We’ve all had days when we wake up in panic. I know I do. There are times when we’ve missed the morning alarm and simply overslept. Or, maybe not slept well in the night, after having a bad dream that kept us wide awake until the wee hours of the morning. Even worse is when we’ve struggled and finally lulled ourselves to sleep only to be jolted back to reality with the alarm ticking away by our bedside, forcing us to jump out of the bed because we’re already running late.
On such days, our notion of having a good day is totally gone, at the very start. With a muddled head, we’re only thinking up excuses for being late. For the remainder of the day, we’re running into people, dropping things and any little thing is enough to set us off. In short, a perfect recipe for disaster.
Sounds familiar? It’s true that in spite of our best intentions, our lives often end up pretty much like the above scenario because although we’ve set the intention, we haven’t really done any groundwork to ensure a good start to our day.
So, how do we get our best foot forward?
It is said that the first hour of our day determines how well the rest of it goes. If we can turn it around, we have a chance to give it our best. Our daily routines are a little more than what we think they are. A little planning and a little ‘me-time’, gives us the much-needed focus on our mind and body, first thing in the day. A classic make or mar situation, in short.
We can do this by incorporating a handful of things into our daily routine to make that first hour count. Simple things we know about but do not often implement:
1. Planning Ahead: Right before we go to bed, we could set ourselves up for the next day by getting everything planned in advance— be it food, clothes, work stuff, in short, all the essentials that we need to get sorted every morning. This alone eliminates the hectic morning routine. Prior planning, usually the night before, is the best and the only thing we can do to ensure a great morning start, the following day.
2. Sleeping well: Again, a proper bedtime, the night before, is crucial to waking up on time every morning. A good night’s sleep gives us the energy we need over the course of the day. When we sleep late and wake up groggy, our first hour goes for a toss instantly. It is important to remember that both our minds and our body need enough sleep to function properly all day. Every time we are lured by social media to push our bedtimes a little behind the schedule, we forget that sleep deprivation causes damage to our brain and our cognitive functions, resulting in fatigue, clumsiness, daytime sleepiness and our inability to perform at an optimum level. Small changes can work wonders to help us sleep better — things like switching off from social media well before bedtime, muting the notifications on the smartphone, and instead, picking up a book to read until it’s time to drift off. For an insomniac like me, this has been the best feeling in the world!
3. Waking Early: To effectively wake up early, we have to reset our sleep schedule, develop effective habits of waking up early, and become more of a morning person than we currently are. Sounds tough? Well, try it for a week and see for yourself. We can find amazing results by sparing twenty minutes (at the minimum) in those early hours, doing some form of stretching or exercising, to be followed by ten minutes of mindfulness or meditation. As someone who practices yoga and meditation in the early hours, I can only rave about the energy and positivity that this brings along, a practice that did not come easily to me initially but one that I cannot do without, now.
4. Setting a Positive Intention: When I started this practice initially, with the pranayama prayers, I was a die-hard skeptic, but, the burst of enthusiasm and positivity from it, has made a noticeable difference to my day. There could be many ways of doing this. You could do this by choosing to listening to soothing music or a podcast, or even writing in your gratitude journal about those things that make you happy and specific goals that you wish to achieve over the day. Setting this intention clearly keeps us inspired and focused on our task, whilst keeping us positively engaged to get on with our busy lives. If you know someone who does this, they can tell you how blissful and calming this can be at the start of a busy day.
So, why am I sharing this with you today?
Because these are just a few pointers that could help us make the most of that very important first hour of the day— not necessarily in the order listed but depending on your individual order of priorities.
To me, for instance, #3 made a tremendous difference. I’ve always been a night owl for the most part of my life. But, after discovering the benefits of rising early, and the fact that it is linked to a bunch of different, positive things, I’ve realised what I have been missing out all those years. Now, that I’m up with the lark. I feel better because I can hit the ground running and feel better prepared to tackle pretty much anything for the rest of the day. Setting the intention for the day and warming up with yoga brings me the much-needed positive boost and energy. Not every day. Initially, it was about 15 out of 30 days. Now, it is 25 out of 30 days, which means a lot to me. What really helps me is not checking my smartphone until the morning routine is over, to ensure my focus is constant. Believe me, turning off social media can be the best way to start our day, as it can not only drain our time but also our energy when we most need that focus on our mind and body.
I know I’m getting there and as I always confess, for someone who is a work-in-progress, this feels amazing.
One confession that I must make here is —there is no one-size-fits-all technique at work here. Each one of us has to figure out what works best and implement it accordingly. Most importantly, we need to be consistent with the practice because it is only when we are consistent over an extended period of time that we may actually begin to see the benefits.
What you put into your mind into the first hour will set the tone of your mind for the rest of the day!
So, tell me how do you start your day? Do you have a special morning routine that you always follow? Do you stick to it easily? Or is it still a struggle, some days? Would love to hear from you if you are willing to share your unique recipe for a great morning start.