Monday, February 25, 2019

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! Getting into a Healthy Morning Routine by Nancy Gideon

I’m a morning person. Always have been. When I began my writing career with a preschooler and new baby at home then later took on a full-time job, I quickly learned the path to accomplishing anything for myself meant finding the one of least resistance. That meant snatching up those hours unused by the rest of the family. For a stay-at-home writing mother, that was easy – when the kids were at school. But during those summer months and then with the 9-to-5s, I carved out a niche no one else wanted – those hours before daybreak. With the help of my Keurig, 4:30 a.m. was my best friend.

But for me, older didn’t mean wiser - it meant less energy. My daybreak inspiration came later and later until I found myself using those precious hours on Social Media and promotion instead of using them to create. I was stressed, exhausted and mentally on empty, dragging through the days, cranky, depressed and unproductive at the keyboard. Until a critique group weekend opened my eyes to how miserable I was. Though I dabbled in New Agey things like Tarot and energies, I never fully embraced them until sitting across from a spiritual reader who took my hands and said, “You are surrounded by negative energy and you need to take your life back.” Talk about a wake-up call! The other revelation from that weekend was the key to turning that energy around – surrendering a little more of that precious time to get back a huge return – a new outlook on life, energy to spare, calm in the face of any storm, and a great night’s sleep. By starting (and ending) each day with a few minutes of mediation to get mind, body and spirit on the same page, I discovered the best five minute (and growing) investment I’ve ever made. I’m back to taking on those early to rise days by storm.

The above was underlined by a series of uplifting articles on facing the light of day (and the rest of it) with an optimism and focus. Pop over to 49 Ways to Have a Happy Morning Now and you can thumb through them at your leisure, but here are my favorite takeaways.

The Power Hour!

It’s science backed (don’t take my word for it). By adding a “power hour” to the start of your day, you can focus better, accomplish more, and zen your way to creativity. Here’s what you pack into that first eye opening 60 minutes:
  1. Wake up earlier. Start in increments (go to bed 15 minutes earlier-rise 15 minutes earlier). You need that good night’s sleep so don’t scrimp there. Give your internal compass time to recalibrate by taking baby steps.
  2. Immediately stretch (for 2 minutes). That fully body yawn and overhead reach to embrace the day gets stiffness out and loosens muscles.
  3. Meditate (10 minutes). I started with 2 minutes and am working my way up. Meditation prepares your mind and rewires the brain to increase contentment, heighten awareness, lower stress, and improve the immune system. My path is simple. Start with an Intention (something you want to bring into your life or discover i.e. “Show me what I need to know to find the inspiration to write”)–then focus on four point/ four count breathing – in deep through the nose for four counts, hold for four counts, out through the mouth for four counts, hold for four counts and repeat, concentrating on the rhythm of your body. If thoughts intrude, gently push them away and go back to focusing on your heartbeat and breaths. This is one time an empty head is good thing!You can also use mediation apps to guide your relaxation. I was amazed by how my stress faded to a lasting calm that very first day. And I started sleeping like a rock.
  4. Exercise (15 minutes). Yeah, the E-word. Do this before eating.You can go with a high impact routine or low-impact walking. Both get the blood flowing and reduce sugar cravings. Bonus points if you can throw in fresh air outside (in a few months, maybe)! Try a yoga routine, hand weights, a stationary bike – whatever gets the heart pumping and joints jiving
  5. Set your goals for the day (10 minutes). Write them down - I use a paper planner that helps me escape social media distractions.Remember to make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and within a Time frame. Beginning the day with a purpose keeps you focused.
  6. Fuel up at the pump (10 minutes) with a healthy breakfast. Fiber, protein, fruits. Prime that engine for the day. It won’t run on empty.

Try an App to track your happiness – Say whaaaat? Here are a few: Happify, My Gratitude Journal, Headspace (meditation), Real Life Change (a portable life coach!), iMood Journal to measure and graph mind and body functions, Worry Watch to track and overcome anxiety, and even Daylio to emoji your way through the day.

Be consistent. Build up your successes. You don’t have to dramatically change your lifestyle overnight. Those steady, daily steps make the climb achievable (and they’re not so hard on the knees).And don’t forget to remind yourself WHY you’re making these changes so you’ll recognize them when they start showing up.

Finally, start your morning with Happy Quotes – Inspiration that gets the day going in the right positive direction. Here’s a sample:

Now, excuse me while I breathe my way into a focused day.

Nancy Gideon on the Web


Diane Burton said...

A great post, Nancy. Love the top meme. I've had days like that. Often. Mornings are my best time to write, but I often can't get my creative motor going. I'm going to try your suggestions. Hey, if they work for you...

Maureen said...

love this great, inspiring post! I'm a 4:30 a.m. person too, although some mornings are much harder to get up than others. Love the tips- I might have to try some of them.

Nancy Gideon said...

Oh, I haven't bonded with the exercise routine yet (except on weekends). But I put in plenty of steps at the office. But then I never thought I'd meditate, either! This from someone who is anxious about everything outside her ADD/OCD world.

sorchiadubois said...

Such good steps to take. I'm working on them all. Just that little bit of ambition in the morning sets the tone for the entire day! Thanks, Nancy!!

Patricia Kiyono said...

Great advice. Thank you!