Seeking Connection: Mindful mornings for a great day

The world’s most successful people all have a structured morning routine. They know that we should intentionally start the way we want to finish.

Are you someone who hits the snooze button until the last minute and then rushes around to get to work or school? The snooze button is simply another arrival fantasy, a way to put off your own happiness. You’re telling your subconscious that the day will suck anyway, so what’s the point of even starting it?

Our natural cortisol levels are highest around 6 to 7 a.m. This is helpful to raise our blood pressure after sleep and give us the energy needed to get on with our day. But if you are someone who is chronically stressed (and who isn’t it?), you awaken with a system overloaded with stress hormones, which can lead you directly into a state of worry and hurry. Unless you actively and intentionally calm your nervous system, your first thoughts will be of overwhelm and expectation.

Or do you hate mornings because you’ve convinced yourself that “you just aren’t a morning person?” Might I suggest that is just a tired tale? Remember, sometimes the voice in our head is a dirty liar. Waking up with a negative attitude is a changeable habit.

Want to have the best day ever? Follow this schedule. It will take as little as 20 minutes. It might entail setting your alarm a little earlier, but I promise you’ll be more energetic and productive for the rest of the day.

Gratitude (two to five minutes)

As soon as you awaken, lie in your cozy bed for a few minutes and think about all the things you have to be grateful for in that moment. Remember that those higher cortisol levels means we have a tendency to immediately start worrying about the day ahead, so we must actively choose mindful gratitude to flip that hormonal switch. Just one positive thought can change the direction of your whole day.

Water (one to two minutes)

Drink a glass of water. Without water, our cells cannot survive. We naturally awaken a little dehydrated; we just went seven or eight hours without drinking anything! This is worse if you ate a salty meal or enjoyed a nightcap the night before. So 12 to 16 ounces of water (at room temperature, to help you absorb it easily) will kick start your cellular functioning.

Mindfulness practice (three to 10 minutes)

Meditate, practice a mindful minute, repeat your affirmation or perform a body scan. As long as you are breathing deeply and mindfully, it doesn’t mater what your mindfulness practice looks like. But remember to breathe through the nose to create nitric oxide (NO2). This miracle drug expands your blood vessels to improve the oxygen saturation in your blood.

Say it’s so, Joe (three to 10 minutes)

Enjoy a perfect cup (or two) of coffee. Coffee contains caffeine to help our sleepy brains wake up and antioxidants that prevent tissue damage. As a matter of fact, Americans get more antioxidants from coffee than anything else; while fruits and vegetables contain tons of antioxidants, our bodies absorb the most from coffee. Nothing comforts me like the smell of brewing coffee first thing in the morning. And that’s no accident. Even smelling coffee changes brain proteins to lower stress levels.

Supercharge your coffee by adding some fat. Our bodies need macronutrients (fats, protein and carbohydrates) to work well. Since our brain is comprised of about 60 percent fat, eating good fat is biomechanically our best form of energy. Ghee, or clarified butter, has been used for centuries to heal the gut, strengthen the immune system, grow strong hair, hydrate skin and keep energy levels stable. All you need is a teaspoon or two in your coffee to give you lasting energy all morning. Bioflavonoids in coffee intensify neural firing in the brain, improving our focus and recall. The ghee slows the absorption of the caffeine to sustain our energy for hours, balance hormones and boost cognitive function. Don’t have ghee lying around? Use high-quality grass-fed butter instead.

Get moving (five to 30 minutes)

A little bit of movement goes a long way. Your body has been on standby mode while you slept. Reboot and energize it by moving your joints and stretching your muscles. Try some gentle yoga poses to jumpstart your circulatory and lymphatic systems. Better yet, lace up and get outside for a short walk. Early-morning blue light lowers anxiety and depression levels. A happy brain finds it easier to stay present in the moment.

Power shower (four to eight minutes)

Very cold temperatures trick the body into thinking it’s in survival mode.

Take a power shower, or a two-minute shower in the coldest water you can stand. This stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, causing the body to make more of these organelles to power your cells.

If you want the dream ending, you have to make your beginnings count.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel. Follow her on Twitter @erinsmithauthor.