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No Mud, No Lotus; 3 Simple Morning Habits to Optimize Your Day

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

As a busy mom on the brink of menopause and more pointedly, a member of modern civilization, I sometimes get stressed.  And I’m not alone.  Ask anyone you meet how they’re doing and chances are the word “busy” will pop up at least once throughout the conversation, usually within the first 3 sentences.

We live in a caffeinated society, and the pace can sometimes feel overwhelming.  Studies show that more than 40% of adults report chronic insomnia brought about by daily life stress.  Sleep is a huge health predictor, and when you don’t get enough of it, it’s harder to deal with those everyday stressors, which carry over into nighttime when they keep you lying awake yet again.

Eventually you may find yourself caught in a self-defeating cycle that if left unchecked, can result in depression and anxiety.  And while there are sleep aids, both natural and pharmaceutical, to help us manage insomnia,but studies have shown prevention is both more effective and side-effect free.

So then, how do you get through the day without letting stress set your neuroendocrine system all a-flutter?   Of course we’re all maxed out time-wise, and adding more work to you list may seem counterintuitive,  but luckily effective doesn’t have to mean time-consuming.

I invite you to try starting your day off right with these 3 simple habits designed to help keep you even-keeled throughout the day, no matter what life may spring on you.

1. Meditate.  As little as 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference.  And meditation is a surprisingly simple practice.  Find an online resource, or follow these basic steps to get started

  • Create your special space.  Find a peaceful spot, anywhere you can enjoy a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time.  Set up a blanket or cushion if you need it.
  • Set a timer so you can focus on your breath without checking the clock
  • Sit up straight and comfortably.  Legs crossed is the classic pose, but worry more about keeping your spine aligned and well-supported, so if you need to lean again something, feel free.  The goal is to be relaxed and alert.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath
  • Practice taking deep, 4-5 count breathes through your nose, allowing your lungs to fully expand, then completely empty with each round
  • Focus your attention on your breath, and practice putting aside all the other thoughts that bombard your brain.
  • When your mind wanders, return it to the breath, unfazed.  This is the practice, which when practiced daily, will help you to feel calmer, less reactive and more in control of your emotional self.

2. Enjoy a healthy breakfast.  It can be challenging to rethink our standard notions of cereal and milk, bacon and eggs or nothing but coffee for breakfast, but I invite you to give it a try.  The first meal of the day can set the tone for how the rest of it unfolds.  By setting yourself up with a high-fiber, nutrient-rich and satisfying start, you focus your day in a healthy direction from the get-go.

Leave your notions of time constraints aside for a moment as you envision yourself enjoying hearty fruit and nut oatmeal, Chia Breakfast Pudding or a supercharged smoothie all can be prepped the night before to whip together the next morning in under ten!

3.  Practice gratitude. This simple practice is so powerful, you’ll begin to experience benefits such as increased awareness, a heightened sense of appreciation and focus on the positive soon after starting.  How to do it?

  • Pick up a notebook, plain or fancy doesn’t matter, and create a Gratitude Journal.
  • Take a moment each morning to set an intention to notice moments of gratitude throughout your day.
  • On Friday morning, simply write down five things you experienced in the past week for which you’re grateful.
  • For more tips on gratitude journaling, check out this article on Greater Good.

These little tricks take under 30 minutes combined.  I suggest you try all three, even if it means waking up 30 minutes earlier, as I initially forced myself to do.  Unpleasant as that sounds, I promise you that after a week or so, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.  In the words of modern day philosopher Thich Nat Hahn, “no mud, no lotus”.

I hope you won’t wait one day longer to prioritize your health and begin moving closer toward living your best life, starting today!

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