I used to wake up with anxiety on most days. And then I would feed it. I would make a mental list of what was wrong, challenging, and potentially a problem. This is how I used to start my days. Some days I still wake up with a low hum of anxiety. The difference now is that I don’t feed it. I practice something completely different.
How you start your day can make a significant difference in the quality of your life. Many of us reach for our phones and begin the morning with a quick check of messages and a glance at our calendar for the day. There are consequences to this – we risk revving up the part of your nervous system that is designed for self-protection and survival. This has a direct effect on how we feel and how we interact with others.
There are three pillars of practice that support wellbeing:
Being present – practicing awareness and acceptance for what is happening
Cultivating positive internal resources– practicing gratitude, compassion and awe
Choosing purposeful action –connecting to goals, commitments and relationships
Engaging in these practices throughout the day is a good way to optimize health, happiness, and performance. Starting your day with these is a great way to set the tone for what follows.
When you first wake up you have an opportunity to orient your attention in a positive direction and to connect with your deepest priorities before going out into the world. The process of starting your day well can begin before you even leave your bed. Here are five simple practices that you can do without taking your head off the pillow.
Mindfulness of body: Consciously bring your attention to the sensations where your body makes contact with the bed. Move your attention to your feet and then slowly move up your body, noticing the sensations in the different areas of your body along the way to your head.
Mindfulness of breath: Bring your attention to the sensations of breathing. You do not need to lengthen or deepen your breath. When your attention wanders to a thought or another sensation, just bring it back to the breath.
Box Breathing: Breathe deeply into a soft belly for a count of four. Pause for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four, allowing your belly to sink toward your spine. Pause for a count of four. Repeat.
Gratitude: Bring to mind the people or opportunities for which you are most deeply grateful. As you do this, focus your attention on the sensations of gratitude in your body.
Importance: Bring to mind who and what matters most to you. What are the goals, commitments, and relationships you value most? Why are doing the things you are going to do today?
These simple practices can change the course of a day. Done consistently, they can change the course of your life. Of course, the value of these practices comes from doing them, not from knowing about them. Here’s to a great start to a great day!