I’ve never been much of a morning person, and these days, I’ve got two young kids, a puppy and a husband who needs to leave for work by 6 a.m. every day. The hours between when my first kid comes in whining for breakfast and I sit down to start my workday are anarchy.
I accept that this is the season of life I’m in, and I know there are far worse things than a few hours of solo parenting through generally happy chaos. But as an otherwise organized human who thrives on order, I would like to feel like I’ve got my life together slightly more.
If that’s you as well — even if your mornings are totally different than mine — good news! Here are six extremely simple and expert-backed habits that can help you feel like you’ve got your life together. Or at least, together-ish.
1. Use an alarm clock.
My 6-year-old gets up at 5:45 a.m. pretty much without fail, so this one is a moot point for me. But if you’re someone who relies on an alarm to wake up, opt for an old-school clock, not your phone.
It takes a very strong person to use their phone as an alarm and not at least peek at their emails, snoozed notifications or the news. Which means you’re starting your day off by letting someone else dictate what’s on your mind first thing. Already, your day feels out of your own control.
“If we wake up and we check our phone and there’s an email from our boss that says ‘We need to talk’ or there’s an email from a client who’s like ‘Hey, can I call you later?’ we can go straight from our slumber into panic mode, where your heart is racing,” said Susie Moore, a life coach and author of “Let It Be Easy: Simple Ways To Stop Stressing And Start Living.”
Once you’re in that mode, it’s difficult to kick back into a more relaxed state or come back to a more “contemplative, intentional state,” she added.
2. Do a 30-second gratitude practice.
Gratitude as an overall wellness practice is backed by a lot of science, but I myself am daunted by the prospect of keeping a gratitude journal — or anything that feels like a remotely heavy lift. (Though if you already do this, well done you, and carry on!)
Fortunately, an a.m. gratitude practice can be incredibly short and sweet.
As you lay in bed, tell yourself: “I’m here. I have the blessing of a bed. I have the blessing of sleep. I’m in shelter. I’m going to hopefully have breakfast,” Moore said. “You can wake up and be aware of what you already have — and be present.”
It won’t change the fact that you might have a stressful day ahead of you, but it will help root you in the bigger picture.
3. Set a daily intention.
Your intention doesn’t have to be big, and you can really focus it on what’s right ahead of you. Debra Swan, a Chicago-based health coach who works with clients around the country, recommended thinking about one to three things that you want to accomplish today and that, crucially, you “can realistically get done.” She suggested writing them down so you aren’t holding them in your head.
There will be, of course, days when your to-do list is so much longer than one to three manageable tasks, but prioritizing your intentions in this way can help you cope with the stress. When you knock your highest-priority goals off your list, you’ll feel at least some sense of accomplishment and calm.
Another way to think about intentions is to set a goal for how you’d like to feel throughout the day, or how you’d like to behave. Try it out and see what works best for you.
4. Drink a glass of water.
Having a glass of water first thing in the morning is one of those incredibly simple habits that has an immediate payoff. It hydrates you, obviously, which helps keep your body in balance. But it can also give you a teeny sense of accomplishment, and in that way, it can be a gateway to other healthy a.m. habits.
“If you don’t have a routine yet, start small and simple so you can be successful,” Swan said. “For example, first get in the habit of drinking a glass of water. Do that for a couple of weeks, then try adding some stretching, etc.”
5. Listen to something that makes you feel the way you want to feel.
If you’d like to feel more relaxed, listen to a quick guided meditation while you’re brushing your teeth or opt for a calming song. (Moore personally likes Bach and Mozart.) If you’d like to feel energized, put on your favorite upbeat dance song. Figure out what it is you’re looking to feel more of in the a.m. and then put on something that helps you get there.
“Use that time that you spend getting ready or feeding everybody or whatever your have-to-do things in the morning include and give it some background ambiance that’s really going to set you up to feel good,” Moore said.
6. Move your body.
Exercise releases endorphins, which can be a great stress reliever. And you really can keep it super short and sweet.
“This is individual to the person,” Swan said. “Some may start their day with a 5K run, a gym weightlifting session, a 30-minute yoga video, a brisk dog walk, or just a few minutes of gentle stretching.”
Find something that works for your mornings rather than something you’ll never get to and then feel bad about. I don’t have time to work out on weekday mornings because I refuse to get up before 5:30 to make it happen. But I have begun making an effort to have a three-minute dance party with my kids when we get up, alternating who gets to pick the song.
It’s not a game-changer. I do not feel like I’ve got my shit perfectly together, but it’s a nice break. And it reminds me how lucky I am to have these chaotic mornings in the first place.
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