There cannot be enough said about the importance of preparation when you live in Los Angeles. A prepared individual will have the upper hand in practically any circumstance. When it comes to morning routines, some people put their alarm clocks on the other side of the room, catapult themselves out of bed, and get their days started immediately. I’m not that person. Why? I want to be prepared for my day before it starts.
Now, I throw no shade toward those in Los Angeles who need to sleep in their workout gear and zombie walk to the treadmill with one eye open. This morning routine below has simply worked for me and I share it in hopes that it might help you as well. It has helped me approach my day with a more positive attitude and I have also observed a significant bump in self control throughout the day.
I recently realized that the self control bump I get from my morning routine makes me feel accomplished and, well, happier. According to a study detailed in Frontiers in Psychology, the trait of self control is pretty darn powerful. It is “associated with . . . higher academic achievement, better health, more interpersonal success, and less maladaptive adjustments.” Wow, if my horizontal morning routine can get me all of that, I’m in forever!
Whether it’s self control, a positive start to the morning, or just my affinity for my 1,000 thread count sheets, I stay in bed for a few minutes after I wake up. Here’s my stay-in-bed-preparing-for-the-day morning routine:
Ten deep breaths
Maybe I’ve listened to too many interviews with Wym Hof, but I love waking myself up with some deep breathing. Here’s how I do it. First of all, I OPEN MY EYES. If I keep even one eye closed after my alarm goes off, I’m toast. I can’t stress this enough — you must commit to waking up when your alarm goes off. And that’s that.
Second, I take five quick deep breaths as if I’m long-distance panting. I try to fill my lungs with as much air as I can as quickly as possible and then expel as much of it as quickly as possible. I fill up my lungs like my Amazon cart on Black Friday and I squeeze out my lungs like my tube of mega-expensive Parisian moisturizer. And then, I repeat four more times.
These five fast and deep breaths wake me up for good and, I think, get my blood pumping. It feels like flipping the on/off switch of my body and draws a very finite line between being awake and being asleep.
The next five breaths of my ten-breath wake up routine are slow. These are left over from my days as a professional singer. I form my mouth as if sucking air through a straw and then slowly fill my lungs. The exhales of these five breaths are akin to a “ha” that releases not only my mouth but the rest of my body. Hooooooooo . . . Haaaaaaaaaa. (I know, I know — I sound cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but it works for me).
When I exhale, I let my muscles release and my energized body open itself up to the perfect day in Los Angeles. Here’s the other aspect of those second five breaths:
Five breaths of gratitude
For my second five breaths, I think of five things for which I am grateful. On my inhale, I think something like, “I’m grateful to have a beautiful and cozy Los Angeles home.” And then, on my exhale, I say a mental thank you to my home and appreciate the fact that many people do not have this.
I do the same thing four more times. Hoooooooooo. “I’m grateful for the love of this sweet cat sleeping on my stomach.” Haaaaaaaaaa. “Thank you, Abby, for being my faithful companion and for keeping me warm at night. I’m lucky to have a furry friend like you.”
You get the idea. There are many articles written these days about gratitude practices. A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology states that, “gratitude exercise(s) decreased depressive symptoms” in their participants and the folks at Harvard Medical School say that “giving thanks can make you happier.” Yes, please and some more. I’ll take all the depressive symptoms removal and happiness I can get these days.
Most of us self-improvement research readers know that a gratitude practice is good for us (in many ways), but I have found that the morning is the best time for me to do this. First, if I don’t do it in the morning, life (and my two-year-old) get in the way and I just never do it. Second, by setting myself up in what I call “gracious mode” before I leave my bed, I set the tone for the rest of the day.
I have found that, by breathing through five things on my gratitude checklist first thing in the morning, it makes me appreciate more things as I go throughout the actions of the rest of my day in Los Angeles.
Give the day a title
I’m not a fan of multitasking. At all. So, after I do my morning breathing, I give each of my days a title. I ask myself: What will the book of today be called after the last chapter is written?
Sure, we all do a myriad of different things throughout our days. Driving to the store, calling our friends to wish them happy birthday, taking out the trash. Everyone has to participate in the mundane tasks of life stuff every day. But, what will your day be ABOUT?
The point of this exercise is to keep my mind on one thing throughout the day. When I give a title to each of my days, I not only identify the most important thing on my “to do” list, but I also help prevent myself from getting distracted. I have a GOAL for the day and whenever I start doing something else like responding to an email or folding laundry, I do it quickly because I want to get back to what my day is about.
Incidentally, the titles of your days don’t have to be business-related. And they can vary from day to day. For instance, today happens to be American Thanksgiving. The title of my day today is “Focused Family Fun.” So, why am I writing this article? Well, my family is all still asleep. This article is the prologue to my day’s work. When they wake up, I’ll close my computer.
Wring out your body
Last but not least, I love to stretch my body while I’m still in bed. The weight of the covers provides a little bit of needed resistance in some of my stretches and it just feels good to roll around in the warm sheets before I get up.
Additionally, as a former NASM certified personal trainer, I know that movements in the transverse plane (twisting movements) are not only one of the best ways to help your body be more agile, but they also reduce your risk for injury.
So, after I breathe and give my day a title and I’m laying on my back, I stretch my left arm out to the side, cross my left leg over to the right side of my body, and hold that position for a minute or so. Then, I go to the other side. Right arm out to the side, right leg crosses across the body. I usually gently pull my knee to the bed with my opposite hand (left hand to right knee that’s crossing).
I then arch my back, lift my chest up to the ceiling, and stretch the front of my body. And then, I put my hands behind my head and lift my head and neck up to look at my stomach and stretch the back of my neck. And that’s it. Two stretches and I’m ready to go. (I stretch after my workout as well, but those aren’t in my bed).
I, of course, have things I do in the morning after I get out of bed, but it has been very helpful to me to prepare for my day while I’m still horizontal. Anything can happen after I leave my bed. I could step on my cat or see a parking ticket I didn’t pay. If I set myself up for success before I have any other external input, I can make sure that my day is off to the best possible start.