Do you dread the sound of your alarm? If you hate mornings, this is the post for you. Calling all sleepyheads! It’s time to face your nemesis and conquer it. Together we’re going to reduce your stress, improve your overall mood and raise your energy levels. What’s not to love?
How do you start your day? Do you repeatedly smash the snooze button when the alarm goes off? Do you lie in bed thinking of all you have to do that day, stressing yourself out before your feet even hit the floor? Do you jump onto your mobile phone and scroll through your notifications before realising that you’ve already wasted fifteen minutes and now you have to rush to catch up? Do you have time to eat breakfast or do you gulp down a cup of coffee before grabbing your keys and heading out? If your mornings consist of wrangling yourself out the door in as little time as possible, stressed and tired, then Week Two of my 30 Day Sleep Challenge is going to rock your world.
I am not a morning person. However, I am in the process of radically overhauling key areas of my life and making some hefty changes to my habits. Establishing a good sleep habit is a fundamental step, and so we come to my 30 Day Sleep Challenge. (For further details see my previous post, Insomnia: Ten Suggestions for a Better Night’s Sleep). Week one saw me implementing a daily set deadline for bedtime and keeping a sleep journal. I invited you to join me and I’d love to know how you’re getting on. I have noticed a definite reduction in my stress levels, an improved quality of sleep and an increase in my energy levels.
As the week progressed I found myself waking before my alarm because of my earlier bedtime so I decided to make use of the extra time in my mornings and implement a regular morning routine. I incorporated suggestions from various books, articles and courses I’ve read over the last couple of years. I’ve been doing it for six days and it’s totally transformed my mornings for the better. I now invite you to try it. There is some bad news: you’re going to need to set your alarm an hour earlier. Stick with it, though, it will be worth it. If you want to love getting out of bed, get more done in your day and feel happier, rising an hour earlier is a small price to pay!
30 Day Sleep Challenge: Establish a Good Sleep Habit
By creating a regular morning routine that prepares you for the day ahead you will be in a better position to handle the demands of your day, thereby enabling you to go to bed less stressed, fall asleep quicker and achieve a better quality sleep.
Happiness Objective: to improve productivity, mental health and physical health by implementing a morning routine of rising early, taking time to reflect, setting daily goals and exercising.
Step One: This week I challenge you to rise an hour earlier than usual. To help you to avoid hitting the snooze button and falling straight back to sleep, place your alarm clock/device across the room so that you have to get up to turn it off. Sounds simple? It is, and it works!
Step Two: Now you’re up, dress in workout clothes. It prepares your mind for being active and immediately makes you more alert. Wash your face and brush your teeth to wake you up a little more.
Step Three: Make a mug of warm lemon water: fill a mug halfway with cold water. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it and top up with boiling water. It should be just warm enough for you drink immediately. It’s a cleansing and refreshing first drink of the day.
Step Four: Meditate for ten to twenty minutes. Weather permitting, sit outside. The fresh morning air and daylight will boost your energy levels. Alternatively, take a meditation walk around the block. Ten minutes is adequate for clearing your head and calming your system. If you can spare more time then do so; twenty minutes is recommended by meditation practitioners. Focus on your breathing; breathe from the belly rather than your chest. You may wish to count your breaths in batches of ten or recite a phrase or word to help you focus. At first you may find it hard to relax or focus and stay present in the moment for a full ten minutes but within a few days you will find yourself reaching ten minutes with ease. Set an alarm so you don’t have to keep track of the time. If you need further guidance on mindfulness meditation you could download an app such as Headspace, which I have used in the past and found very helpful.
Step Five: Review your daily goals. Look at what you achieved and didn’t achieve the day before. What can you do differently today? What can you give yourself a pat on the back for? Set goals for the day ahead and remember to build in a treat or reward for all the effort you’re putting in.
Step Six: Visualise yourself achieving your goals. Mentally rehearse the steps you need to take for each task, how long it will take and who you may need support from. Plan around any potential obstacles. See yourself succeeding and imagine how you will feel as you achieve your goal. By preparing mentally for the day ahead you will be able to respond proactively and reduce potential stress.
Step Seven: Write down and recite out loud a set of affirmations. Seems a bit cheesy and New-Agey? Maybe but they work, especially if you’re feeling stressed. Align them to your weekly or monthly goals. Pick an area where you lack confidence or need improvement, or a goal you want to achieve, and choose a phrase that relates to your desired outcome or is designed to boost your motivation. I have four to five phrases that change every month as my circumstances change. I also have a list of affirming statements about myself that I read through in moments of self doubt or low confidence. For more information on affirmations and how they work, listen to this episode of the Changeability Podcast by Brilliant Living HQ.
Step Eight: Keep a gratitude journal. Write down ten new things daily that you are grateful for. If you find ten a stretch at first, start with three and work up to ten. You’ll be surprised at all the small, positive things you notice in your life once you start to focus on them – the little incidents and kindnesses, the conveniences and lucky circumstances. Even a negative can be turned to a positive outcome when you look back and reflect on what you learned. We grow from our challenges, after all. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you to appreciate the life you have while you build the life you want. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, it is vital for creating a greater state of happiness in your daily life.
Step Nine: Do twenty minutes of exercise, ideally something vigorous that boosts your system such as jogging, a workout or a brisk walk. If that’s a little too demanding for first thing in the morning then try some yoga or Pilates. Exercise fully integrates your mind into the present and releases feel-good endorphins. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to help you feel more alert.
Step Ten: Shower and go about your day with a refreshed body and a calm mind.
This routine should take between one hour and 90 minutes; with a bit of practice you should be able to get it down to approximately an hour. For more ideas on how to create an inspiring morning ritual, including a complete speed-ritual that lasts only six minutes for those occasions when you are pushed for time, I would recommend The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
As with week one, keep a journal of your progress. I found that I encountered an energy dip mid-afternoon as a result of the earlier start and the energy expended exercising. You may wish to counter this by having some healthy snacks to hand and drinking plenty of water. I also got tired earlier in the evening and had to adjust my bedtime. You may need to do the same. The net result, however, was an overall increased productivity and energy level in the mornings and a calmer and more appreciative frame of mind throughout the day. I hope you find the same happens for you. Let me know in the comments section or on my Facebook page or Twitter page.
That’s it for now, fellow challengers. I’ll be back with a progress report and your challenge for Week Three. In the meantime keep training your brain, refining your mind and creating a greater state of happiness!
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