How we spend the first hour of our day has a significant effect on how we experience the rest of the day. Did you know that when we wake up, our brain operates at 10.5 wave cycles per second? This is critical, as scientists have found a correlation between the frequency of brain waves and the body’s state. The range from 8 to 13 cycles per second is called the alpha stage, also known as the gateway to the subconscious mind. This essentially means that this impressionable time window is when our brains truly act like sponges. It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that our morning routines influence our subconscious mind.
With that, here’s a few of my morning rituals that enable me to experience days filled with productivity, positivity, and peace.
I keep a yoga mat beside my bed as a reminder to stretch as soon as I wake up. Stretching first thing in the morning helps to alleviate any tension or pain from your previous night’s sleep, as well as increases blood flow. It also has the positive effect of boosting your mood and alleviating stress as it tends to lead to a more mindful state. I alternate between a combination of static stretches (holding a stretch for a few minutes), and dynamic stretches (more active moments that are not held in the end position). I love this ritual because it’s not only a physical practice, but an emotional one as well.
Visualization, Affirmations & Prayer
The practices of visualization, affirmations, and prayer are perhaps the greatest part of my morning routine. Creating a mental image of yourself doing something activates the same brain areas that experiencing that situation would. For example, one study used MRIs to reveal that practicing self-affirmation activates the reward centers in your brain by firing up neural pathways. Crazy, right? Our brains are so powerful. Affirmations are also another effective way to instill positive messages into our subconscious. Studies have even confirmed that self-affirmation alters the brain’s response to health messages and even leads to subsequent behavior change. Finally, prayer is key for me. Talking to God in the morning is the best way to relieve my burdens by casting my cares on Him, and leads to a greater sense of trust and peace in the events that unfold later in my day.
Journaling is another beautiful way to release the worries in your mind in a healthy manner. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just get a book that can serve as a private place for you to write out your feelings. It truly is cathartic. Sometimes I’ll even journal dreams that I recall from my previous night’s sleep — a great opportunity to look at what is occurring in my subconscious mind. Journaling is also a great way to focus on your goals for the day. I have one page dedicated to my “yearly” goals, which I’ll look at each morning, followed by pages for daily goals. If you’re like me, your mind may constantly jump from one task to the next. Having a journal to check-off my to-do’s is very helpful.
Hot & Cold Therapy
I’m a huge fan of saunas. The benefits of sweating go beyond the body – through improving cognitive functioning, decreasing stress hormones, and even boosting endorphins. I purchased a powerful, portable, and budget-friendly infrared sauna from a company called Relax Sauna, and it was a great investment in my overall health (if you use the code “wellnstrong” you can get 15% off your purchase). During that 15-minute session, I’ll usually play a meditation soundtrack from the Honest Guys, or simply just the sounds of the ocean’s crashing waves. Following my sauna session, I’ll jump right into a cold shower. It’s difficult at first, however the more you do it, the more your body is better able to deal with the cold. Cold water therapy has been shown to boost the immune system, improve circulation, boost energy levels, reduce inflammation, improve metabolic function, and improve your mood. Furthermore, studies have shown that cold water exposure also increases stimulation of the vagus nerve – as your body adjusts to the colder temperature, sympathetic activity declines, while parasympathetic activity increases.
Warm water with lemon
Starting your day with warm lemon water is one of the best things you can do for your digestive system. The minerals and vitamins found in lemon juice have been shown to encourage healthy digestion, interacting with the other essential enzymes in your stomach and stimulating the secretion of gastric juices. Lemons are also rich in phytonutrients, which contain powerful antioxidant properties, preventing cell damage from oxidation. Last but not least, lemon water helps to cleanse the liver as it stimulates the liver to flush out toxins.
I hope you consider incorporating some (if not all) of these morning rituals and observe how your days start to improve!