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Improving your energy with small rituals

Are you one of those few lucky people who wake up in the morning and jump out of the bed with full energy and lots of enthusiasm? Or do you need one or two hours and a strong coffee to really wake up and then still have to drag yourself to work?

Do you feel drained and tired at the end of the day but still can't switch off your buzzing brain?

If you are a bit like me – and most of the people I know – then your brain wakes up even before you, and is already on full speed under the shower, reminding you of every call you forgot to make yesterday and the pile of work waiting at your desk. Then you get stuck in traffic, or you miss the metro and you run late, grumpy and already emotionally exhausted.

Setting up some rituals at the start and end of each day can improve profoundly how you experience the day – and eventually how you sleep and then kick off the next day.

By finding a routine that corresponds to your very unique needs and wants, paired with some straightforward tips, you can increase your energy level step by step. The following tips are only guidelines to give you an idea. I invite you to pick whatever resonates with you, try it out for a couple of days or even a week and see if you notice a change.

Morning routine

"Never get up when you are not fully awake!", this sentence was repeated again and again by mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn in a retreat I attended recently. It sounds very simple, but how often do you really get up fully awake, with all senses switched on and entirely aware of what you are doing?

When the alarm goes off, the sense of hearing is used to wake up. How about not hitting the snooze button but opening up all senses: feeling the body lying in the bed, feeling the contact to the matrass and the bed linen, feeling the temperatureof your body and of your face, smelling the air in the bedroom, listening to all the sounds inside and outside of the room, looking around and arriving in this moment, arriving to this "brand-new day" (again Jon Kabat-Zinn). Feeling the breathcoming in and out of the body. Maybe expressing gratitude for having woken up, gratitude for breathing and for your whole body which is working well.

Then feeling your body move, feeling your feet touching the floor when getting up.

If you are a morning meditator, you could start the day with a mindfulness meditation on the breath, to ground and centre yourself for the day ahead. I honestly feel a difference in how I meet my children and my partner if I had the chance to meditate early in the morning or not. There is much more patience, kindness and acceptance in my being with them than without meditation.

You could end the session with setting an intention for the day ahead. This could be a different intention every day or it could be the same for a while, for example if you want to focus on one particular trait such as "I commit to meet everyone with openness and curiosity" or "I commit to regularly pause and listen to my body and its needs".

Why not add some mindful stretches – or even a short yoga session – after the meditation to open up the body and to allow for more flexibility during the day? And while you are in the shower, make sure that you are really there, with your body AND mind.

Another useful tip is to grant your dry body a big glass of water, maybe adding some freshly squeezed lemon juice, before having breakfast.

It is useful not to switch on your phone until you are at work so that the time at home is dedicated to your family and yourself and not to social media or the latest news. By this you also avoid receiving the first emails on your phone early in the morning that could trigger a stress reaction and disconnect you from the present moment and from the people around you.

Evening routine

After facing a long day of work and stress and demands, you probably feel tired. Maybe even exhausted.

Instead of ending up in front of the television, zapping randomly and not getting up from the sofa, you could try establishing an evening routine to end the day smoothly and with mindfulness.

You could treat yourself to a herbal tea or some hot milk.

Switching off all devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed is highly recommended. Not only will the blue light disrupt the creation of the sleep hormone melatonin, but the news, fast moving pictures or messages will keep your brain spinning and turning.

Why not instead reading a book to calm down (not necessarily a work book but fiction), taking a bath, listening to a meditation (for example a body scan) or doing some gentle stretches? This will help your body and mind to unwind and prepare for the rest.

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can make remarkable changes in your overall well-being. I find it especially powerful to remember three things I am grateful for before sleeping and try to practice this with my children as well.

It is also advisable to check your hours of sleep you need each night to feel rested. It usually is at least half an hour more than you would think.

We cannot expect our brains to stop working abruptly at 10pm when we spent every minute of the day in high alert, on autopilot or in the stress mode. If you try that, you will wake up exhausted in the morning, even if you were in bed for 8 hours. Especially when you have troubles falling asleep, you should carefully examine your evening routine and see if you can slow it down.

By the way: when setting up a routine, it is useful to stick to it as much as possible to allow the body and the mind to recognise this as the new way of being and to eventually adapt and calm down. Don´t give up after two or three days but give it time to sink in. It takes time to replace old habits by new ones.

With mindful activities in the morning and evening, you can do yourself a great favour in kicking off the day with the right mindset and ending it smoothly and by this preparing best for a good night´s sleep.

Here is a poem that I find very soothing at the end of the day. Enjoy.

Write it on your heart

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

 – Ralph Waldo Emerson