3:30 am. The alarm of choice – Timba – is a tribal, drum-like sound that isn’t too weak that I don’t move but not as alarming as a sinking submarine.
I place my feet on the floor and reach for the glass of water I set the night before, and chug it down. A few drips miss and run down my beard – too early to care.
After a few wood creaking steps towards the bathroom, I snap a switch on and, before I can throw my hands up to protect myself, a beaming light greets me with a sensational burn to my eyes. I continue to brush my teeth in silence.
I would twist the handle on the shower that reads “cold” while consciously ignoring the other. I visualize my entrance – fear, anger, and anxiety greet me like an old friend. I procrastinate. The thoughts that come to my mind are those filled with negativity, doubt, and weakness – old friends I grow more familiar with day-by-day. I step in.
I make my way to the spare room where I can fully sprawl out and stretch my body. I follow suit with my favorite mobility drills: Full-Body CAR’s. I’m feeling 2% more awake.
Once upon a time, I would twist the shower handle that reads “cold” while consciously ignoring the other. I visualize my entrance – fear and anxiety greet me like an old friend. I procrastinate. The thoughts that come to my mind are filled with doubt and weakness – old friends I grow more familiar with day-by-day. I step inside.
I make my way down the stairs to get ready for my day.
4:30 am. After a long, quiet drive to work, I pull my car in and turn on the overhead light. Waiting for me is my daily meditation – “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. A book stocked with the philosophies and practices of 3 of the most influential Stoic philosophers in history; Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. I read and contemplate, taking the thoughts with me as I start my day.
I have followed this routine (segmented at times) most days for over four years now. It has become a part of who I am, and as weird or psychotic as it may sound, I enjoy the process.
Each part of my morning has a purpose.
Each purpose has a history, science, and research to strengthen its “why.”
Most people sleep about 6–8 hours at night on average. During the night, our bodies down-regulate and slows down metabolic processes to give our body the time to rest and recover.
The recovery process requires large quantities of vitamins, minerals, and water. Why is it then that so many of us don’t re-hydrate first thing in the morning?
Studies done on both men and women show mild dehydration of even 1 percent can result in headaches, fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. Beyond that, losses of 2 percent may cause a decrease in mental performance and short-term memory.
I know what you may be thinking. “I drink coffee, doesn’t that count?”. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Studies on coffee show that it can lead to mild dehydration. Even though it contains mostly water, the caffeine overrides the benefits of hydration.
So, what can we do to ensure we begin our day hydrated and in fluid balance? Drink 8–12 oz. of water upon waking up.
I recently came across a method to restore the minerals to the body as well that I tried for the first time this morning; add sea salt to your glass of water. It sounds nasty, but if you’re up for it, give it a shot and maybe throw in lemon juice to mix it up. It tastes like Gatorade. With more sodium for the water to bind to, we can more easily retain our water throughout the day as we continue to hydrate.
Get your muscles warm and loose through movement. As we age, our mobility and joint health diminish, and we naturally lose the ability to perform simple tasks that we once took for granted.
That is unless we do something about it.
A simple way to ensure you are getting quality movement in your day is to include it in your morning routine. It could be 3 minutes, or 5, or 20, it doesn’t matter. I follow my morning CAR’s routine, which takes each of my major joints through a full range of motion, establishes strength in the end-ranges of motion, and refines neuromuscular control.
The key is to get moving so your body is ready to attack the day.
For all of history, the sun has been our guide and signal for when to wake, eat, and sleep. The natural biological clock that has been built into us, as a result, is known as our Circadian Rhythm.
In an ideal world, we could all wake up at the crack of dawn feeling well-rested, throw open our windows, walk onto the patio and soak up the sun with a cool breeze on our face. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t rise at 3:30 am, and for the majority of people spread across the globe, this scenario isn’t practical daily.
But any light will do in this scenario. Try getting exposed to light as soon as you wake, and your body will thank you later in the evening when it is calling you to go to sleep. Try to listen.
4. Exposure to Extreme Elements
I know you dread cold water. The thought of it making contact with your skin is incomparable to many things in life.
In our age of comfort filled with constants such as climate control/AC, heated seats, immediate access to any information via the internet, etc., we have lost contact with the discomforts that were once present in everyday life.
A cold shower, a sauna session, or a polar plunge are great ways to tap into this evolutionary stress response that contains loads of benefits. A reduction in inflammation is probably the greatest asset of this exposure and more resolve and stronger willpower.
When you are at the edge of making a choice that will bring extreme discomfort, it takes a strong will and mental power to expose yourself to that willfully. Doing this daily will make other challenges in life seem much less threatening and catastrophic.
If there is one thing we have the most control over on a day-to-day basis, it is our breath.
As easy as it is to pay no mind to it, the sooner you begin to pay attention, the better. The most common way people breathe today is shallow, through their mouth and overusing the neck, which can lead to tightness in the muscles of the neck and weak abs, aka low back pain.
Sound like anyone you know?
That is just on a physical level; the benefits to your mental state and emotional well-being can be even more powerful.
We need to begin to practice proper breathing and calming our senses. Meditation begins and ends with the breath. Practice observing your thoughts; are they positive or negative? Are they focused primarily on others or you? Are they about the past or future? Practicing meditation gives you an edge to carry with you throughout the day that no one or thing can take away from you.
Let’s practice together and see just how quickly you can feel better. Take a big breath in the nose for 4 seconds, hold for another 2 seconds, slowly breathe out and make it last for 6 seconds. Hold again for 2 seconds. Now, let’s repeat for 5 breaths.
In just a short amount of time each morning, you can progressively build yourself into a healthy, mobile, thoughtful, disciplined, and less stressed human being. It doesn’t take long, but it does take practice and consistency.
Now, think about rolling out of bed after hitting snooze for the third time, grabbing a cup of coffee, and rushing out the door.
The choice is entirely yours.