What do you do when you first wake up? It's an important question because what goes through your head those first few moments of the day can affect how you feel for the next 24 hours. And if your awakening routine is the same every day, it will affect how you feel all the time. It's well worth directing those first thoughts of the day in a positive direction.
That advice comes from Joel and Michelle Levey, who teach many forms of meditation everywhere from hospitals to corporate boardrooms to their own Hawaiian organic farm. Here's their simple recommendation for a waking-up routine that can radically improve how you feel for the rest of the day:
1. Wake up to the fact that you're awake.
Of all the Leveys' concepts I found this one the hardest to grasp at first. But it's what mindfulness is all about. Too many of us spend too many of our waking hours on autopilot, awake but not really awake. Break that pattern at the start of the day when you first come to consciousness by making note of the fact that you're awake and alive. There may be light pouring into your room. There may be a loved one (or a beloved pet) by your side. Whatever your situation when you wake up, stop and pay attention to the sights and sounds around you, to the way your sheets or bedding feel against your skin.
Then, do something to embody the fact that you're awake, the Leveys advise. It could be wiggling your toes, reaching overhead, snapping your fingers. Something simple to remind you that you are here, now, in this body.
2. Do "gratefuls."
We have some friends who, rather than saying grace before dinner, do something called "gratefuls," in which everyone present must name at least one thing he or she is grateful for. The Leveys recommend a similar practice (without that name) on first awakening. After you've awakened to the fact that you're awake, find one or more things that you feel grateful for. It could be as simple as being grateful that your heart is still beating, that you've been given another day on this beautiful planet. It could be gratitude for the loved ones in your life, or your work, or the health in your body.
No matter how well or badly things are going in our lives, we all have a lot to be grateful for. And feeling gratitude is one of the best things you can do to make yourself happy. So pick an item or two or three and let that gratitude fill you up, at least for a little while.
3. Set an intention for the day.
This is your time to plan what you will do to have the kind of day you want to have and be the kind of person you want to be. I'm very behind on several projects, so my intention for today was, "Do what I can, let the rest go." You could also set an intention about treating others with kindness or achieving your best potential or spending some time following your dream.
What do you need to do, or what frame of mind do you need to have, to get through your day, do what you need and want to do, and be happy while doing it? That's a good starting place to find an intention for the day that may work well for you.
4. Do not look at your electronic devices until you've completed steps No. 1 - 3.
If you're like me, you want to look at your smartphone or tablet first thing to see the news of the day and any important emails or messages you may have missed. You still can -- just pause for a minute or two to be mindful that you're awake, find a few things you're grateful for, and set an intention before you do. Take this little bit of time to check in with yourself before you check in with the rest of the world. You'll be happy that you did.