by Michael Hurley L.Ac.
Do you struggle with staying on track with your day and keeping motivated? Do you sometimes get stuck or simply feel lazy all day long? It’s true we have many stressors in our lives today between work and family, holidays, relationships, political climate, social media, television, etc. It’s also true that concerning ourselves with these issues is unhealthy if done too intensely. Deep down inside, we all know this. However, the day tends to get away from us as these individual items add up. Before we know it, we are overwhelmed and are not really sure how it happened.
So, in this month’s article, we’ll explore one of my most relied upon practices to move out of a funk and back into the flow of life. The most effective way I know is to begin your day is with a daily routine or practice. I define a daily practice as an activity or group of activities that can help you set the tone for your day. These are things you do for yourself to establish your physical and emotional well-being. This is important to do before anyone else in the world has any influence over you. You choose your mindset independent of distractions or worries going on around you.
Many who read this will immediately say, “But, I don’t have time to add anything more to my day!” Here’s the thing about time—when you really want to do something, the time always shows up. Every day, Americans find lots of time to check emails, Facebook, and Twitter to find out what bad things are happening in the world. We find time to fantasize about arguing with the person who cut us off in the parking lot or the center of town. We find time to feel sorry for ourselves about our health, jobs, or relationships. This isn’t five or ten minutes out of the day that I am talking about.
The average American spends hours per day wasting their thoughts and energy on these activities without even being aware of it. This lack of awareness is a trap of the mind. If we stay numb to our habits, then we don’t have to change. The mind is perfectly happy to keep you occupied all day long and stagnant in your ways. Our mind makes us believe that other people’s opinions are more important than how we feel about ourselves or the beautiful lives that we actually live.
By doing a set of activities when you wake up, you set yourself up with a win for the day instead of getting caught up in negativity. You can literally begin to retrain your brain and your thinking with this one simple practice. Now, I am not talking about spending hours meditating, doing CrossFit, or anything like that. Those are great activities but the commitment to them can be stressful and is usually why we think we don’t have any time. The mind is great at setting us up for self-sabotage, so instead, I am advocating to KEEP IT SIMPLE and BE CONSISTENT.
My favorite daily practice looks something like this:
- When your alarm first goes off in the morning, PRESS SNOOZE.
- Spend the next several minutes reviewing how you feel in that moment.
- Acknowledge 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for in that moment.
- Proceed with your day in a more positive and uplifted mood!
For example, after hitting the snooze button, let’s say you notice that your neck is aching. You can start by simply being grateful for the fact that you actually woke up another day. You can be grateful that you have feeling in your neck. No matter what it is, make a conscious effort to notice something about your surroundings and be grateful for it. Say it to yourself. “I am grateful for this nice warm blanket. I am grateful for my nice soft pillow. I am grateful for …”
If you find yourself thinking you have nothing to be grateful for, and some people do at first, fake it. Just say it anyway. You may be discouraged with some life challenge, but instead of letting the mind derail the moment, “fake it till you make it.” In the process, you will be teaching your mind to naturally seek out the good even if you do not fully believe it as you say it.
It’s even okay to be cynical at first, if that’s what it takes to get you started. You might initially find yourself saying things like, “I am grateful for my partner who never takes out the trash or feeds the animals.” After a couple of days of getting that out of your system, your mind will start omitting the negative part (which is simply your own ego). Your mind will then it turn this into something like, “I am grateful for my partner.”
Genuine gratitude feels great. After a few days of doing this, your mind will start adding on by saying something like, “I am grateful for my partner who earns money for us to pay the rent or mortgage.” Or, “I am grateful for my partner who is an incredible caretaker for my children.” With consistent practice, your thoughts and the depth of your gratitude will deepen and grow. In fact, as you practice, you may find that your gratitude can go on forever which is another great reason for hitting snooze as opposed to turning the alarm off.
I cannot emphasize enough, the key is consistency. That is why I say to start small. Set yourself up with small wins every day. Once you have those, you will want to do more, but do more ONLY if you really feel you want to. If you do something because you feel you need to, your motivation will fizzle and cause more stress.
After you are successful at adding a gratefulness practice, try meditating by just concentrating on your breath. Again, start with 5 minutes and add-on because you want to. After that, maybe add some movement. This can be a short walk outside, a short asana (yoga) practice, or a short calisthenics workout. For those of you that head out for the gym in the morning or feel that you already have a great physical morning routine, just try adding the gratefulness practice when you first wake up. You will be amazed at how your morning workouts will be transformed.
So, if I am asking you to do something, what am I doing, right? Below is a typical everyday practice for me. Take note, I had to work up to this. If this is new to you, take it in stages and add things in gradually.
- My alarm goes off at 5 and I hit snooze:). I could just get right out of bed but that initial gratefulness practice is really beneficial to do when you are just out of your dream state. Also, sometimes I fall back to sleep, so hitting snooze ensures that I don’t oversleep. I do my 5 or 10 minutes of just discovering all the things that I am grateful for right off the top of my head.
- From there, I start my morning coffee and while that is brewing, I do a 10 or 15-minute calisthenics workout.
- Then, I get my coffee ready. Before I drink any or even check my phone (It is important to add that I have not exposed myself to the outside world yet), I meditate for 15 minutes (which as of late has been more gratefulness awareness because it just feels so good).
- Then I am ready to start my day.
It is not necessary to do all of this to make a positive impact on your day. I just wanted to give an example of what I am currently doing so you could see how easy this could be. Remember, I have been building up to this slowly for quite some time now. Truthfully, I used to complain that I did not have time to do these things. By adding on slowly I was able to gradually increase what I do. The more mindfully I added things, the more my commitment grew to maintain these simple yet profoundly beneficial practices for my health and wellness.
So, please give the 5-minute morning gratefulness practice a try for a couple of weeks and let me know how it goes. Remember, keep it simple and be consistent. Also, if you ever catch me in a bad or stressed mood, ask me if I am still doing mine. More than likely, I have gotten lazy about one or more of my daily practices and I will appreciate the reminder:).