What are your morning rituals?
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. (Thoreau)
I'm a morning person. I love the daybreak, and I get my best work done in the first part of the day.
I've always been the first one up on holiday, rushing everyone else out of bed so we can get on with the day (yes, I know, it can be a bit annoying!).
But, more recently, I've felt a bit sluggish in the morning; I do wake up but it can take a couple of hours before I feel really energised and full of life.
I've tried a few different things, cutting out coffee, and adding in a small exercise routine, but I was curious about what other people do.
Is there more that I can do to create a perfect morning wake-up ritual?
So I did what I sometimes so when I'm curious, and I asked my facebook friends and connections. I wasn't planning to blog about this, but the ideas they gave me were so interesting and inspiring that I wanted to capture them for myself, and why not share them with you at the same time?
Some ideas seemed to come up again and again, but there were a couple of interesting ones that I hadn't expected -- let's have a look:
Cleansing inside and out
Starting your day with some kind of a drink was pretty common. Water of course came up, and there were a few others.
1. Ginger tea
A couple of my friends recommended starting the day with ginger tea, ideally real root ginger infused in hot water. I love the taste of ginger and I usually have it in the house to add to my smoothies, so I'm happy to add this one into my morning ritual. I just take a couple of slices of fresh ginger root and add hot water in a mug.
The benefits of ginger are myriad but the key one for a morning wake-up is that it seems to get the circulation flowing. With that and its alleged anti-inflammation properties, this one is a no-brainer
2. Lemon juice in hot water
Again, lemon in hot (or warm) water seems to be a morning drink that is flush with benefits. A range of nutrients and that enhance everything from digestive health to gum health. Lemons contain Vitamin C as we know, citrates (citric acid) that seems to reduce cholesterol and aid liver function, and also pectin that supports gut health.
I like lemon in water but I prefer to add a few slices of lemon and lime to just-warm water and then drink it cold, later. For the morning I'm going to stick with the ginger.
This is an old routine for me, I drink A LOT of water. And always on waking.
You might have noticed that you weigh less when you weigh yourself in the mornings?
The main reason for this is that we lose water overnight through sweating and breathing. This can be up to around half a kilo, or two pounds in weight, which equates to about half a litre or two pints of water.
So it makes sense that you should replenish it as soon as you wake up.
One person in my community told me he drinks a litre of water on waking up. This sounds like a lot to me, but I'm going to work up to it. I keep a glass in the bathroom so it's the first thing I do. And I notice if I'm away or for some reason it slips, then my energy starts to dip around mid-morning.
4. Green juice or smoothie
We already know that we need to rehydrate, so why not do this in a delicious, nutrient-dense way?
I'm more of a smoothie girl than a juicer -- I find it easy, and also I like to know I am getting the fibre from the fruit and vegetables, not just the juice -- but you go with your own preference (check any adverse effects first).
You can research these wonderful smoothie recipes, or you can just go with whatever you have in the fridge. Mine usually looks something like this:
I like a base of coconut water because I share the smoothie with my teenager and he loves it, but water is fine.
Green leafy veg like spinach, lettuce, rocket, or kale.
Some other green vegetable -- I love cucumber, or courgette (zucchini), celery, broccoli, really anything you have to hand.
Fruit -- some people are strict about NOT adding fruit but I enjoy the flavour so I like to add a pear or a kiwi, sometimes mango, again depending on what we have in the fruit bowl. Berries are always good and freeze well.
And sometimes a little something extra like a slice of fresh ginger, or some parsley (or both), the juice of half a lime, to give it a bit of zing.
5. A warm shower
Although this isn't technically an internal cleanse, a lot of my friends said that a warm shower was part of their wake-up routine (mine too) and maybe there is something in the outer cleansing that makes us feel ready to face the day?
That warm shower can soothe any night-time stiffness, and apparently releases oxytocin which is a stress reliever -- preparing us for a calm entry to the day. And, of course, we don't want to be caught out by the postman still in our dressing gown at noon... (well I don't anyway.)
There's also a bit of a fad around cold showers. I don't plan to try it but you can if you want to! I do know that running cold water on ice is great for an injury, and I saw research recently that the cold in general boosts the growth of your metabolism-boosting brown fat cells -- but I like to stay warm in the mornings.
Many, many of my friends start their morning with some kind of exercise of movement. Here are some of their suggestions:
It's surely the easiest form of exercise because we can do it anywhere, anytime? One of my friends said she liked to get up early and take the dog out giving her time to greet the day slowly.
And I think that is gives that combination of a slow awakening, with a form of reflection about the day ahead.
Exercising in the morning can reduce food cravings during the day, and boost your metabolism. And it's been shown that you're more likely to stick with a routine if you do it in the morning.
Maybe it's because we make time for it before the day gets away from us? All good reasons for walking of adding any other form of exercise to your morning ritual.
7. The new yoga
Yoga, of course, is a familiar way for some of us to start the day.
I've never quite managed to commit to yoga but I recently started to integrate these 'Five Tibetan' exercises into my routine.
It's short enough for me not to make excuses, challenging enough for me to make me feel like I've done something, and gentle enough that I still feel like I can do a walk, a run, or a cycle later in the day.
8. A rebounder or mini-trampoline
I have a rebounder from when I was rehabilitating a running injury years ago. But it's ended up at the back of the garage somewhere and I don't use it.
So it was a great reminder when when a friend posted that she used a rebounder as part of her morning ritual.
It's supposed to be great for your lymph system, which needs physical movement to drain those toxins away. I haven't added this one in yet, but I know the benefits of rebounding so it might be time to search the garage and wash off the cobwebs.
9. Tibetan gymnastics
Not to be confused with the Five Tibetan exercises above, one friend does a routine he calls tibetan gymnastics. I hadn't heard of this one and had to ask him for more information.
It seems to be a way of simulating the lymph system with gentle massage and encouraging the flow. I agree that we need to get the endocrine system moving, and if this one appeals, then I can definitely see the benefits.
Inner reflection is also part of the morning rituals for many of my friends.
This can take a number of different forms, and I think it can be combined with some of the movement rituals if you want to -- yoga or walking especially.
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with meditation. I've never quite found a way to fit it into my routine -- and I know this is because I've never quite found a way to do it that suits me.
I know it's good for me, but -- well, I guess we all have to find our own 'thing'.
Nevertheless, many of my friends do it, and I suspect I'll find my path at some point.
Not surprisingly, many of my friends have a writing habit.
The benefits of writing a journal are really found in the free writing; the words that we might express when we know no-one is looking. That stream of unconscious consciousness that might answer our innermost questions and clear our confusion.
This is one I love to do because I know and have experienced how it works.
If you haven't tried it yet then I recommend you get a notebook and start your morning with some free writing (perhaps after the yoga and accompanied by the ginger tea!).
12. Visualisation or affirmations
I've put these together, although they are separate, because they both work on our unconscious brain and help us realign our neural pathways until something that seemed impossible, becomes natural.
Visualisation is popular with athletes and it works by using our imaginations to 'see' a future scenario. We can tune into the look and the feel, the flavours or smells of a situation so that we not only raise our confidence about it, but we can actually train our physical responses.
And affirmations work in a similar way. We are teaching our brain that what we say is what is real -- it helps us banish doubt and restore confidence and commitment.
I don't practice these regularly but I am exploring affirmations more and more. I believe they work (done in the right way), I just need to 'get around to it'.
Refuelling: emotional and physical
And the final set of morning rituals revolved around refuelling; filling the tank so to speak, both emotionally and of course physically. Let's have a look at my friends' suggestions:
13. Morning cuddles
For me, a hug from one of my children is like refuelling the tank. It's joyous and energising, and it seemed that my friends feel exactly the same.
Some referred to their pets, and some to children or loved ones.
And wherever you get them, the reason they work is because a hug triggers those feel-good hormones: oxytocin, dopamine, and seratonin. This can lead to lower blood pressure, better heart health, as well as a general feeling of relaxation.
Sounds good to me!
Music affects our emotions, we know that. And it affects them to such a degree that we actually respond differently to things around us depending on what kind of music we listen to.
So it makes sense to listen to something that makes us feel good, right?!
I usually start my day with Radio 4 but, after advice from my friends, I might be re-tuning my radio to some 70's disco!
And if you're stuck, here are 52 free morning playlists to get you going.
Well, of course, it's the morning, you have breakfast!
Whether or not people who eat breakfast weigh less (on average) than those who don't, there's a good chance that most of us are eating something first thing -- so why not make it healthy?
Because, the worse your day starts, the more likely it is to go downhill.
Since I'm at home and I can set my routine, I like to start with a smoothie, and then have an early lunch with a good portion of protein. And, although I don't have it often, when I do have a bigger breakfast, there's nothing better than a good bowl of porridge with some added chia or flax seeds.
Whatever your breakfast preference, start your day as you mean to go on.
16. An apple
There's a rumour that apples can wake you up better than coffee, and one of my friends posted about it when I asked for morning rituals.
I'd heard about it in the context of driving -- and it's actually the eating of the apple that wakes you up, rather than anything it contains. Whether proven or not, I like the idea -- and it's probably a healthier way to start than a take-out coffee.
17. Don't go for the phone or computer when you wake up
I know that we don't all manage this, I certainly don't! But I am sure I'm not preaching to the unconverted with this one.
Focusing on your priorities will make for a more productive day.
So, whether that's your exercise routine, your healthy breakfast, or your work priorities, if you do those first, you will have a more productive day overall. And you'll feel good about achieving what you wanted to first thing in the morning.
I try to make it a habit (one I break, sadly) of spending the first couple of hours at my desk on the most important task.
And now I've made a public commitment, perhaps I won't be tempted to go over and check those emails when I first log-on...
Which ones do you do already, and what can you add?
I do a couple of these already, and I want to add some more.
And for them to become a regular part of my day, I need to create a habit -- that regular, daily routine that becomes unconscious. Instead of reaching for the coffee, reach for the ginger tea -- and so on.
To make it easier on yourself, get everything prepared the night before (like me with my glass of water in the bathroom), and start small; add one new habit, and stick with it.
Today's article is written by our Editor, Cathy Presland. Cathy loves to work with smart people on interesting projects.