Morning Rituals – The biggest game changer for my mental health and well-being

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I’ve always struggled against authority; always danced to my own drumbeat. If someone tells me that I ‘should’ do something, I won’t. Even if on a rational level I completely agree with them.

Kelley will say to me, “Wow, this book is amazing! You should read it when I’m finished.” Nope. Despite that book being on my must read list, my idiotic rebel mindset will now instantly disregard the book.

One of my proudest moments of my past is being summoned into a managers office and being told “The problem with you, Glenn, is that you are a troublemaker and a maverick”

A troublemaker and a maverick! It felt like I’d been given a promotion, a pay rise, and been made employee of the year all at once. But apparently, it was not meant to be taken as praise.

I’m a maverick, a free-flowing spirit. Nothing can tie me down. Rules were put there for the sole purpose of me to break them.

So when I first saw the words Discipline Equals Freedom, I initially scoffed at the idea that seemed to be firmly held by military types and religious devotees, two groups that I really did not relate to.

Over time, however, my own lack of discipline has on many occasions resulted in a fairly hefty bite on the arse.

You see I wanted to make some changes to my health. I wanted to lose some weight, get stronger, get fitter, breathe easier. But thus far my attempts had failed. I yoyo dieted. I swapped and change weight training programmes before I could actually get any gains. I started running with no concept of progression that I’d get injured. It left me feeling anything but free.

The constant trawling of magazines, gurus, and websites kept bringing up the same hidden advice. It pretty much didn’t matter what I did, I just had to be consistent. And to be consistent takes discipline.

When I started to approach my movement and my relationship to food with a modicum of discipline, everything became a bit easier. You might even say it created a bit of freedom for me to focus on other matters.

So one would assume that when I came to look at my own mental well-being I’d use the same disciplined approach. But alas, the maverick was still in wings, directing the proceedings.

I knew what I wanted to do, I just couldn’t seem to fit them into my day. It was so frustrating. I was making very little to no progress in any of the practices I wanted to do.

I wanted to meditate. I wanted to journal. I needed to fit in some more mobility. I wanted a little bit of time to myself with no distractions. I wanted to connect to something bigger than myself.

What I got was a mish-mash of failed attempts that happened at random times and left me feeling exasperated.

The answer to my conundrum was so embarassingly obvious it almost shames me to share. I just wrote down a timetable to stick to. “But timetables are for losers” sniggered the maverick whilst making the obligatory L on his forehead. I ignored him.

I wanted time to myself, but my lifestyle is pretty chaotic. If I got up before the rest of the household I’d be pretty much guaranteed time alone.

And Lo! The morning ritual was born.

What follows is what I do each morning. Some things may vibe with you, some may jibe with you. Take what you want, but you do you.

Get up early

I have given myself a window of between 6:00 and 6:33. I must be up by 6:33. Why 6:33? Just because. I get up, go to the toilet, splash some water on my face and go downstairs.

Hydrate –

clean clear cold drink

What I want is coffee. What I have is a homemade electrolyte drink that consists of water, Himalayan pink salt, lo-salt (for potassium), magnesium and lemon juice.

You see as the day wears on and we tax our brains with the complicated tasks we fill our days with, the brain produces Adenosine, a metabolite that makes us drowsier over the course of the day. It basically tells us when we have used the energy in the brain and when to rest it. Sleeping flushes the adenosine out, reducing it’s concentration in the brain.

Coffee wakes us up because it binds to the adenosine receptors instead of the adenosine itself. It acts almost like an antidote.

But upon waking our adenosine should be pretty low. Much of the grogginess of sleep may be from low electrolyte levels. We lose water and electrolytes through breathing, sweating and that midnight pee. Even more so if you mouth breathe (see this post on mouth taping and nasal breathing).

The electrolyte drink helps replace them. Don’t worry, you can have your coffee…just not right now.

Meditation

I have discussed in past posts (here) how I finally learnt to meditate. I spend between 15 and 20 minutes doing this. How you do it is entirely up to you, whether you use an app, mantra-based meditation, or breathwork (see here for box breathing), or just spend some time in quiet contemplation and stillness, whatever works for you.

Gratitude –

At the end of my meditation I think of 3 things that I am grateful for. This can be anything. There are no right or wrongs here. This practice helps me to take my perspective away from myself and focus on good things and people existing outside of me.

Now I put the kettle on –

I’m not a savage! While waiting for the kettle to boil, I go through my mobility flow.

Mobility Flow –

Simply put, I just move every joint through a full range of motions, starting with my neck and moving downwards, to warm up my ageing joints, get some fluid lubricating the stiff areas (don’t be rude!), and to liven my body up after it’s slumber. Something like the video below. (For best results play the video at the same time as the one below it.)

Make the coffee –

I use an Aeropress because:

  1. I’m a bit of a hipster and down with the kids, and..
  2. Because the guy who invented it also invented the Aerobie frisbee. This guy knows his shit.
food light fashion man

Journaling –

I have always liked the idea of journaling, and have started many attempts at the practice. This has resulted in a bookshelf full of mainly empty notebooks, the casualties of my lack of discipline.

After reading many accounts of successful journalistas, I soon realised that journaling was no different to building muscle or learning a new skill; you have to turn up each day and practice.

Following the advice from Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’, I committed myself to writing at least one whole page of long form writing. The subject matter didn’t matter, I could write any old drivel.

It was this practice that surprised me the most. I feel it has massively aided me in clearing my mind, resolving issues, and taking a ‘bigger picture’ view point of things that may be bothering me.

Just the act of putting pen to paper and concentrating on writing is a form of mindfulness. It calms me down. It wipes my mental slate clean.

After this act of mental flossing, I then fill out my more practical, productivity journal. I use the Bullet Journal system. It’s like the paper representation of my entire brain. Except indexed.

Oh yeah, and I drink my coffee whilst doing this.

Morning ‘prayer’ –

People who know me are often shocked by this bit. I’m not a religious man. Me and organised religion have never really got on. It seems they share the same view as my old manager.

But I do see the beauty in feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves; that we are more than the sum of our parts.

For some people this means god. For others, it’s an ideology.

For me it’s the feeling of being part of everything; my family, my community, Nature, the cosmos, being a tiny speck of stardust amongst an infinite number of other specks of stardust.

My ‘prayer’ consists of the recognition of these connections and giving thanks for them. I then also add in a non-religious version of the Serenity Prayer. I feel that this beautifully encapsulates the Stoic notion of the Dichotomy of Control.

The whole practice takes me just under an hour, just enough time before the rest of my household gets up, and this time of the year I am able to enjoy watching the sunrise at the same time.

The difference this practice has made to me and my mental state is palpable, and noticed by others too. I start my day with a real sense of calm and composure. Now this isn’t always how I end my day, but it’s real progress for me.

If circumstances mean I am unable to carry out my morning ritual for any length of time, I really start to feel it. The benefits are so tangible that the pros outweigh the cons a hundred fold.

Prior to this I had never been a morning person, but now I truly understand the sentiment ‘win the morning, win the day’.

I meet the day at my place of choosing. I focus on myself so that I am working at my optimal level. This way I am infinitely better able to serve those that need it.

So rather than hit that snooze button, why not face life with serenity and peace, then grab it by the balls and win your day?

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