03/05/2020 Mind-Body Health
An endless cycle of a buzzing alarm, the hit of the snooze button, and a few more minutes of attempted rest is a cycle familiar for far too many. These six steps can make mornings less painful.
Do you find getting up in the morning a drag? Maybe you are a night owl and nighttime is when you have energy and morning is when you struggle to wake up and get going. That can set the tone for the rest of the morning. Even if you are not a morning person there are strategies to help you wake up and start the day right. The more you can help your mind and body ease into the day ahead, the better.
1. Shift Your Sleep Cycle
There is an ebb and flow to daily life; the circadian rhythm helps shape your days whether you are aware of it or not. These cycles have been in existence since the beginning of time and your body is a part of that ancient cycle. Your internal biological clock is constantly responding to external influences, including the sun, which affects the sleep-wake cycle. Rising with the sun and going to sleep when the sun went down is a natural part of daily life. But access to technology 24/7 has disrupted that cycle.
According to Ayurveda, the ideal time to wake up is just before the sun rises, around 6 a.m. (the time will vary depending on your time zone). People who get up early are naturally sleepy when it’s the “normal” time to go to bed. Depending on how much sleep you need, 10:00 p.m. is a good time to be in bed, even if you’re not asleep at that hour. Keeping your body on a sleep cycle will make it easier to go to sleep and wake up naturally at the same time each day. Try to keep to the same cycle during the weekends as well.
You will have more success resetting your internal clock if you gradually move your wake-up time and bedtime. For the first three to four nights, adjust your timing by 15 minutes. Keep adjusting your schedule like this until you’ve reached your ideal wake and sleep times. Who knows, you might find yourself starting to become a morning person!
2. Create a Wind-Down Routine
Ayurveda encourages the establishment of daily routines to help balance the body and mind. An evening routine greatly influences your morning state as it can either leave you feeling slow and sluggish or refreshed and ready to start the day. Staying up late working, watching TV, reading emails, or playing with social media affects the quality of your sleep, making it harder for you to rise in the morning. Instead, try creating a wind-down routine that helps you transition from daily activities and prepares for a good sleep which will enable you to start waking up on time and feeling refreshed. Here are a few more suggestions to help create your routine:
- Listen to soothing music.
- Release the stress of the day by journaling or try recapitulation, a guided visualization technique.
- Read an uplifting book of poetry.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule.
- Drink golden milk or brew herbal tea such as chamomile or valerian.
Start off by trying one or two things so you don’t become discouraged. You should be able to enjoy your wind-down routine and not feel like it’s another chore you have to do. Encourage your family to get involved so that everyone is on the same page.
3. Face the Morning Sun
Be like the sunflower and face the sun in the morning. Mornings are usually busy as everyone rushes around to get ready. Try to carve out a few minutes to pause and watch the sunrise or find ways to allow the sun’s light to seep in through the window. If you can, step outside and soak up the warming rays to help signal to the body that the day has started. Exposure to sunlight can also help improve sleep as it reinforces natural circadian rhythms. Indigenous cultures have long turned toward the sun for prayers and blessings in the morning as it is a pure time of day, full of potential.
Here are some other ideas for adding more sunshine to your morning:
- Go on a morning walk.
- Sit by the window and enjoy your tea or coffee.
- If your bedroom window faces the east, try allowing the sun’s rays to gently awaken you.
4. Take a Cold Shower
You know a good cold shower would wake you up due to the adrenaline rush, but research has shown it has greater benefits. Cold therapy has been known to aid with increased immunity and pain relief and help with depressive symptoms.
Cultures from around the world have long known the benefits of cold water bathing to promote health and longevity. Today, spas offer hot and cold baths for contrast immersion (basically moving from hot to cold baths). Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to try it out. If you are feeling adventurous, take a completely cold shower. If that doesn’t sound appealing, toward the end of your shower gradually turn down the hot water and increase the cold. Start with your hands and feet and slowly add other parts of your body. It’s invigorating and will leave you feeling more alive.
5. Listen to Uplifting Music
What happens when you first start to awaken in the morning? Your thoughts likely start to wander to the past and future, you think about upcoming meetings, or things you did or didn’t do, etc. These types of thoughts can incite overwhelm and affect your energy and mood. Having a pattern interrupt to help redirect your thoughts toward a more positive start to your day can be extremely helpful—music is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
It’s widely known that music has the ability to heal and shift moods; even better, the effects are immediate. Next time you find yourself lingering in bed, hit play on some lively tunes and it may spark some energy to get you moving. If you are keen on smart devices, you can use them to your benefit and set an alarm that uses music instead of the traditional alarm.
6. Perform Morning Stretches
If you are having difficulty waking up in the morning, then the idea of any exercise might seem ridiculous. Before you ditch the thought completely, consider that any type of movement in the morning is beneficial, even if it’s a few stretches sitting on the side of your bed.
Ayurveda recommends that you exercise during Kapha time of day, from about 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. These times are ruled by Kapha dosha and therefore carry the characteristics of groundedness, stability, and strength. Exercising or performing stretches during this time of day can counteract any tendencies toward sluggishness or heaviness you may feel in the morning.
Essentially, any type of movement to get your heart pumping a bit and your circulation moving will feel good. Depending on how much time you have, try spending from one to 10 minutes, which shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate into your morning wake-up routine.
Gradual change is important. Don’t try everything at once. Also, if you don’t have enough time to add one more thing into your hectic schedule keep in mind what often happens is you are left with more time. Making these types of changes increases your energy and leads to more clarity and efficiency. In terms of the bigger picture, having something to look forward to in your day will provide the incentive to jump out of bed with renewed vigor.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
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