5 Ways to Wake Up for Your Self
Who gets your attention first thing in the morning? Family sure might, especially if you have children, but who else? Consider everything you do in the first half hour of your day. Where are your ears, eyes, and thoughts?
Maybe this is you, maybe not. Let's see what resonates...
The first alarm goes off. SNOOZE
The second alarm sounds. SNOOZE
Third, fourth, even fifth alarm cries out before your feet begrudgingly hit the floor and make their way to the bathroom.
Your phone - aka your alarm clock - goes with you. The sun isn't even warm yet and already your time and attention is not yours.
Any e-mails come in over night? Text messages? Any notifications on social media? You may have even begun scrolling through friends' stories before stepping out of bed. No judgment; no shame. Studies and surveys have shown as many as half the people questioned check their phones immediately upon waking every morning, with more than 80% of people checking their phones at least once in the first fifteen minutes of their day.
Next, you brush your teeth, shower, shave, apply makeup, whatever it is that you do. Studies have also shown that our minds wander down paths that are most frequently detrimental to our happiness when we are self-grooming. It's easy to go into autopilot while brushing our teeth. We've been doing it nearly our entire lives. If we are on autopilot and our mind is not focused on the present task, the only place for it to go is to the past or to the future, neither of which is truly enjoyable, and both of which are out of our control. Sometimes these thoughts are of responsibilities to others - family, employers, clients/customers, etc. - but more often they are Self-criticisms or complaints. Think about it. It's early. You're tired. You haven't had so much as a sip of water yet and you're particularly vulnerable to your own attack. What's your Self-talk like while you're brushing your teeth or showering?
Maybe you don't use your phone as your alarm and you hop out of bed two hours before work, fresh as a daisy and super pumped to press your own juice and walk the dog in the morning mist. If so, that's sincerely awesome. This is not for you.
If this description hits the nail on the head for you, if any bit of this resonates and you feel your attention is divided in the morning, if you have small children and five minutes on the toilet with Facebook feels like your only reprieve for privacy, this is for you. You cannot show up too much for your Self, and having a handful of quick and simple techniques in your pocket for the random opportunities that present will prime your mind to better notice them when they do....like that five minutes on the toilet, for example.
For whatever order would best serve YOU...
ONE Actively Check In With Your Self
While the snooze button can be very beneficial when used properly, slamming a button and returning fully to sleep is confusing for the mind and the body. Use the eight or nine minutes before the alarm repeats as a time for gently waking up and checking in. Ask your Self how you're feeling, what do you most wish for today, how were your dreams and what, perhaps, did you process within them. Find out what you need right then in that moment, and how can you deliver. This is your first opportunity of the day to show up. Put the phone down. Put the people who aren't you - or even with you at that moment - down and pick up your attention and focus entirely for you. If not now, when else in the day? This is a great time for writing, also, if that style check-in suits you. A few of my clients practice total mind dumps, putting pen to paper and pouring out pages of whatever thoughts present. Others prefer prompts for morning journaling; something to get the juices flowing, like, "What do you enjoy most about your favorite type of weather," or, "What would life be like if you shrunk down to just 2" tall?" I enjoy starting my day with a haiku, usually reflective of the feelings I awoke with. The beauty of this is it can be practiced in bed while the body warms to waking, or a small journal can be kept in the bathroom when you have a minute to sit down...
TWO Find Your Breath
Bring all of your attention entirely on the breath, if even for only one single, solid breath cycle, following the inhalation and the exhalation. Your body was in total rest-mode just moments ago. Before you devote the day's energy to task juggling and whatever responsibilities await you, take a mere moment to breathe. Send that sweet oxygen to your bloodstream to serve the cells that make every catch, every release, every trial, every success, every venture of the day possible. The more oxygen that is in the blood the better the body functions and the better stamina is maintained energetically. How do we know we are alive? We know because we are breathing! We start doing it when we are born and we will do it until we die. Not only does breathing keep you alive, it helps you live well. With one mindful breath you can lower cortisol levels and decrease stress stimulated by a jarring alarm, for example. You can also increase endorphins and release toxins that have been worked loose while you slept.
THREE Sip Water
While your body rested and the inner-workings did their jobs to heal, repair, and maintain your many systems, organs, and even memories, it was also very slowly dehydrating via urine production, sweating, and breathing. Whether it's before you slide into your slippers or after you brush your teeth, get some water in you. This is particularly essential if your typical first drink of the day is a diuretic, like coffee, and the needs served by water are being pulled deep in the red by lunch. Not only will rehydrating increase your energy levels and support that aforementioned detox, but it will lubricate joints that may have stiffened in the night, and loosen up the mind, increasing alertness and concentration.
You are certainly familiar and experienced in pandiculating, though you may not be so familiar with the term. It refers to the movement of yawning and stretching at the same time. This happens a lot when we first wake up, as well as after watching a movie or show where we sit still for a lengthy period of time. Muscles lose tone while we sleep, and fluids collect in places as pulled by gravity and encouraged by stillness. Stretching is called upon by the body to realign those muscles and redistribute those fluids, as well as to simply stimulate various parts of the body in preparation for more strenuous motions. I invite you to notice and move beyond pandiculation, taking the morning stretch to a new level. This does not mean I am asking you to jump into a 30-minute yoga routine straight out of the sack. The stretch doesn't even need to have more than a few teensy movements; the key is to make them mindfully. Observe the tingling sensation of body functions trickle down your back when you reach your arms toward the sky. Breathe expansion into your rib cage, one side and then the other, as you tilt with your arms extended upward, creating a very slight crescent shape. Bend forward and allow gravity to pull your torso toe-ward. Not crunching or pushing, just settling in before rising up halfway, bowing, and rising all the way up to a standing position, Stretching isn't complicated. Again, make it your own. Listen to your body tell you which ways to turn and tilt. This can be done in a minute or less.
FIVE Informal Meditation
Mindfulness is the act of paying total attention, on purpose, to all elements of our experience with an attitude of open acceptance, non-judgment, and compassion. In formal meditation the experience is breathing, or the sense of being and existing. Informal Meditation is paying total attention to an everyday activity with fresh eyes. You will likely find that you already practice this sometimes, while folding clothes or washing dishes. Guess what happens when we combine mindfulness practice with one of those times when the mind most wanders, say, when we brush our teeth? In answer to the intrusive thoughts that mean to direct your day, notice them and return to the task at hand, over and over because it isn't easy. Follow the motion of your arm as you brush. Did you know you hold your brush between your fingers like that? Notice the taste of the toothpaste and observe the sensation of the bristles as they move across your gums. Give your mind a chance to gently open up to other things, and start by being entirely present with your Self. This is probably the first thing I teach all of my clients and anyone who attends my workshops and trainings - in fact, here is a recording of a training I gave over the summer on the benefits of Informal Meditation for healing from trauma.
The truth is, I can sit here and I can list reason after reason and reference study after study in an attempt to convince you that adopting even just one of these techniques will benefit your life, but you are the advocate you need. Consider starting by noticing how you feel each day and just experimenting with one or two of these techniques. Feel for your Self what a difference any or all of them make for your entire day.
We set the standard for our days. Our minds search for evidence to support the most powerful emotions we carry. If we start our days with Self-abandonment, criticism, and deprivation, we fill and finish our days on the same note, that of dehydration, over-stimulation, exhaustion, and over-extension. If we start them by showing up for our Selves, tending our most basic care needs, and being really truly present - this really does not require a lot of time, folks - we fill and finish our days on an entirely different note. We are the first person we can count on each morning. Show up!
With 2022 right there around the corner with all its promises of "New Year, New Me," it is wise to prime for progress with compassionate mindfulness in order to set and meet realistic evolutions. I've created a calendar of prompts and techniques for every day in January that support sustainable growth and can compliment those "New You" efforts quite nicely. It includes four recorded guided mediations and four mindful movement exercise videos, and is available for purchase for $40. Email me (scroll all the way down) and tell me which of these practices you've tried and how they have served you by Christmas and get yours for only $20. Better yet, I am hosting a totally free and super simple 5-Day Challenge in my private group for Cultivating Self-Awareness. I would love for you to join. Active participants will receive the calendar for free as a reward for showing up.
If you're ready to take the work a step farther and learn more about each of these practices listed, book your free Discovery Session with me today, and let's explore your personal regimen for well-being together.