June 13, 2018 By Dave Nelson, Survivor, Founder, Speaker, Mindset and Mindfulness Teacher at Milestone Mind
These days, we’re all suffering from a chronic overload of stress.
We start our days by jumping out of bed after our alarms go off, and then we’re basically in constant motion for the next twelve hours.
For many of us, it doesn’t feel like we get to take a breath until 6:00 PM (or later) in the evenings – and even then, we’ve got kids to put to bed, chores to do, and household bills to pay.
When do we get a chance to truly decompress?
It’s not good for our physical and mental health when we’re living in a long-term, endless state of stress and pressure like this.
That’s exactly why I like to start my day with a little calming time, before the real hustle and bustle of my daily routine starts, and before the morning “go-go-go” cortisol kicks.
My routine only takes a few minutes, but it makes an enormous difference in how I feel each and every day.
Those Crucial First Few Moments After Waking Up
There are a lot of conversations online (and in books) about designing a morning routine that works for you and sets you up for success in your day.
Many experts and high performers will be happy to give you an exact prescription for what the first two hours of your day should look like.
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Just to be clear, that’s not what I’m doing with this post. I’m not describing my entire morning routine. I’m describing just the first 30-minutes, right after I wake up.
A few years ago, I re-claimed these first few moments as time for myself, and created a short ritual that helps me start the day in a calm, relaxed state.
After this initial ritual is complete, I move on to other things (like breakfast and exercise) that I like to get done before the rest of the day begins.
But let’s just focus on those first minutes when we open our eyes in the morning.
I’m going to describe my current ritual – but I want you to design your own, based on what the techniques and tools that will help you relax and decompress.
My 5-Step Daily Calming Ritual
Step One: Consider the themes of the day.
When I wake up, the first thing I do when I open my eyes is think about the different themes for my upcoming day.
When you wake up, your brain is still in a semi-meditative state from sleeping, so you can make use of that state of mind by considering the deeper things you want to accomplish that day.
I think about themes like friendship, love, excitement, or adventure. This helps me set the tone for the day.
This isn’t the time to review your detailed task list. This process just helps you set your subconscious mind for what you’re going to accomplish in the next 24 hours.
Step Two: Drink a big glass of water with baking soda.
As soon as I’m out of bed, I have a big glass of water with some baking soda in it. This helps oxygenate my system after a nights' rest.
When we wake up, we tend to be more acidic, because the body has been digesting food all night. The baking soda (which is a base) helps balance out that acid in your system.
Step Three: Do some meditative breathing.
After that, I go downstairs and do some focused breathing.
I have a variety of breathing practices I do, and tend to switch things up every few months.
One practice I did for several months that I found extremely helpful is called Wim Hof breathing. I start by taking 30 deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
On the last breath, you empty your lungs of air, and holding no breath for as long as you can. After that, take a large breath in and hold that breath for about 10 to 15 seconds. Then exhale.
I repeat this process once, and I’ve even gotten to the point that I substitute some Qigong exercises instead of Wim Hof.
Yep, I realize this process sounds odd – but this unique deep breathing technique really helps me oxygenate my system and recover in the morning. Some experts say that oxygenating your body helps you fight off disease and recover more quickly from injuries. It also helps you think more clearly.
For full instructions on Wim Hof breathing, check out this post.
Step Four: Do some Qigong.
After I’m done with the breathing, I do something called “Qigong shaking.”
I’m going to warn you – It looks really goofy.
You stand with your feet apart and do quarter squats very quickly while you’re shaking your arms rapidly.
I do it for five to seven minutes, and by the time I'm done, my whole body is tingling with oxygen. I'm filled with oxygen from head to toe at that point, with a lot of stored tension now released.
Step Five: Complete a loving-kindness meditation.
Next, I put my left hand on my belly button, and my right hand over my left hand, with my thumbs touching, and then I stand in mountain pose.
Then I complete a Loving Kindness meditation, which I actually learned during a podcast interview with Sharon Salzberg.
First, you wish yourself love and peace. Then, you think about your loved ones, and wish them love and peace. Then, you wish the neutral people in your life love and peace.
Finally, you think about people you don’t really like – maybe the ones you find really challenging in your personal life or at work. You wish them love and peace, too. You're just giving it to those people. Whether they receive it or not is not your decision, you're just giving it away.
With that final thought, I’ve completed my morning ritual.
Start Out Your Day with Your Own Decompression Ritual
This is what my morning ritual looks like. It’s a meditative practice for me, but it’s also very healing for me.
There’s no right or wrong way to do a decompression morning ritual. What’s important is that you’re giving yourself a little time and space to breath and collect yourself because launching yourself into the rest of your day.
Do you have a “first thing in the morning” ritual? If so, what does it look like for you? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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