The Value of a Morning Routine

 
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How do you get your day going? Do you have a routine, ritual and a way to ease into your day? Or, do you rush and feel as though you are always mentally one step ahead of yourself and yet feel one step behind with all you need to do before your day “officially” begins?

Having a consistent morning routine is one of those deceivingly simple life hacks that can be hard to implement, but when you do, it makes a major difference in the feeling of your whole day. The truth is that your morning routine does not have to be long, fancy or anything too out of the ordinary. Your morning routine just needs to be consistent and offer you the opportunity to be presently engaged from moment to moment. The first place to begin is to have an adequate amount of time to actually offer yourself space where you can ease into your day. The intention is to offer an opportunity to bring on a sense of calm rather than triggering your stress response first thing in the morning!

If you are thinking, that’s great but I’m NOT a morning person— I am right there with you and know all about it! The thing is, having a morning routine helps to create more ease into the day and actually creates less disdain of the mornings. I used to wake up with little time to spare and felt as though I was one step ahead of myself in my mind—what I still had to do—and yet I felt a step behind knowing that the time I needed to get out the door was looming ahead! I started my day stressed-out and it had a negative impact on the rest of the day. I had to make some adjustments and they have paid off big-time in my energy and my mood!

Routines are so incredibly valuable because they allow the wellness practices that you desire within your life to become a deeply engrained stress-relieving habit. When I don’t protect my time, energy and digestion, I suffer. When I attend to my health needs and keep my stress in a manageable space, I flourish. This is a practice, a daily need and it is useful to constantly review, update, tweak and grow.

For this week ahead, consider one thing you could add to your morning (or maybe take away—like the news or scrolling through social media) that would increase your ability ease into your day. What is one thing that would help you create more present moment awareness into your morning? How can you set yourself up to have reduced stress and increased energy? How can you create just one simple change that can have a big impact on your day ahead?

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few sample morning routines that you might find to be useful: 

Scenario 1:

-make your bed

-exercise

-shower

-deep breathing

-journaling/self-reflection

-tea/coffee/breakfast

-Your day has now begun! 

Scenario 2: (my office-day morning routine!)

-breathing exercises

-shower

-drink lemon water

-rest on the couch with tea

-breathing and intention setting for the day

-check in with emails

-breakfast

-prepare lunch for the day

-off to work!

Scenario 3: (my work-from-home day morning routine!)

-lemon water

-make ginger + Darjeeling tea

-breakfast

-intention setting

-daily preparation + organization/ideas/emails/posts

-exercise/yoga

-breathing exercises

-shower

-ready to jump into the day!

Scenario 4:

-exercise

-shower

-breakfast

-intention setting

-You are ready to take on the day! 

Scenario 5:

-practice gratitude

-eat breakfast

-sip morning bevi of choice

-read something inspirational

-shower + brush teeth

-you are ready to start your day!

Scenario 6:

-make your bed

-yoga breathing + postures + setting daily intentions

-breakfast

-shower

-ready for your day!

Do you have a morning routine that works for you? I’d love to hear about it! Did you try any of these listed above or tweak one area of your morning to improve your day and reduce your stress? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Embracing Nonjudgment

 
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Nonjudgment is a key concept within mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a nonjudgmental awareness. Nonjudgment means not having a reactive response to what is occurring, not responding—especially in a stressful manner—to whatever is true right now.

Nonjudgment can be a challenging concept to embrace because it is part of the nature of the mind to judge. However, this function of the mind/thought is not for the sake of beating yourself up or passing judgment onto others. The purpose of the capacity of the mind to judge is to engage the ability to make the best choices for yourself in the moment.

Unfortunately, judging and responding in an emotional way to that formulated judgement has become something that happens more rampantly. This internalized or passed onto others judgment is contributing to deep suffering on many levels. When you judge yourself, you create a feeling of being not good enough, unworthy and increase your stress.

When you judge others in a way that triggers a negative opinion of them, you are most likely activating your ego rather than your true self. In this ego space you are not allowing yourself to be accepting or compassionate towards their reasons why they have/do/are…whatever it is you are basing this judgment upon. This creates a limit to the connection you could experience with that person and also creates a cloud around a more clear decision to not subject yourself to that person.

When you embrace the concept and action of nonjudgment, you are not considering something as good or bad, right or wrong. You are not passing your internal opinions and values onto another but practicing the ability to deeply accept the truth of what is presented before you. When you practice nonjudgment, you are able to connect with a level of inner freedom and peace that allows you to experience less stress and an overall sense of lightness and wellbeing.

If you feel that you operate often out of a space of constant judgment, know that increasing your capacity for nonjudgment and deeper acceptance is a practice. It takes time, effort and focus to cultivate within. The most effective way to build your ability to practice and be in a state of nonjudgment and acceptance is through a consistent mindfulness practice. The second is through deep self-reflection.

While creating a consistent mindfulness and meditation practice has a number of benefits, today’s focus is specific to the ability to practice nonjudgment and acceptance. Your ability to accept others directly correlates to your capacity to accept yourself. If this feels like a little off-putting to consider, that’s ok, that’s just your ego responding and your ego is sensitive, guarded and most likely a little fragile. I know that mine sure is, which is why this practice is so, so very important. Without the internal barometer of mindfulness, meditation and self-reflection, we get stuck operating out of the needs of our ego. This will not increase our capacity of joy but will only create a temporary experience of survival and safety. But fear is always lurking out there—which ironically only breeds more judgment and nonacceptance. Nonjudgment allows you to release your ego based fears.

There are several mindfulness and meditation practices that offer the ability to grow in your capacity for deeper acceptance of yourself and others and allow the judging mind and ego to rest and feel safe. The most accessible is as simple as connecting with the rhythm of your breath. When you mind wanders, first, make note if it is a thought riddled with judgment (not to judge yourself, only to build awareness!) and then label it as a just a thought, then let it go. This will occur over and over and over again throughout the course of a minute. Initially this practice can be quite exhausting, but absolutely worth the effort. I recommend that you start slowly here, with just one minute and increase from there.

The second phase needed to build acceptance and the ability to practice nonjudgment is deep self-reflection. With deep self-reflection you are taking a closer look at your thought process. In this phase you become curious about your biases, your judgments, how they came to be and why they occur. Do you judge people for their appearance? Do you judge people for their material possessions? Do you judge people for their voice, their tone, their speech patterns, their words? Do you judge other people for what they do and the choices they make? These judgments may happen, however in deep self-reflection you can begin to understand why. This self-reflection practice gives you the ability to become aware that you are not your thoughts. Regardless of the emotional response that may or may not be conjured up by a thought, you can practice in the space of the witness to label it as a thought, or a process of your mind, and then let it go.

Earlier I may have triggered your ego by saying that your capacity to accept others is equal to your capacity to accept yourself. If you find that you judge others, how much time do you spend judging yourself? How much time do you spend commenting internally or out loud because of your appearance or your material possessions or for you what you say, do or the choices you make? Often the ego deflects this internal pain and suffering onto others and it creates this internal anxiety that is underlying, well, pretty much everything. It is deeply uncomfortable and unsatisfying, and I believe that most of us live in this space unconsciously much of the time. 

If you are ready to heal from these internal patterns of thought, feelings and behaviors, today is the day to begin a mindfulness practice. If you are ready to dig deep and understand how these patterns arose in order to ensure that they remain at bay, then today is the day to begin deep self-reflection.

Life Is NOT an Emergency

 
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Do you feel like you live with a sense of constant urgency, anticipation and fear? Do you find that your mind is constantly in a state of chatter, worry, evaluating the worst-case scenario? If so, you are not even sort of alone. But also--if so, you are placing your body in a state of constant stress. If you are living in this space of thinking, worrying and anticipating the WORST, then you are potentially harming your body, mind, spirit and life.

The truth is, life is not an emergency. It just isn’t. However, we are living at a pace where it feels like making coffee in the morning feels like an emergency! When you add in thoughts about food, what to eat, what not to eat, body image, self-judgment and all the other things that are rolling through your mind, you are set up for serious stress. When you are in this state for an extended period of time you become more prone to big-time health problems.

The remedy is first to know that life is NOT an emergency. Then you have to remind yourself of this constantly—over and over again! You will need to say to yourself when you are rushing to make your coffee: “life is not an emergency”, when you are rushing to where ever you are headed next: “life is not an emergency”, when you are worrying about the right thing to eat or mentally punishing yourself for what you did or didn’t eat: “life is not an emergency.”

When you say this to yourself you begin to relax into the awareness that it is so. When you are stuck in the tension created mentally and physically by all the mental noise that creates the illusion that life is indeed an emergency, the stress response is activated. When you live in that constant state of stress response activation, you suffer. This is why your new mantra needs to be: “life is not an emergency!”

The truth is that stress is a killer. It robs you of the present moment, it robs you of joy, it robs you of your health and wellbeing. I will clarify that when I say stress, I really mean our response to the stress that will inevitably exist in your life. We ultimately have the final say in how we will respond to a particular stressor. We can *freak out* mentally and emotionally, or we can acknowledge that life is not an emergency and find a more useful way to handle the presented stressor.

Begin to evaluate where in your life that you perceive it to be an emergency. Start by bringing in this new mantra: “life is not an emergency.” Notice the impact that this simple awareness has on your life, your mood and your wellbeing. Notice how your muscles relax and the tension in your stomach and chest releases. When you are not in a state of feeling as though your perceived stressors are emergencies your body will respond by relaxing and releasing.

Your body does not know the difference as to whether your stress is actually occurring or if it is only in your mind. This provides good and bad news. The bad news first, if you are living in a state where you feel that your life is an emergency and live in that space in your head, then you are seriously *stressed* and your body is living in a constant state of flooded cortisol and adrenaline. The good news is, if you remind yourself that life is not an emergency, you are able to calm your mind and body and live within what is true right now. When you live in a space of what is true right now you can release the stress of the past and the future and find an ability to relax and just be here now.

If you have been living in a space of anxiety, stress and fear, the good news is that you can clear your mind over and over with this new reminder that life is not an emergency. While this may take time, effort and a determined focus, it is worth it to create the healing your mind, body and spirit crave.