As someone who struggles with stress, I was on a mission to improve specifically the start of my day, and find ways to incorporate mindfulness into my mornings. I wanted to share my personal journey towards a mindful morning routine that’s been helping me start with a more relaxed and centered mindset. It’s taken me a few years to figure out what works best for me, but I’ve finally found things that work for me, and that make a positive impact on my day.
I hope by sharing my experience, it might inspire you to reflect on your own first hour after waking up, and see how you can perhaps take on the day without the weight of life on it. Remember, what works for me might not work for you, but anyway, here’s what’s been helping me so far
After trying out different strategies, I discovered a lot of things that did not work and a few low-effort practices that have made a difference for me:
Consistent Wake-Up Time: I found that waking up at the same time every day has helped me feel more rested and energized in the mornings. If you know me, you know sleep is a terrible experience for me. I have days and weeks with just up to four hours of sleep. Some weeks I lay in bed for many hours, unable to fall asleep.
So clearly I have no control over the start of my sleep. Maybe not really over the middle. However, ending my sleep, I can control. I can force myself to wake up at a certain time during the day. Hoping that it slowly helps build up a routine. And it seems to be working. I dream more, I have a bit more sleep. And I get less frustrated when I can’t seem to fall asleep.
Deep Breathing: Taking just a few minutes to focus on my breath has been a game-changer in helping me feel calm and centered at the start of my day. Okay, maybe I am not doing minutes yet. My patience is pretty thin. But, I have certainly started to put focus on my breathing a lot more.
I try to realize when I stress my body how I am breathing. And I try to wake up and make sure I am calm and take my time to do things. Then I take a few moments here and there to just do nothing and inhale deeply a few times through the nose. Pause and hold. And then slowly let it exhale.
It seems to help, it forces me to do everything a bit slower, to take my time for whatever I am doing. And it calms nerves, lowers stress, and I can focus better.
Gentle Stretching: I was actually surprised to find that even a few minutes of gentle stretching can help release any tension I might be carrying and bring me into the present moment. Me and pilates, yoga, and doing healthy things. It just isn’t me. I honestly just want to live my life. But, I can not deny that taking a breather on the balcony, despite what weather it is.
Leaning against the railing, stretching my legs and arms, my back, and trying to improve my pose. Well, it seems to be easier and easier. Damnit, I hate it when people are right. 90% of what I tried really doesn’t work, but when I found what worked for me, I was not disappointed, just disappointed in myself that I didn’t do this for the last 25+ years.
Active Conversations and Journaling: Although I try to stay active in online conversations with friends on omboards.com forums and discord.gg/floris, I know that sitting down and journaling can also be incredibly helpful for me. Journaling allows me to reflect on my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a more structured and personal way. Heck, I am writing this blog at the moment just to get thoughts out of my mind I guess.
By taking a few minutes to write down what’s on my mind, I can gain clarity, relieve stress, and maybe even track my growth over time. I wish I would make this a more regular habit, as I know it would be beneficial for my overall well-being. And yes, I do tend to delete what I write. I switch apps, I switch to paper, I try all sorts of stuff. Lists, long-form, Twitter style blobs of text. I can’t say I have found what really seems to be ‘my thing’, but sharing thoughts with others, or writing down private thoughts .. it gets it out of my mind, and it lowers my stress.
Another reason I do this is to force myself to focus on something that is 100% “me”, so my day starts with me, not with waking up and instantly having to deal with the big stress point of the day, which 8/10 times (if we’re honest about it), is about someone else, or for someone else.
Healthy Breakfast: Taking the time to sit down and enjoy a nutritious breakfast has not only been a treat for my taste buds but has also been beneficial for my physical and mental well-being. And this is kind of a lie. I am still that person that doesn’t want breakfast right after waking up. Heck, when I feel productive I don’t even think about food.
So I try to force myself, my body, and my mind, to learn that after waking up, part of the routine is to deal with the dishes, with some food, some drinks (more about that in a second), and instead of a sandwich or leftover pasta, or something (probably pretty) unhealthy. I try to have a small bite of something healthier. Be it some fruit or whatever.
In the Spring period, I love walking to the store to get the fruit as part of that routine. It’s really uplifting my spirit to see everything in bloom, the warm morning Sun rays and coming home with something nice to eat on my comfy chair on the balcony.
Eh, you know me, I don’t really do breakfast, so this does feel like a deliberate chore still. I am still trying to find my balance.
Mindful Sipping: I’ve found that taking a moment to simply do nothing and prepare a cup of tea or orange juice has become my own form of meditation. Because meditation is just not me. Well, I want it to be, I just .. can’t get into that space somehow. So, I try to find other ways.
During the time I take for a comfy morning sip, I allow myself to focus on the present moment, savor the taste and whatever, and intentionally bring happy thoughts to mind. This small act has become a grounding ritual that helps me start my day with a sense of peace and calm. And yes, *cries in caffeine*, sometimes the routine of making a mokka pot for a strong morning coffee wins, baby steps right?
I’ve blogged about it before that I try to have tea instead of coffee, and orange juice instead of tea, and water instead of soda, and that I try to filter my water.. Slowly trickling down to a habit of sugar-free mornings. But boy a cuppa of java is so good. And I truly believe that if that urge is there and makes you happy: fuck life, do it. It’s all about what makes us happy right?
But, .. try. Try to improve the intake of food and drinks in the morning. It seems to make a difference.
Talking about walks: Nature walks! Getting outside and taking a short walk in nature can help you connect with the environment and ground yourself. And I am fat and tall and I feel old. My body hurts, my mind is like a diesel engine in the morning, it needs to warm up.
So bicycle rides and walks – while great – are really a challenge and a chore. So, I started by walking around more in the apartment. Just doing more made me walk more in the morning. I didn’t get up from bed and sit down behind a computer. And from there, I forced myself to throw the trash out downstairs, check the mailbox, and which means I tripled the distance I walked in the morning. From there I just walk around for a minute outside, before going back upstairs again.
Eventually, my body got used to the obvious easy stuff. Stressing it with walks to the grocery store for some fruit and milk, fresh veggies, was less of a challenge and more just time-consuming.
Unfortunately, the Winter season really kills it. Hard and cold rain keeps me inside, of course. But I try to enjoy how nature looks in the Spring and Fall season. Anyway, tiny walks can lead to longer distances. And they both can lead to frequent walks. And that’s really good.
I honestly believe the best three things for improved health is to improve your sleep, lower your stress, and to walk more.
Affirmations: Repeat positive affirmations to yourself to boost your confidence and set a positive tone for the day. And no, you don’t have to be a hippy or snowflake and pretend to impress yourself. Stay true to yourself. Acknowledge who you are as a person. You know in your mind and heart who you are, and what your weaknesses and strengths are. Waking up and taking some time for yourself can lead to a little moment where you can realize “Hm, I made that effort, I am indeed having a nice morning.. “. And let go of that thought.
I truly believe that going around telling yourself how amazing you are and you’re a winner, a strong confident person .. is just fooling yourself (hear me out). In the long run, you’re going to find yourself and instead of embracing some truths, you will feed stress and depression. And yes, you are confident, you are a great person, and all that. But life’s heavy, it’s not perfect. Nobody is perfect.
Being real to the moment you are in. Finding out or realizing that you’re having a nice morning and that there is stress, or maybe less stress in your life. It helps a lot more. It builds confidence.
Anyway, I am not your doctor, I just share what seems to work for me. Be positive about yourself, just don’t fake yourself, we don’t want manifestations to backfire and undo all the hard work you’re putting in.
I also briefly want to mention that I try to practice gratitude: I try to take a moment to reflect on what I am thankful for and mentally list them out to start the day with a sense of gratitude. But I have to be honest. I am hard on myself, it really is a microsecond, and 90% of the week I ignore this almost on purpose.
I am working on it. I am slowly learning that what I do and achieve in life means something to me. Despite the society and culture around me. And that my life is how it is, not by my choice (for the most part), and what has been perceived as what means something in life, versus what I can do .. is part of why I have stress, why I fight depression.
However, I have to learn that I am grateful for what I have, but, for the things that I have achieved on my own. If I am in a position where I can have the time in the morning to try and improve my life. I am grateful that I have worked hard to get to that spot in my life in which I can. (I do not know how to explain this without deep diving into my visual disability and whatever.. I don’t want to do that. Maybe read between the lines, and assume some things.)
Okay, before I go, besides walking and because of my disability (no car/license), I daily transport on my bike. So I have: Daily Bicycle Rides! I’ve been trying to make daily bicycle rides a part of my routine as a way to incorporate light exercise into my mornings. Not only does it give me a chance to get outside and enjoy the fresh air ~ but maybe break my routine of being inside my apartment a lot of the time.
It also seems helps me improve my endurance and breathing over time. I find that starting my day with a light workout like a walk or a bike ride leaves me feeling energized and ready to tackle the day ahead. I maybe am finding out I prefer it over having breakfast, or at least to get a walk or bike ride in, before having breakfast.
Well, that’s basically it, and I thought I was going to just post a quick list. Here I am again writing half a novel. Sorry about that.
Honestly, though, the key is to start small and just not care. Turn a little thing like a healthier breakfast into a regular part of your routine. Over time, you might find that some of these things that worked have become a natural step after waking up. Which gives you time to try something else.
Also, what has been really helpful for me is to acknowledge when my routine falls off track and simply move on from it. It’s taken some time for me to figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of reducing stress and improving my mornings, but I’ve learned that even small changes can have a big impact.
Starting a mindful morning routine can be hard work and a challenge, especially for those battling stress and depression. But, trust me, the effort is worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much more relaxed, centered, and ready to face the day you can feel after incorporating just a few simple practices into your morning routine. So, don’t give up, surprise yourself. And I will try to keep at it myself.
If you made it this far into this blog post, my apologies for it being longer than I initially expected. I hope you sort of understand my fuzzy brain thoughts. I appreciate that you read this, and by all means, give me a message if you want to have a chat about it.