“The way you begin each day, defines how you’ll live each day”
Robin Sharma, Leadership Expert.
How many of you have had a particularly trying day and thought “I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, nothing went right today!” ? Perhaps it started with a shaving nick, burnt toast, spilt coffee, missing the bus and being late for work? These are all incredibly luxurious accidents to have I know! Yet this is the world we live in, and these things do genuinely build frustration and anxiety within us. However, chances are they could have been avoided with a little bit of kindness and a good dose of slowing down, to create what I call - a Mindful Morning.
A Mindful Morning does not have to mean an earlier morning (though an extra 10-15 minutes can help!). It means a more present morning to create a mindset of space, calm, and positivity that allows for more effective use of your day. Here are a few practical tips to set yourself up for a good one!
I might sound like your mother here but - prepare what you need the night before. Have your work bag packed, know what you’re taking for lunch, even put clothes out the night before. There is no way you’ll be able to add new morning magic to your routine if the basics aren’t as quick and easy as they can be.
We’ve all been there. Trying to get out the door but stuck hopelessly searching for your keys, your phone charger, that document you misplaced. The compound effect of the clock ticking, the hunt that never seems to end, and our “future tripping” over what will happen as a result, induces a state of stress that could so easily have been avoided. This stress can stay with us for the rest of the morning, if not the whole day.
Mindfulness does not have to mean meditation. Meditation is simply one form of Mindfulness (if you’re interested in Meditation keep reading, I’ll provide some tips at the end). The practice of Mindfulness is by definition “to pay attention, on purpose, without judgement” so if you’re not quite ready to give meditating a shot there are plenty of other ways you can behave Mindfully. Slowing the mind makes space for clarity of thought and the freedom to choose how we respond to situations rather than how we react. Without the “what ifs”, and the “if only I had dones” we train our mind to be truly focused on the here and now. Being present is the aim. Try Mindfully eating your breakfast rather than chucking it down your neck while checking emails at the same time. Eat slowly, pause between each mouthful, truly taste and smell your food. Or Mindfully do some morning exercise rather than racing toward the end of your workout. Be aware of your surroundings. Truly feel the movement in your body and your muscles. Be committed and concentrate on your form. You could even take a Mindful commute. If you walk the same way to work everyday, try taking a new route. Or leave your phone in your bag and “look up” to acknowledge the world around you as you travel. Notice the temperature, the sky, the birds, other people, rather than cursing the traffic ahead of you. Allow yourself to see the details you otherwise overlook. Pay attention to sounds, smells, sensations and the thoughts that come up for you - without judgement. Think of it like looking at the world through new eyes every day rather than becoming complacent and taking the routine for granted.
There is a marketing term that took over digital agencies with the rise of social media called “always on”. This has gone beyond advertising and has seeped into the rhythm of our personal lives and our mental activity. We as human beings are “always on” - planning the next move, constantly scrolling, checking in, liking, tweeting, emailing. Let me ask you honestly, how many of you now find a moment of idle silence uncomfortable? I challenge you to embrace the silence, even seek it out, once every day. Take your lunch to a table alone, without your phone. Give yourself an extra 5 minutes after your meeting has finished to sit in the boardroom alone with silence. Disconnect from the Wifi (but Kris, how will I survive?!) when you get home. Actively seek the “off switch” for your mind - we were never built to be in such a constant state of accessibility. To quote the wonderful Brene Brown, “do not confuse connection with belonging”, your life will not crumble if you are not online. It is safe to take yourself off the grid. You will not lose friends, be left behind, or miss the end of the world.
Set an intention
Our thoughts and words yield great power. We’ve come to view words as simply semantics. Empty strings of letters that mean nothing without action. But I challenge the phrase “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to our own inner dialogue. Words are incredibly powerful to our mindset, our beliefs and our sense of self. The more positively we can speak to ourselves, the more positive our experience of the day will be. Starting your day with a positive intention will attract like-for-like in your interactions with others. If you wake up and your first thought is “shit, I have to deal with that stupid client today. There is no way they are going to understand our requirements, and I’m going to wind up getting nowhere” then you’ve basically written yourself the script in your first waking breath. Instead try setting yourself the intention “I will creatively seek solutions, and am respected and valued regardless of the outcome”. Can you see how these words could change your approach to, and experience of the day? An intention becomes your inner compass for the decisions you make - ask yourself “does this choice guide me toward that intention or not?”
Gratitude is another of my go-to strategies for a Mindful life. Gratitude reinforces what is going right, and brings us back down to earth to realign our perspective with how blessed we are to live the lives we do. Even in times of sorrow, stress and trauma - there is always something to be grateful for. So draw upon it, acknowledge it, and let it pull you back from the precipice of negativity. Neurologically, gratitude boosts dopamine and serotonin (the neurotransmitters that combat depression), so think of it like a natural antidepressant. I like to write down a list of everything I am grateful for, but you can also just take a moment to think through them in your head. Brain training is a real thing - the more you practice gratitude and positive thinking, the weaker your neural pathways to doubt, guilt and stress will become. You’ll be more positive as a result, perhaps even experiencing reduced stress and better quality sleep (The Upward Spiral, Alex Korb 2015).
Meditation for Beginners
Finally, if you’ve read this far and have been thinking of trying Meditation but are too apprehensive, take this as your sign! Give it a shot! Some of you have taken a guided meditation session with me at CodeGarden or Code Cabin and this is a perfect place to start. So as a Christmas gift I’ve created a guided beginners meditation track for you right here, right now.
My biggest piece of advice before you start? Don’t worry about finding perfect peace and calm. You will not reach Nirvana so relieve your expectations! It is impossible to completely stop our thoughts and in fact, that is not the aim of Mindfulness Meditation. Instead, allow thoughts to come, acknowledge them, and then let them drift away. Resist the urge to reach out and follow them down the rabbit hole. Gently draw your mind back to your breath, or our mantra and then continue on. It can be valuable to acknowledge WHERE your mind wandered once you come out of your meditation. Did you spend the whole time worrying about if you were “doing it right”? What does that tell you? Be curious. Does perfectionism or fear of failure show up in your life elsewhere? This could be a little breadcrumb for you to follow and learn more about your Self.
I’d love to hear how you get on incorporating some of these techniques into your morning routine. Drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org, sign up for a monthly email power boost at www.thiselectrifiedlife.com or comment on Instagram @thiselectrifiedlife
Happy Holidays Umbracians!
Kris is on Twitter as @KrisDeminick