephant Journal, I got in the habit of getting up in the middle of the night to write, as ideas would simply keep pouring into my awareness.
This later progressed to turning on my computer as soon as I got up, on my way to plugging in the kettle for that hot water with lemon and honey.
Being fairly self-aware, I noticed quite quickly that my mind was churning long before I had had the time to greet the world civilly, and I wanted to work the second I was up.
I put myself on an instant electronics diet, two hours before bed, and one hour after waking.
It’s not easy, I crave connecting, but I needed to self-correct because I could see the slippery slope of abandoning my healthy morning habits and becoming an internet junkie.
At night, the mind has a chance to settle into a restful pattern and it leaves space for other, more mindful activities such as:
- Listening to your children, partner, or simply being
Your exposure to the blue light of the cell phone reduces melatonin production, a much-needed hormone for a restful sleep. Turn that thing off and if possible, leave it in another room.
If you’re suffering from insomnia, you may find that turning off the tv, phone, and computer two hours before sleep will train your brain to naturally crave rest.
In the morning, a slower-paced, unplugged ritual leaves room for more productivity later in the day, once the mind has fully woken and is ready for input. I promise less burnout.
7. Oil pulling.
Another new-ish habit. I’d read about oil pulling in an Ayurvedic health manual a few years back but at the time, the practice did not resonate with me.
A year ago, after a visit to the dentist, I decided to try the oil pulling to mitigate the effects of the work done to my tooth.
So I went home, popped a tablespoon of organic coconut oil in my mouth and swilled it around for 15 or twenty minutes, spit it out into my compost bucket, and in the next few days realized how quickly my mouth healed and that I felt somehow better all over.
I began a daily morning oil pulling practice. Some healthful effects of oil pulling may include:
- Boosts immunity
- Rids the body of fungi, toxins, bacteria, and viruses
- Reduces internal inflammation
- Whitens teeth
- Increases energy
- Aids in balancing hormones
- Clears headaches
- Clears skin
- Clears gingivitis
I’m not kidding, try this! But don’t swallow the oil after pulling through your teeth, it will be full of toxins that you’ll want to get rid of.
8. Eat breakfast.
After hydrating well, and moving about, I eat breakfast. Now I know that many people don’t like to eat much in the morning, but for me, missing breakfast means cravings later in the day that signal brain fatigue and then the dreaded carb cravings begin.
Eating protein in the morning is key to blood sugar balance throughout the day. Choose which kind of protein you like, if vegan, quinoa porridge is a good choice, but I eat organic eggs from happy, local chickens and the porridge, or I have a protein-rich smoothie (with spirulina and kale), depending on the day and my mood.
I don’t have middle of the day slump nor do I crave caffeine. By eating a good breakfast, I have set myself up for a stimulant-free day.
This last but not least habit does not need to be intimidating.
If you’re new to meditation, even five minutes of perhaps listening to a guided meditation or some lovely music will do.
Anything to disconnect from the conscious to the sub-conscious, and meet yourself on a cellular level will be of benefit.
If a pro meditator, why not take that half-hour or hour to tap into your inner wisdom.
You might notice that you can handle stress better, concentrate more easily, be extra patient, increase awareness, and heart health.
This is a list of possibilities.
When your habits are healthy, you have less chance of being surprised by an illness that came about from a lack of attention to what your body and spirit need.
I see these morning habits as preventative measures towards a balanced lifestyle.