In the past months, everything has changed more dramatically than anyone could have imagined. Whatever life throws at us, will have an impact. Whether you are aware of it or not (because you distract yourself with work, media use, food or other substances or activities), our bodies have taken its toll. I certainly notice that my body has aged more quickly in the past 12 months.
“Your history is here inside your body. Your body is your storehouse of learnings, feelings, thoughts, and experiences.” writes Martha Elliott.
Well then, how is your energy level? How is your body doing? How awake, focused and well are you right now?
Below are some morning and evening rituals to support your mind and body.
Waking up mindfully
“Never get up when you are not fully awake!”, says Jon Kabat-Zinn. 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 temperature of 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. Feeling the breath coming 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.
Additionally, allow your brain to check in with your day “It’s Wednesday, I have that important meeting at 11am.” but notice if there is a tendency to rush and jump out of bed. Then breathe and come back to where you are right now.
Then feeling your body move, feeling your feet touching the floor when getting up.
Notice that you might shake a bit or still feel dizzy. Allow your body to slowly wake up and still be sluggish on your way to the bathroom.
Mindful breathing and stretching
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. You could also do some gentle stretches. Be aware of the inner driver that pushes you forward and “do more”. Some days, I only sit for 4 minutes, sometimes it is rather 14 minutes. Just sit, settle in and connect to yourself and your body. Setting an intention is always helpful to come back to during the day.
Another useful tip is to grant your dry body a big glass of water, maybe adding some freshly squeezed lemon juice, before having breakfast. As a first intake for your body, prefer water to any kind of stimulus such as caffeine.
Staying away from social media
I usually notice the impulse to check the news first thing in the morning. It has become a habit and habits tend to stick around. Additionally, I feel the need to be informed of what is going on. Well then, let’s execute the habit mindfully. I stretch, I meditate, I read a page in one of the most inspiring books I know (“The Daily Flame. 365 love letters from your Inner Pilot Light” by Lissa Rankin) and then I sometimes allow myself to check one (just one!) news app that I trust for a couple of minutes. No article reading, no videos, just the headlines. And then I get a shower, smelling the shampoo, enjoying the warm water and caring for my body.
Slowing down and unwinding
After facing a long day of work, 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. If you decide to watch television, you could consciously choose your television intake. What series makes you laugh? Where can you relax?
You could treat yourself with an herbal tea. This is a wonderful ritual for the evening. It's best to stay away from alcohol or sugar as it will disrupt your sleep quality.
Switching off your devices
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. Switching off the devices is the best you can do, but not always possible. My days are sometimes completely filled with work, chores and emotional kids that there is very little time for myself and social connection. I then find myself writing text messages in bed as this is the first time in the day that I am on my own. Try to notice the impulse and the habit and maybe commit to at least 3 screen-free evenings a week. It's best to refrain from news reading or YouTube-scrolling in bed – it is really hard to stop. Your body will thank you the next morning.
Why not choosing to read a book to calm down instead (not necessarily a workbook 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 wellbeing. 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. This is now more important than ever: There is so much good in the world and in your life, you often just need to re-calibrate your brain to notice it.
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 if you have troubles falling asleep, you should carefully examine your evening routine and see if you can slow it down.
Whatever you do when you wake up, when you are awake and when you put your body to sleep, do it your way. Find out what works for you, find out what soothes your hard-working body and allow for some rest for your beautiful mind.
“What we need are two lists. On the left side: This is What Matters to Me. On the right side: This is How I Spend My Time. In the middle, one resolution: to make the right side align with the left.”
– Ellen Goodman