Our mornings mark the beginning of a new chapter in our lives and in many cases, they set the tone for the rest of our day. Take a moment to reflect on your morning rituals: how do you start each sunrise?
Perhaps you drag yourself out of bed, shower and have breakfast. Perhaps you have coffee and watch the TV or read the newspaper. Whatever way you start your day, have you ever considered that there are so many better and healthier ways of doing what you do?
In our busy lives, it’s so easy to get caught up in the mindless bustle of duties and commitments we have undertaken. Often we don’t even give a passing thought to the many small and seemingly insignificant habits and routines we repeat day in day out.
Today, I’m going to provide you with 9 simple morning rituals that could have a remarkable impact on your well-being both short term and long term. Many of these morning rituals I have adopted into my own life and they have truly revolutionized the way I start, and end, each day.
1. Rise When the Sun Does
I used to hate waking up early. I would drag myself out of bed to grudgingly start the day at 9am, and if anyone woke me up before that … I would unleash hellfire on the poor soul who had ventured into my lair. But now, I really appreciate waking up earlier, not only because I get more done, but I feel more refreshed and peaceful during the day because I have more time for quiet reflection and planning. I also love watching the sun rise and feeling the crispness of the morning air inside my lungs. Many studies have also shown that the early bird does get the worm such as a Texas University study in 2008 which showed that morning people earned higher academic scores, and a 2012 study which showed that young and old people who woke up early felt happier.
2. Stretch it Out
Stretching your arms, legs, back, shoulders and other parts of your body improves blood circulation and helps you to ward off nasty aches and pains during the day. I do a simple 5 minute stretch routine every morning that looks something like this:
3. Try Coconut Oil Pulling
Oil pulling, also known as “Kavala,” is an ancient Ayurvedic practice. It involves swishing around a teaspoon of oil in your mouth (usually sunflower or coconut) for 10-20 minutes. It is said that oil pulling detoxifies the mouth by “pulling” out bacteria that hides between the teeth, under the tongue and other crevices of the mouth. I personally use coconut oil for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties – plus it tastes a whole lot nicer as well. I’ve only been oil pulling for the past week, but I’ve never felt my mouth so clean and fresh, plus it has whitened my teeth and reduced my gum inflammation significantly. Oil pulling is also said to reduce acne, detoxify the body, prevent plaque build-up, protect you against gingivitis, eliminate bad breath, and a lot more. Two important things to remember about this practice are to never swallow the oil (the toxins will re-enter your body), and to always spit out the oil in your waste basket (unless you want to call a plumber for your sink).
4. Take Warm Lemon and Ginger Water
Before eating anything in the morning, I like to flush out the toxins in my body by drinking lemon and ginger water. While ginger is not essential (although it has amazing antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties), lemon is really important. Not only does lemon have many nutrients like vitamin C, B, iron, calcium, magnesium and many others, its acidity also aids digestion, relieves indigestion, helps to fight viral infections, clears your complexion and even aids you in losing weight. I’ve even found that drinking lemon water each morning helps me to stay fuller for longer (by about 1 hour). Cut ½ of a lemon in the morning, squeeze it into a cup and dilute with warm water. Warm water, unlike cold water, does not shock the body and aids you in digesting the juice.
5. Try Moving Meditation
I’ve never much liked sitting down in the lotus position for half an hour staring at a candle – in fact, I believe the western mind is much too chaotic to truly benefit out of still forms of meditation. Instead, I personally love Qigong which I think of as a form of “moving meditation” for its calming and strengthening effect on my body. Qigong is an ancient practice which has its roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy and martial arts. It is said to align the mind, body and soul, and has numerous health benefits. I tend to do Qigong for about 5-10 minutes every morning. Some simple forms of Qigong can be found below:
6. Take a Singing Bowl Bath
If you don’t have a singing bowl, just listen to singing bowl recordings on your iPod, MP3 player, or on YouTube. If you are fortunate enough to have a small singing bowl however, make use of it! I had a singing bowl for a long time that was just gathering dust in the corner until one day I decided to incorporate it into my morning routine. The rich and cavernous sounds that the singing bowl resonates are said to influence our brain waves and align them with theta waves; those that are responsible for deep feelings of peace and calm (such as in sleep). Singing bowls on a more spiritual level are said to balance the energy centers within our bodies. Whether this is true or not, singing bowls undoubtedly induce feelings of serenity which is a wonderful way to start the day.
7. Revamp Your Skincare Products
My god. When I reflect on all the terrible products I used to inflict my skin with I feel like weeping! I have very sensitive skin by nature that breaks out very easily – and you might be the same. Perhaps you suffer from dry and chapped skin, psoriasis, eczema, or any number of other skin conditions? Whatever problems you do (or don’t have) the products you use every morning could very well contribute to your general poor health. Many of the moisturizers, cleansers, toners and other products that we use each morning possess harsh chemicals that are disguised under beautiful packaging. Some ingredients to look out for include:
- Mineral oils
- Synthetic fragrances
- Propylene Glycol
- Animal derivatives like carmine, collage, keratin, stearic acid and tallow (often contributes to animal cruelty)
- SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)
- SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulphate)
- Artificial Colors
- (Did I miss any? Add to this list in the comments.)
You will be surprised by how many common brands have these toxic ingredients and additives. My advice is to look for brands that say “100% natural,” “vegan,” “not animal tested,” or “organic” (although sometimes this is just another guise). Some healthy skincare, body and makeup brand alternatives include Eco, Dr. Organic, E.L.F, Sukin, Lush, Thursday Plantation, Innoxa and Physicians Formula (there are many others, so feel free to make your own recommendations below). On the other hand, here are some notoriously bad brands that not only have harsh chemicals, but also test on animals:
8. Make a Green Smoothie/Cut Out Cereals
If you have a blender, why not make a green smoothie? A green smoothie is a blend of mostly vegetables with fruits such as carrots, spinach, kale, pineapple, banana and apple, and you can mix them with other healthy additions like spirulina, coconut oil, oats, cacao, sultanas and maca. Green smoothies are a fairly simple and quick way of packing in a heap of nutrients into your body in a short period of time. On the other hand, if you don’t have a blender, or if you don’t have time to make a green smoothie, why not cut out any of the empty carb cereals you might be consuming? Corn flakes, coco pops, fruit loops … they taste nice but they offer poor nutrients to your body and don’t fill you for very long. Instead, why not try alternatives such as scrambled eggs, avocado on toast, grilled cheese and tomato sandwich or banana waffles?
9. Take 3 Deep Breaths
A lot of our mornings occur indoors, scurrying around and getting prepared for work or our other daily duties. One of the most simple but beautiful practices I have taken up is going outside for a few minutes and taking 3 deep breaths of cool morning air. When I breathe in the morning air, stare at the sky and natural scenery, listen to the birds and wind, and smell the scents of life, I feel alive, I feel the joy of potential, I feel the interconnectedness of existence. It’s easy to get boxed up in our routines and to feel small and separate, so taking 3 deep, natural breaths is a wonderful way to calm, center and remind yourself that life is so big and so limitless … and so are you.
There are so many clean and simple ways to start your days and this list presents only a few of many. If you have any practices, experiences or recommendations of your own to make, please suggest them below!