You don't have to wait for your birthday or a national holiday, you can make every day special as soon as you open your eyes with some simple mindfulness rituals.
I know we've been talking about sleep, but mornings are just as important. Your sleep life and your waking life are connected. How you behave during the day affects your sleep, and how you sleep at night has a profound influence on your waking day.
Preparing for the transitions between these two fundamental phases of daily life can enhance both. A relaxing bedtime routine helps your nightly sleep and sets you up for a better, more productive day. A morning routine gets your day off on the right foot and has benefits that extend to your night's rest.
Taking time to create rituals that focus on sleep can allow you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. They also help you wake feeling refreshed and prepared to meet the demands of your day.
Morning is the critical time to set your rituals, as this is when your thoughts for the day take shape. If you consciously shape your thoughts and practices for the morning, you will transform the experience of your day. Here are seven rituals to bring a grounding to your mind and body that will ripple through your day.
Each morning, we experience a major shift in consciousness known as 'waking up'. We are so used to this, we don't even notice anymore, but we move out of a sleep state into full-body awareness. It can be magical to try and capture this moment. To do this, just be aware – "I'm awake". Bringing consciousness into your very first moments will transform your day and bring more mindfulness and presence into your entire day.
One minute body scan
A mindfulness practice, known as the body scan, allows you to be aware of your body in bed before you considering getting up. The idea is to let your awareness pass through your body. Start with your feet and see how they are feeling. Then move to the ankles, the calves, the knees and ask the same question. Are they feeling cold or warm? Can you feel the contact on the bedclothes? Work your way up to your face and the crown of your head.
Don't try to change anything; just become fully aware of how you feel in your body at this moment. If you come to any aches or pains, try not to judge them in any way, and if your mind wanders (as minds do), perhaps to find out why the aches and pains are there, just come back to the body and its feelings or sensations as they are.
Choose your outfit, choose your emotions
Imagine walking into a wardrobe full of emotions, where you can browse and pick out the emotion you fancy feeling for the rest of the day. Well, you can. Emotions are entirely within our control, and this is at the heart of mindfulness. Your day won't be any different - events, both good and bad, will happen. It's not these events that change how we feel but how we choose to react to them. And although we can't change what's happening, our reactions are entirely under our control.
I am not saying this is easy, but acknowledging that this is possible is the first step, and then if you do all seven steps each morning, you'll get pretty good at emotional self-mastery. Not sure which emotion to choose? Gratitude is an excellent choice, as it keeps positive emotions in our hearts and minds.
If you love to fall out of bed and into the shower to wake up, try to switch your routine to include an all-over body massage. Most people have clinically dry skin because water is very drying on the skin. Throw soap and a little dose of 'I never have time to moisturise' into the mix, and dry skin is simply unavoidable.
So why not use your shower time to wash, massage and moisture at the same time mindfully. You may already be using a facial oil, but have you considered using shower oil? If you are addicted to frothy clean, then remember many shampoos and shower gels use MEA/DEA derivatives - a type of surfactant used to produce a foaming effect. These derivatives are associated with known carcinogens and an ingredient Neal's Yard avoid like the plague!
Get addicted to smelling the balancing blend of wild rosehip, organic geranium and patchouli essential oils instead. Your skin, mind and body will be glad you did. Try the Wild Rose Shower Oil. The fact that the essential oils are also anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and instantly uplifting, well, that's just a bonus. As you get into the shower, apply to wet skin and breathe in the lovely aromas. Massage until the oil transforms into a soft milky lather to protect your skin and get the most of the mind, body and skin benefits, then imagine the shower washing all your tension, worry, aches and pains down the plughole.
Sitting for long periods might be unavoidable when you are working, so it's important to move your body. A good stretch in the morning, with short intermittent stretches throughout the working day, is always a good idea. The spine wants to move in all the ways it can – forwards, backwards, side-to-side and twisting. Unless we suffer from back pain, we tend to take the spine for granted, so perhaps it deserves a bit more love in the morning!
Grab a mat and do some yoga poses – child's pose, cat/cow pose, a simple spinal twist. There are some ideas on my website in the simple self-care section, or you can go on the internet, but really, your body knows what moves it wants to do. Stretch out what feels good, any moves you remember from your gym classes, or simply grab a yoga book for guidance.
If you do some meditation in the morning already, this will have a massive impact on your day and how you relate to people and stressors that pop up (but you'll know this too). If you don't, just try taking a few minutes to breathe. Don't try to force yourself to breathe faster or slower. Just sit and observe the breath (oh, and by the way, you are now meditating!).
You could apply a relaxing essential oil to your pulse points and breathe in soothing aromas. Our sense of smell tends to direct messages to our brains, so when breathing in calming scents, it signals the brain for us to relax. I use the Meditation remedies to roll for this as it's preblended and safe to use directly on the skin. This blend is the perfect way to encourage mindfulness throughout the day. The relaxing aromas of frankincense, vetiver and sandalwood come together to create a moment of inner calm for a feeling of enhanced wellbeing.
And it's not just for mornings - keep in your handbag and apply throughout the day to help you pause, take a breath, and enjoy the moment.
Breakfast – the mindful way
Do you eat breakfast? Feeling hungry is a vital element of good digestion. Most of us now eat out of habit, so hunger is a sensation we often cheat ourselves out of. When you feel hungry, it sets the scene for eating mindfully.
In his book, The Slow Down Diet, by Marc David, he discusses the concept of eating for pleasure, energy and weight loss. His philosophy is based on being more mindful and present. By ensuring you remove distractions like the TV and your smartphone, by taking a few relaxing breaths before you eat, and choosing quality over quantity, you can learn to enjoy your meals. You can also improve digestion and harness the power of slowing down to feel nourished and fulfilled each day.
If you don't feel hungry in the morning but need to eat before you go to work, try ginger tea, which will stimulate your hunger. Be aware of your tummy and how it feels when it is ready for food, and when you eat, eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful. This awareness of both hunger and taste is a fantastic tool that will keep you mindful throughout your day.
And remember to enjoy the little things, as these moments help us create better health and wellbeing in all aspect of our lives.
Eat. Sleep. Meditate. Repeat.