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When you peel things back to their purest form, you have two choices in how you wake up and start your day:
the right way and the wrong way.
e all know what it's like to wake up tired! You went to sleep too late and now you're having to rush around, getting washed and dressed.
You make a coffee, but you've only got enough time to have a couple of slurps, before you have hurry on out to catch the train to work, with a slice of toast in your hand.
You sit on the train, having had to run at break-neck speed to catch it and think about the day ahead. You don't feel prepared. You're anxiously projecting about what lies ahead. The anxiety turns into fear and a feeling of dread consumes your whole being.
Then, you suddenly realize you forgot to … This could be any number of things.
Or, it could start like this if like me, you work from home: You find yourself sat in front of a computer screen, still in your pajamas at mid-day! You haven't done a single useful task and you feel tired and depressed before you've even washed...
I've just described how my days used to start! That was the typical scenario until I made some changes and introduced a morning ritual into my everyday life.
Can you see yourself and your patterns in any of the above?
Maybe your mornings are not so chaotic but nevertheless, could be a little more organized, which would help you to feel a bit more together.
As recovering people, we need to create healthy patterns of living. We need new routines that form the foundations of our recovery life. Our sponsors or counselors teach us some; others we learn from our family, friends, or by studying books or courses.
Improved patterns and routines are a vital aid to our new life in recovery. They are a necessary ingredient, required to replace our old ways of doing things - our old habits, that no longer work for us.
Not all habits are bad. There are healthy habits we can adopt in our lives; practices that enrich our experience instead of limiting it. Understand that we need to work at building new routines. Change does not happen overnight. It takes effort and regular practice before we begin to notice changes but keep at it and those changes will come.
First, you need to know what a ritual is, so again, I looked it up.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a definition of ritual is as follows:
1: the established form for a ceremony
specifically: the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
2a: ritual observance
specifically : a system of rites
b: a ceremonial act or action
c: an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner
Definition c: is most fitting to what I'm aiming to get across to you here.
'An act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.'
Say that sentence out loud to yourself a few times …
Allow it to sink in...
It's always a good idea to have an understanding of what exactly it is you are trying to implement and why? What are the benefits? … We'll go on to look at both.
By creating rituals in our lives, we aim to form healthy patterns of living; by putting together an act, or series of acts, and repeating them on a regular basis, in a particular way, until they become habits.
I looked up 'habit' in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1: a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
2a: an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary
c: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance
5: manner of conducting oneself: BEARING
7: the prevailing disposition or character of a person's thoughts and feelings: mental makeup
We want our new routines, to become healthy habits by creating a ritual that we kind of perform on auto-pilot. I say 'kind of' because we also want to be psychologically present while performing our ritual, so we can reap the rewards of knowing we are doing something good for us, and that we are doing it for the right reasons.
It's also important to start your morning ritual as soon as you wake up. This is simple common sense, because it's always going to be harder to move your focus to the right thing if you've already become engrossed in an unhelpful habit!
What's important here is: the first thing you do. Yes, you are much more likely to have a positive day by doing the right thing first.
I've found that if I 'do the right thing first', it puts my mental, emotional and physical self on the best possible foundation. It leaves me more centered and ready for the day.
My Morning Ritual
What follows is a list of the things that make up my morning ritual. My list has developed over time. I mostly use it as a checklist that prompts me to the next thing. I don't always do everything on my list but I do use a tracker so that I can review my list items regularly.
If I consistently don't do something, I can explore why not. I can then make an informed decision as to whether to make more of an effort with that particular task or remove it from the list.
I have also included some links and recommendations to some books and products for which I will receive a small commission if you decide to buy through my links.
1/. Drink Water
Begin your day by drinking water. You've been asleep for hours and are probably thirsty, even though you don't necessarily feel it. A healthy human body is around 60% water - you need to keep it topped up.
Maintaining the balance of our body fluids is essential for functions such as circulation, temperature regulation, digestion and the creation of saliva, amongst other things.
Water helps with energizing muscles, so drinking a glass as soon as you wake up can help you feel more awake. The flip-side of this is by not drinking enough water; you'll be left dehydrated and fatigued. Dehydration can also make your skin look more wrinkled and dry, so if good skin is a priority for you, then drinking enough water can help with this.
2/. Daily Readings
A short reading of something inspirational/motivational is the next thing to do. There are lots of books of daily readings available - on just about every topic or issue there is.
Or, you can subscribe to an email list or a podcast.
Whatever your particular area of growth or interest, there's something out there for you. The rule on daily readings is that they are a affirming, uplifting, strengthening - whatever it is you need - but also brief. They shouldn't take more than a few minutes to read, absorb and reflect on.
TIP: Make it easy to find your reading by keeping your book in a prominent place. For email, you can create a folder for your text to go straight to. If your reading is on a webpage, then bookmark the page, subscribe to podcasts, or download an app.
In 12 Step fellowships, you find a Higher Power, who is of your very own understanding, and who is loving and caring. In my recovery, I have found this to be a valuable part of my daily ritual.
The hope is that you find a way to acknowledge the world around you and that you find empathy for the people who share this world with you.
TRY NOT TO GET HUNG UP ON THE WORD GOD
A Higher Power can be God, or it can be some force who speaks through people. A Higher Power can be nature, the sea, Mother Earth. Of course, it can be (or not be, as is the case for some) the God of your childhood, or of your chosen religion.
Try to find a way to speak out your feelings in prayer; Your worries, troubles, hopes or gratitude. Praying is an effective method of checking in with ourselves. It helps us identify and name our thoughts and concerns.
Meditating daily for just 10 minutes can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, improve your attention and concentration.
Scans of the human brain have proved that meditation can physically change its structure: by expanding or strengthening essential parts, or by creating new pathways and connections. This concept is known as 'neuroplasticity'.
Meditation heals trauma and so helps those of us affected by painful childhood issues. It does this by reducing the size of the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for negative emotions. It stores painful memories that remain unprocessed.
It's not as difficult as you might think to begin a meditation practice. There are tons of classes, online videos or mobile apps you can download. I personally use 'Insight Timer', which is a great app, full of short guided sessions and courses. Alternatively, you can begin by just sitting still and noticing your breathing; slowing it down if you can and working on stopping your mind wandering. The aim is to be in the present and to still the mind.
5/. Stretching / Exercise
Stretching for 20 minutes every day will increase your body's flexibility and improve your joints' range of motion. Your body functions better when you can move it comfortably.
Get your blood pumping with flexibility exercises designed not to increase adrenaline, but to lower stress levels and help to boost your mood.
If you're feeling more energetic, 20 minutes of vigorous activity, such as a run or some squat thrusts will activate your metabolic engine and help you burn fat faster. According to Robin Sharma, author of 'The 5 am Club', this kind of exercise will also reduce the stress chemical, cortisol.
TIP: Keep your exercise gear within easy reach so you are ready to go,
Fostering an attitude of gratitude can have a fantastic impact on your emotional health. Several studies indicate a positive relationship between feeling grateful and feeling happy.
Gratitude can help you appreciate your life, your relationships and your circumstances more. A positive mindset influences your brain chemistry in such a way that it can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reduce the risks of developing heart disease.
There are many books and online sources around the subject but you can start by simply keeping a daily 'Gratitude Journal'. This can be in notebook form - or, you can even join a Gratitude WhatsApp group. Either way, start a habit of writing down, each morning, ten things for which you are grateful that day. But don't just write stuff down; try to recall the feeling related to your gratitude. For example: if a friend did something kind for you, try to remember how you felt at that moment.
There are instant benefits to writing a gratitude list. Straightaway, you feel better; your perspective on life and life-situations is altered in a positive way. Once you start the practice, you'll wish you had started your day with an 'attitude of gratitude' long ago.
7. Make your Bed
This may sound simplistic but: If you want to make significant changes in your life, begin by making your bed. It's the first positive task of the day, and it re-enforces the notion that small things matter.
8/. Groom Yourself
Getting ready for the day is an integral part of the morning ritual. Psychologically, when you are wash and dressed, you will feel more confident and prepared for the day.
This task is self-explanatory. Take a shower, or a bath - according to preference, availability and time constraints. Moisturise, put on your clothes, and fix your hair.
9/. Read / Listen to Recovery or
I read daily recovery readings from my 12 Step Fellowship literature, but there are tons of inspirational or self-development books you could choose from.
Alternatively, you can read a chapter or a few pages of some learning material on a subject you are currently studying. Anything that inspires or nurtures spiritual and mental growth.
I also enjoy listening to audiobooks and find that these are a great way of absorbing knowledge. Again, you can choose from thousands of subjects. My current interest is in mental productivity and I'm listening to 'Hyperfocus' by Chris Bailey. My previous choice was 'Atomic Habits' by James Clear. Both of these books are packed full of useful information - including practical suggestions for improving mental performance and efficacy.
Eat a Good Breakfast
You know the cliche about breakfast being 'the most important meal of the day?' Well it's a cliche because it's true. It is essential to give your physical, mental and emotional self the right start to the day
What you eat when you 'break your fast' is a matter of individual preference and dietary requirements. That said: a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to sustain you for long and may play havoc with your blood sugar levels, leading to depleted energy and mood-swings.
Eggs are versatile, high in protein and will keep you properly fuelled until lunchtime. Cook them anyway you like and eat with wholegrain toast. Add tomatoes or preface your meal with fruit, for added vitamins and fiber.
If you're a cereal lover, then ground oats or cooked oatmeal are a good choice. As a low-carb alternative, Greek yogurt, topped with chopped fruit, berries, or nuts will help reduce your appetite while providing you with probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Make sure the yogurt contains live and active cultures.
You can make a smoothie or a protein shake, with many fruits, greens, seeds, nut butter, and protein powder, variations. There are recipes suited to all tastes and dietary regimes.
Fruit before or with breakfast is always a good idea. A large orange will provide you with more than 100% of the recommended daily for vitamin C - great for boosting the immune system.
A word about coffee: many people rely on caffeine for a morning kick-start and there's no doubt that a cup or two helps with mental alertness. But don't overdo it, otherwise you'll end up wired, restless and over-wrought - which is not the idea!
Brush your Teeth
Brushing your teeth may seem a mundane chore that we do automatically. It doesn't have to be. Brushing 'mindfully' is the suggestion here. Take the time; focus on the task.
Notice each stage and sensation of the process - such as how the brush feels against your teeth; the taste of the toothpaste;how the brush moves, and feels differently around the various parts of your mouth. Mindfulness means being present in the moment. Present in what you are doing - not changing anything; just noticing.
Step Work / Morning Pages
And, last but not least, is to do some journaling. If you're a 12-Stepper, a commitment to just 10 minutes daily, writing step-work will ensure you get your written work done in a consistent, manageable way.
If writing step-work is not for you, then how about doing 'Morning Pages'? This is free-form writing in an unedited way, writing as much or as little as you feel. The suggestion is three pages, but I find I write until I reach a natural stop. Journaling this way is kind of like a brain-dump. I write what's on my mind, about dreams I had during the night, or about the day ahead or goals and plans I have for the future.
Well, that's it! There you have it: my morning ritual. You could take on all the things I do or adopt parts - the choice is yours.
I'd love to hear about your morning ritual. You can experiment with any of my suggestions above, or create your very own routine, that's individual and fits you. Do let me know how you get on.
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