Zen

How to Get Up in the Morning and Have a Brilliant Day

Never hit that snooze button again. Never wake up groggy or lethargic. Instead, feel energized and excited to start your day, your brilliant day!

The secret to having a good day starts the night before.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night sleep. That’s the time when the brain strengthens important neural connections, puts your memories into long-term storage, and solidifies new knowledge. Consider sleep food for the brain. It is essential. So how to improve sleep? First, turn off all electronics, including your mobile phone. Not only are they distracting, but the light from these electronics reset your melatonin (which controls your circadian rhythm) into thinking it’s not yet time for bed. Do not engage in any strenuous mental exercise an hour before bedtime. Your brain needs to feel relaxed in order to sleep. A glass of warm milk may help. I also love playing relaxing tunes to unwind. My favorite app (FREE!) for this is Deep Calm.

Keep your sleeping time consistent. It is okay to sleep in a little during the weekends, but don’t make it a drastic difference. If you typically sleep 7 hours a night, don’t sleep 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Your body will get confused and Monday will be a pain in the neck.

Establish a simple morning routine.
1. Stop your alarm.
2. Slowly get into a sitting position and take several deep breaths.
3. Stretch out your body from neck to toe. Focus on where there is most tension and stretch and relax your muscles.
4. While in your comfortable sitting position, commence your positive thinking. Start with indulgent thoughts – I can’t wait to get up and have my cup of chai latte or make French press coffee. Then, mentally go through your to-do’s with a grateful attitude. Don’t think of them as chores. Think of them as opportunities.
5. Hop off the bed.

When I get ready in the morning (i.e. brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.), I enjoy blasting upbeat music (i.e. The Voice radio) to get myself energized and excited to begin the day. You can also create a playlist that lasts as long as you want your morning routine to be – 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. Perhaps personalize a playlist for each day of the week. Whatever you do, do not check your email or social media feeds. Your day begins with you, not the chaos of the world. Emails and texts can wait until your morning commute (unless you drive) or until you get to your office/school.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, grab a notebook and pen. Then, jot down your vision of what an ideal day would be like. This consists of making sure you are fully aware of your meetings/appointments and errands, but also allows you a chance to visualize that perfect day. It’s a good exercise to get you to recognize a good day when you have one. Moreover, it gets you motivated and completely prepared for the day’s events.

If you have another 15 minutes to spare, turn on some soothing sounds and start meditating. Focus on your deep breaths. Allow distractions to pass by. Don’t purposely ignore them, but don’t indulge in them either. Always bring your attention back to your breathing. Make sure your posture is upright and dignified. Several minutes of meditation in the morning can help you better concentrate throughout the day.

We Say
Don’t start your day with the stress of rushing to places because you pressed the snooze button one time too many. Don’t be late to meetings as habitual lateness is very frowned upon – it shows you’re less committed and less motivated. Instead, start your day on a note of excitement and gratitude. Respecting your brain’s need for sleep and establishing a simple morning routine make all the difference in the world.

For tips on how to stay focused throughout your day, read How to Declutter Your Mind.

Advertisements

How to Declutter Your Mind

Birds are chirping. The weather is warming up. We’re getting rainstorms to assist the promised blooms in May. Well, all that is true unless you live in Minnesota. :P But regardless of where you are geographically, there is one Spring cleaning you can do year-round: declutter your most valuable asset. Follow the steps below to regain your focus in life and live with a decluttered mind!

1) Hone into priorities instead of give into procrastination
Know what your life’s calling is (be that a tall order of changing the world or the pragmatic goal of providing for your family – or both) and prioritize your daily tasks to align with that calling/purpose. When you are passionate about the reason(s) for your existence, the everyday tasks become a lot less mundane and more tolerable, whether they are in direct alignment with your goals or just a small hurdle on your path to realizing your goals.

2) Clean your mental desktop
I will introduce you to two important C’s: Core dump and Compartmentalize. The act of core dumping involves writing down any wandering thoughts so they’re off your mind and you can revisit these thoughts later. You can write on post-its, on your smartphone, or on a simple text document. Once they’re off your mind, you’re freeing your mental capacity. Next, compartmentalize the rest of your mental desktop and flag them with deadlines. For example, my tasks can be categorized as personal, teaching, and research. Each task can be prioritized by how much I value its category *and* the impending deadline of each task. This way, you are not only prioritizing by urgency, but also importance and impact. It’s important to assign deadlines to your personal tasks, as well, even if no one else is holding you accountable for them.

3) Keep lists simple
Lists are extremely helpful. But don’t overdo them. Sometimes, we get so overwhelmed with long lists of to-do’s that we simply don’t know where to start. So, we don’t start. Avoid this problem by simplifying your lists. Give yourself 3 important tasks each day that you really want to tackle. The rest are bonuses. Reward yourself accordingly.

4) Change your scene
We may get stuck in mental ruts that are associated with a particular activity or place. Moving the activity to a different location can help us look at it with fresh eyes and a new focus, relieving the mental boredom that might lead our mind to wander to other things.

5) Get in shape
A healthy body nourishes a sharper mind. Say no to chronic sleep deprivation. Say no to overusing caffeine and fatty foods. A healthier body increases energy levels, keeping you off the lazy mode so you can more efficiently tackle your agenda.

6) Rid negativity
Let go. Worrying about something? Angry about somebody? Frustrated? Harboring a grudge? While these are all natural emotions and thoughts, none of them are really necessary. See if you can let go of them. Don’t be afraid to erase contacts or rid relationships that are toxic to you.

7) Stay grateful
Really focus on what makes you happy. Be thankful for those moments, those people and their influences. Many researchers advise that before going to bed, we should list at least three specific moments that we are grateful for that day. However, I believe it more beneficial to begin the day with these grateful thoughts. Think about all the opportunities you will have that day and be grateful for them. (I am thankful for the opportunity to present my research, to eat a delicious dinner with my friends, etc. etc.) This will keep you motivated throughout the day and help keep you stay on task.

We Say
Quiet your buzzing mind by getting rid of noise (aka excess and negativity) and focus on what’s truly important. Tackle your everyday tasks with your life’s purpose in mind. Stay committed. Stay motivated. Be grateful and happy. And then, you will find yourself embracing success. Good luck!