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How we spend the first hour of the morning can have a profound effect on how the rest of our day goes. If you typically start your days frazzled and frantic, try adopting a “power hour” morning routine for more calm, energy, and a great day ahead.
Put your phone away!
Do you find yourself reaching for your mobile first thing in the morning, as if on autopilot? Then we have news for you.
Studies say that up to 61 percent of people check their devices within the first five minutes of waking up, and it could be hampering your mental health.
Before we learn about what you should do in the first hour of your day, here’s what you shouldn’t—check your phone for emails or social media networking. Research shows, there is a correlation between reading work emails outside of work hours and our mental health. Studies also say that reducing the frequency of checking emails lowers overall stress. But we seem to be doing the opposite every single morning.
This has plenty of anecdotal support too. Checking emails or Twitter overwhelms you with a blast of information and makes you anxious about the day ahead. You find yourself already playing catch-up with the events of the day.
Instead, you can choose to pace yourself for the day by slowing down and going within.
The ancient oriental texts advocate rising early and for good reason. As cumbersome as it may sound to some of us, if you can manage to rise early, you stand to add a couple of valuable hours to your day before you have to get busy with your workday. This is your valuable ‘me time’ when you can be with your own thoughts—clear your head and empty your metaphorical cup.
There is the concept of ‘Brahmamuhurta’ found in ancient Vedic texts, which is the time between 3:30—5:30 am. This is a period of time when the sattva or purity in the consciousness is high, there are fewer thoughts in the mind and this time is conducive for contemplative practices, breathwork, yoga and meditation. This is also the time when artists, performers, athletes, and spiritual enthusiasts wake up to brush up their practices because the silence in the environment brings enormous focus and energy.
But here’s a warning. Do not try to make sweeping changes in your wake-sleep cycle right from day one. Begin with baby steps. For example, if you are someone who normally wakes up at 7:00 am, start by waking up 15 minutes earlier. Smaller changes are easier to sustain over time versus trying to keep up with sweeping unrealistic goals.
Begin your day on a note of gratitude. Letting the universe know what you are grateful for—whether it is relationships, money, family, a nice house, or a great job— helps draw in more of it.
According to Canadian researchers, the positive effects of gratitude are long lasting. The study showed that people who wrote thank you notes for just six weeks reported better mental health, less physical pain, more energy, and got more done every day.
A meta-analysis of intervention studies published in 2017 found that subjects who underwent gratitude interventions, “fared better on a number of outcomes. They saw ‘evident differences’ for well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, grateful mood, grateful disposition, positive affect, depression, optimism, and quality of relationships.”
These are qualities we don’t mind having more of in our day, right?
Read more about the healing powers of gratitude here.
Making the Perfect Bed
As you are being grateful, use the time to make your bed before stepping out of your room for doing other tasks. Doing something as simple as making your bed will start you out with a sense of accomplishment.
It is said that your outer environment influences your state of mind. If there is clutter outside, your mind may subtly reflect that as lack of clarity. So a neat and clean environment can make you happy and help you think clearly.
Have a Glass of Warm Water
Start your day on a hydrating note. Before you jump on the treadmill or roll out your yoga mat, make sure you have a glass of warm water. You can squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice and honey, too! This practice rinses your digestive system off toxins that get eliminated with your bowels. You instantly feel light and fresh. It also supports your weight loss goals, revs up your metabolism, and is a rich source of vitamin C and essential antioxidants.
We like to move it!
Now it’s time to get on your yoga mat. Start with light stretches and warm-up before gliding into the postures. Pro tip: whether it is yoga or any other form of exercise, put all your attention on the movement and the flow of prana or energy in your body. This will enhance the quality of your practice by several notches.
You may desire to lose a lot of weight quickly or get your body toned in a short time and so you go for intense workouts only to see that you are unable to bring yourself to the gym after day zero. Do not be too stuck on what you want to do. It is more important to start off with having some physical movement in the morning than trying to manifest that auspicious day when you would finally start with your kickboxing lessons. Some yoga or physical exercise will get your blood flowing; heart pumping; and endorphins and other happy hormones flowing. You will feel energized and raring to go.
The practice of yoga
- Increases blood flow in the body
- Oxygenates the system
- Corrects hormonal secretions
- Increases immunity
- Improves cellular metabolism
- Increases overall sense of well-being
- Makes the body stronger to respond to mental illnesses in a more efficient manner
- It increases prana or life force that translates into more vibrance and happiness.
Discover the Dinacharya: The Ayurvedic Daily Routine
Meditating in the morning, especially during the Brahmamuhurta, or golden hour, is a powerful way to take a qualitative pause before thoughts and worries rush in and take over your mind.
What the habit of brushing is for your teeth, meditation is for your mind—it cleanses and purges it of thoughts and impressions that do not serve you any longer. It completely detoxifies your mind and releases the stress in your system. It is an effective tool to increase your productivity.
The reasons to meditate can be physical, mental, and emotional, as well as spiritual. Studies suggest regular practice can
- Improve our physiological response to stress
- Lower the oxidative stress
- Reduce blood glucose levels
- Reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, where stress is a high-risk factor
- Reduce hormonal releases caused by stress: cortisol, corticotropin, blood lactate, ACTH, and plasma MDA
- Relax and de-stress the mind
- Boost productivity
- Establish a calm and peaceful state
- Help you realize inner happiness
- Improve metabolism
- Improve mood
- Improve focus
- Enhance your sense of well-being
- Increase connectedness, empathy, and acceptance
- Help with creativity and decision making
- Aid in pain management
- Improve and enrich relationships.
Here’s how you can learn to meditate and everything else you need to know about this subtle art of healing and de-stressing.
Especially now, spiritual tools like meditation and yoga serve an overarching purpose of improving people’s mental health and helping them cope with the unprecedented changes in our emotional, social, and professional lives brought about by the pandemic and other world events. (Read here about the benefits of yoga and meditation post-COVID.)
Chanting and Contemplation
After coming out of your meditation, spend a few minutes chanting (here are a few healing mantras for anxiety and depression) or reading a few pages of spiritual wisdom, something that will broaden your vision; help you stay centered; and guide you throughout your day through the labyrinth of multiple work-related or family situations, chaos, and ups and downs.
Full and Healthy Breakfast
Round off your power hour with a sumptuous healthy breakfast that has the right balance of proteins, vitamins, and healthy carbohydrates that give you energy. Do not skip the first and the most important meal of your day, no matter how busy your workday is. A growling stomach is not a great marker for productivity. You need a good breakfast after the night to maintain your glucose levels and for a fill of other nutrients. It helps you regulate your appetite and keep your weight under control while letting you focus on your work. Not eating a healthy breakfast, on the other hand, may push you towards overeating—or reaching for something lacking in any nutritional value—later in the day.