The Power of A Mindful Morning

Life is dynamic. Times are changing rapidly, and humans are in a constant state of adapt and survival. Our lives have become centered around the “grind” mentality. Work harder, achieve more, rise and grind, hustle. We have created these narratives and play them out over and over. Society evolves at a pace that feels nearly impossible to keep up with sometimes. We’re exhausted. Our lives are without quality time with our passions and a true connection with the people close to us, our attention is being bounced around from errand to errand and place to place when it isn’t being sucked in by media. We don’t feel inspired. We’re always in a hurry to get things done. We go through the motions, day in and day out, being carried through our lives by the same comfortable, monotonous cycle. And when we’re least expecting it, the world stops.

This is how the coronavirus pandemic found me, caught in a cycle, unconscious of my own health, well-being, mindset, and quality relationships. No inspiration, no motivation to improve, just stuck. Initially, I stood trembling in fear as the pandemic began to shut down the world I was so comfortable in. The uneasiness of an unknown future encompassed my thoughts, feelings, and overall attitude. The person I was before the pandemic was a major compulsive thinker. I always had a plan. I was obsessed with time. I was always on a set, strict schedule that only existed in my head, and if things didn’t go according to this fictional itinerary, I would break down mentally. This led to many panic attacks and days where I felt completely detached from reality due to living 100% in my head. This way of living only became worse through the first few months of the pandemic. I didn’t know what information to trust, who to believe, what would happen to my future plans and goals, or even when life would feel comfortable and normal again. I was evicted from this fake reality I had been living in for all my life and I felt like I didn’t know what was real anymore. The night after I had one of my worst emotional detachment episodes, I felt sick and tired of myself. I knew I did not have a good relationship with myself in my own head, but I didn’t know how to mend it or where to even begin. I felt as if the voice in my head and what I really wanted out of life were not on the same page. The dualism was driving me crazy, and I couldn’t take much more of the toll it was putting on me mentally.

I was sitting by myself in my room, scrolling through YouTube, trying to find something to distract me as was my normal nightly practice during quarantine. I came across a podcast with comedian Theo Von and his guest UFC superstar Suga Sean O’Malley. As I was watching it, I couldn’t help but relate to Sean as a young person and as someone who embraces that “grind” mentality. I realized, however, that he embraced it in a completely different way than I had ever experienced. He seemed so confident, calm, level-headed, yet still completely and genuinely himself. At first, I took this as just his personality, which does make up for some of it, but as I got deeper into the podcast, I noticed that he had trained himself to be this way. He mentions the confidence comes from knowing that he’s doing everything right as far as his training, diet, skillset, and lifestyle habits go. This same idea can be applied to everyday life and is something I felt like I have always pushed toward, but never had the guidance to achieve. As the podcast continues, Sean talks about his discipline in training and his commitment to his health. This surprised me greatly as not a lot of young people talk about health and well-being the way he does, and when they do, they’re so overzealous and more focused on pushing a product or a diet rather than being authentic and practical, the way Sean is.  I observed that he’s an incredibly deep thinker, very self-aware, and passionate about the growth and reaching his highest potential which attracted me even more to the message he is trying to spread. I wanted to be on that level. I wanted to know more.  

After going through Sean’s YouTube channel and watching a few vlogs and episodes of his podcast, I started to become a big fan of him and his personality, mindset, discipline, and perspective. I began to watch more and more of his content, listening to and embracing the lifestyle habits, starting with the morning routine. I’ve always been encompassed by routine and schedule, but when I began taking time in my morning to incorporate healthy, positive habits, my life and perspective started to shift dramatically.

My Mindful Morning Routine

  1. Rehydrate (chug about 16 oz of water)
  • Staying hydrated is a major game changer by itself. After integrating this into my mornings, I find myself feeling refreshed, more awake, more focused, and clearheaded. Since I am pretty active during the day, hydration is a very important piece of overall wellbeing, so starting my day with water is crucial.
  1. Journal
  • This step has become one of my favorite parts of the day. I usually take 5-10 minutes and flood my journal with whatever thoughts or emotions I’m experiencing in the morning. I also write and reflect on how the day before went, what my goals for the day are, and a few things I’m grateful for. The goals can be anything from errands or tasks to tackle for the day to personal intentions. Some intentions I include are things like “Be present”, “Be your true, authentic self”, and “Listen and connect”. Adding intentions gives me something to focus on and be mindful of throughout the day. My gratitude practice is sometimes superficial yet mindful in the same way. I may include that I am thankful for my family or my car, but I also try to add things like “opportunities to grow” and “access to food and water” and really sit with those feelings of gratitude toward things I take for granted. This allows me to start the day off feeling thankful to have woken up and have another opportunity to experience and carve my path. The Daily Stoic is another great tool I use while journaling. It contains a daily excerpt or quote from great Stoics and philosophers with a small elaboration from the author, Ryan Holiday. Adding this to my morning journal practice has proven to be extremely beneficial and another great way to set intentions for the day.
  1. Breathwork
  • The breath is much more powerful than most realize. The two things humans do the most in the course of a day is think and breathe, yet we don’t nurture and pay attention to those aspects and how they affect our mood and mindset. Building a stronger relationship with my breath has taught me two things: the breath is a doorway to embracing the moment, and the breath affects how you move. The breath is always with you. Being aware of your breathing and really feeling and observing yourself breathing is the first step to finding presence. In guided meditation, you are instructed to feel the breath in this way, not trying to control it, but sitting back and simply observing. If you find yourself lost in thought, you always come back to observing the breath. Once you become comfortable with letting go of control of the breath, you become comfortable letting go of a lot more, observing, feeling, and embracing the moment. Breath brings you presence. Not only can the breath be used in this way, but it also affects the way your skeleton is oriented. Depending on your frame and the way your ribcage has developed to bring in air efficiently, your body then compensates in the way it moves and stabilizes. For example, since I have a narrow frame and ribcage, my body is compensating in my exhalations by contracting my abdomen at the end of an exhale. There are many factors to this concept, such as the way I’ve trained my body to compensate finding stability by extending my spine, pushing my chest and my upper body more forward, and tilting my pelvis anteriorly, instead of standing with my diaphragm and pelvic floor in line with my pelvis tucked underneath of my ribs. This is the proper and most stable way to breathe, yet my body, through energy conservation and habit formation, has found it easier to stabilize in a more extended position, which can be detrimental to my range of motion and physical wellbeing. Through this idea and the guidance of Brandon Harris, I’ve learned that because of my pelvic orientation in some positions, the way my ribcage has formed, and being in chronic extension, I don’t get enough air to my upper back. He has helped me discover positions to put myself into to breathe in that will allow me to feel proper breath and get air to the upper back, benefitting my range of motion and stiffness/rigidity. My morning breathwork has shifted to playing with and breathing through these different positions as I go through the practice guided by breath experts on the XPT Developing this daily relationship with my breath has positively affected my movement, my ability to enter the present, the oxygenation of my brain and body, and helps me let go and downregulate my system to prepare for the next step of my routine, all in a 10 minute daily practice.
  1. Meditation
  • This piece of my routine is my favorite and maybe the most significant. If I ever am in a situation where I feel like I may not get through my full routine due to time constraints, I always make sure to get my daily 10-minute meditation in. Meditation has been the most influential and life-changing practice that I’ve implemented into my daily life. Coming from the place and mindset that I mentioned before, I never understood the power of meditation until I began practicing. It took me a while after hearing about it on the Timbo Suga Show podcast to try it out for myself. On multiple episodes of the podcast, Tim and Sean would talk about the use of the Waking Up app by neuroscientist Sam Harris for their daily meditations, so I decided to use it for my practice as well. The app requires a subscription, but the Waking Up team created a policy that allows you to contact them through email if you don’t have the money to subscribe, or if you’re just feeling out the practice and you’re not sure if you want to subscribe yet. They grant 100% of the requests and give the user a free year subscription that, of course, can be renewed through another email. This was very attractive to me and now I appreciate that they give people the choice and don’t force them to pay for the tools that everyone should have access to. The app takes you through a 28-day introductory course where Sam guides you through your choice of a 10- or 20-minute meditation each day. The course helps the user create a foundation of skills and tools used during meditation and everyday life such as breath focus, letting go, sensory awareness, observing your thoughts, and most importantly, redirecting yourself back to the present once you realize you’re lost in thought. That last skill is, in my opinion, the biggest takeaway from meditation besides learning about presence. In the beginning, I felt like maybe I just wasn’t good at meditation. I caught my mind wandering countless times throughout the practice and I felt like I just had no focus. I stuck with it, though, and stayed consistent and I learned that that is the point of the practice. My focus has improved, but I still find some days more difficult than others. Harnessing the ability to observe and redirect your thoughts has such a powerful influence on your mindset, how you perceive things, and learning more about yourself through what you’re thinking and how you react. Observing the self and coming to accept whatever is going on externally or in your own mind is a huge step toward self-awareness and growth; being content, here and now. Find your inner stillness. Connect with that stillness. Reorient yourself. These are things I began to tell myself daily and have continued to focus on. Observe, feel, redirect, connect, be present. Meditation will be a lifelong practice of mine. I get excited to explore and observe my own thoughts, feel the energy and breath in my body and connect with it as I embrace the moment, fully letting go and sitting with that contentment.

In the past year as I’ve put my attention toward my health and mind, my mood has been enhanced, my thoughts have become more positive, and I have started to enjoy and learn to fully accept the moment through my practices. I’ve found that by beginning the morning with positive intentions and conscious practice, that momentum will carry throughout the whole rest of my day. If I find myself in a rush and I skip this morning routine, I can feel the difference in my mindset, my thoughts, and my overall attitude. I feel anxious, think negatively, and sometimes even rationalize skipping other goals or tasks I initially planned to complete during the day. I’ve realized that taking the time to sit with myself and go through with this routine is extremely important for maintaining a present, conscious mind, even if that means getting up a little earlier in the morning. Consistency and discipline are crucial in all things and starting my day this way and with those intentions have allowed me to build a strong, consistent, disciplined mind. A solid morning routine is a simple, applicable base to build growth. Doing the small things correctly and persistently will add up. In the words of retired Navy SEAL, author, and podcast host, Jocko Willink, “Discipline equals freedom”.

Callie Boddy 

 

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