(4 min read) Everyone has a morning routine as unique as the house they live in.
Some are long and complex. Others are quick and to the point. I’d be willing to bet, though, that just about everyone’s morning routine involves making themselves look more presentable. Showers wash away flat morning hair, toothpaste strips away bad breath, make-up covers flaws, and clothing camouflages bodily imperfections. For a society that values physical appearances, many of us make this a priority in order to put our best faces forward.
For those who are health conscious, morning routines might also involve taking supplements, having a nutritious breakfast, packing a healthy lunch, and maybe even going for a 5km jog before the start of the work day.
But let’s face it, a lot of us aren’t actually this ambitious. Sadly, we live in a society in which appearances are often put before our health, and many of us go out the door without having had a bite to eat.
Essentially, our morning routines might look something like this:
Priority #1: Basic Hygiene
Priority #2: Physical appearance
After-Thought #1: Physical Health
After-Thought #2: Mental Health
Wait a minute. What? Mental Health? Who has time to think about that in the morning? I don’t even have time for breakfast! Who are you trying to kid?
I’m actually not trying to kid anyone. Instead, I’m proposing that preparing our mental health is an absolutely critical part of our day that we’re skipping without a second thought.
When in Thailand, my Buddhist tuk tuk driver and I had a conversation about precisely this. He claimed that 10 minutes of morning meditation is the most important time of his day.
And, I agreed, wholeheartedly, 100%.
We put quite a bit of time into taking care of our bodies, but, why not our minds? Millions of practicing Buddhists around the world are already doing this, and I think this is something that us in the western world can certainly learn from.
10 minutes is all it takes to set up our day, mentally, and it can have an enormous impact on how we respond to the demands of everyday life.
“But, I really don’t have time to meditate for 10 minutes every day,” you say.
“But, you have time to hit your snooze button twice before you get up!” I might argue, in response. “Already, you have more time than you think!”
So, the next time your alarm goes off the first time, try doing this:
- Get up.
- Then hit the snooze button on your alarm (for 10 or 15 minutes).
- Find yourself a seat or cushion in a quiet space.
- Practice the following mindfulness meditation exercise.
- See the difference it can make to your day ahead.
Part I: Check-In & Acknowledge
1 | Scan your Body (2-3 minutes). Scan your body up and down and notice any physical sensations that are present. Take notice of whether you perceive them to be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Pay attention to variations (from pain, to tickling, to warmth or coolness) and intensity (which ones are grabbing your attention the most?).
2 | Scan your Emotions (2-3 minutes). Ask yourself the all-important question, “How’s it going?” Notice both positive and/or negative emotions. Notice which ones are strong and which ones are weak. If your feelings were colours, which ones would they be?
3 | Scan your Thoughts (2-3 minutes). You might have noticed that your mind has wandered over the course of the last few minutes. See if you can identify where your mind went (without getting caught up in the thoughts themselves!). Try labelling themes, like “work-related,” “fantasy,” or “rumination.” Don’t judge yourself for them. Minds think. That’s what they do. Separate yourself from them by imagining that they’re leaves floating by on a river.
How this is helpful: By bringing attention to our current physical and emotional circumstances, we’ll have a much greater understanding of where we are before the day even begins. Sometimes, just checking in and noticing is enough to help us disengage from unhelpful patterns and show ourselves some compassion. Self-compassion alone can make the day much more tolerable. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we agree with the circumstances we face, but it means that we acknowledge them and know what we have to work with.
Part II: Motivate & Energize
1 | Role Model Imagery (2-3 minutes). Step outside of your body now and picture yourself in a scene of your choice (in a meadow or field, on the beach, at your family home, etc.). In this location, imagine that you’re surrounded by the people you admire the most. Maybe even picture your future self in the scene. Imagine that as you sit with these individuals, you breathe in all of their positive attributes. The more you breathe in, the more these characteristics become a part of who you are, too!
How this is helpful: In addition to feeling more relaxed due to your imagined peaceful scene, it’s been found that having role models is a great way to inspire yourself to become a better version of you (Lockwood, 2006). Going into your day with more motivation will help you act accordingly.
Part III: Stay Centered
1 | Present Attunement (2-3 minutes). To finish the meditation off, choose an object in your current surroundings and bring your attention to its physical characteristics. Move through the senses from sight to touch, to sound, and smell.
How this is helpful: This practice grounds you by bringing you back to the present moment. Your brain is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the more you’ll find yourself captivated by the present moment. If you’re spending more time in the present, that means you’re spending less time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future!
This exercise can be adapted and extended if you’d like a longer practice. Generally, the more you meditate, the greater the benefits you will experience. However, since most of us simply don’t have an hour to spend meditating each day, 10-15 minutes is often a more realistic and achievable (yet still very effective) length of time to invest in our health.
Lockwood, P. (2006). “Someone like me can be successful”: Do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 36-46.