In Mental Health

I have a routine in the morning that helps me start off the day on a good note. I’ve noticed that if I jump out of bed first thing, my mind quickly fills up with things I need to do or worries about this or that. Or sometimes I merely move around in a sleepy daze. When I’m in my head too much, little things tend to bother me more, and I can be a bit moody. Luckily I don’t have much of a commute, but when I did these were the days I wasn’t so sweet and polite on the road.

Instead of being on automatic pilot, I pause before I get out of bed and practice some mindfulness tools that help me stay present in the moment. Each tool becomes an anchor and intention for the day; to just be myself, trust that everything will be ok when there’s uncertainty in my life, and not to take life too seriously.

Sharing these tools with my clients has been really effective as they share similar results. When I intentionally slow down, I notice my attitude is calmer and more patient, open to whatever the day brings. My clients have said if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and have limited time, these simple practices can truly shift their mindset and energy level. Some days are easier than others, so on the days where they might be feeling grumpy, fearful or anxious, these mindfulness practices can remind them to consider some basics. For example, if they didn’t get much sleep the night before, or missed a meal, they remember to have self-compassion and cut themselves a little slack.

Here are 3 mindfulness anchors I use each morning:

Just Breathe:
First things first: I take 3-5 slow deep breaths before I get out of bed. I breathe in from my belly for the count of 3, hold it for 3 and then enjoy an even longer exhale. Focusing on the rise and fall of my abdomen and listening to the sound of my breath draws my attention to the present moment. In turn, my body relaxes a bit and I feel alert and calm. (If I don’t do this, my mind tends to jump to the next 20 things I should be doing, which just increases my stress.) Breathing first allows me to check in and see how I’m feeling. If I woke up in a bad mood, noticing it allows me the opportunity to let it go, instead of it dictating how the rest of my day will go.

Moving Meditation:
Moving my body is next. I practice about 10 minutes of yoga (sun salutations). My muscles are pretty tight in the morning, so staying focused on my breath allows my body to slowly open up. I’m developing some flexibility not only in my body, but in my mind too. I’m also training my mind to stay focused by setting my gaze on the tree line outside my window. This keeps me from spacing out or jumping ahead to planning mode. Staying present in my body leaves me feeling at ease, resilient and even joyful.

Get Grounded:
Lastly, I stand in Mountain Pose, which is basically just standing up tall with my feet grounded on the floor. I look straight ahead and recite a favorite prayer to myself, or read an inspirational quote or think of some simple things for which I’m grateful. It always feels so much better when I start my day with an intention or reminder to simply do my best. Knowing no one is looking, I crack a cheesy smile to lighten up a little. I’ve learned that smiling takes less energy than frowning anyway.

The cool part is at any point of the day anyone can practice these mindfulness tools, even out in public. You can do it in a traffic jam, during a meeting/class to help pay attention, or when facing uncomfortable situations. Keep in mind, these tools are not necessarily quick fixes, but a practice. You want to do it every day so it becomes a healthy habit.

If you are interested in reading more about mindfulness or practicing meditation, I have listed some of my resources:
-Mindfulness-guided meditation teachers: Jon Kabat Zinn or Tara Brach
-Mindful magazine or
-Meditation app for youth and adults: Stop, Breathe and Think (my 2 favorite exercises are ‘Mindful breathing’ and ‘Relax, Ground, Clear’)
-Yoga Sparks: 101 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less (book)

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