Do you have an established morning routine or do you tend to just roll out of bed, grab your phone and a coffee and get ready for work? What if you were able to add just 5-15 minutes to your day to establish a routine that would continue to benefit you the rest of the day?
Don’t think you have enough time? Morning routines don’t have to be long or complex. In fact, the more complex, the more likely we are to push certain tasks off. The truth is, you don’t need to devote hours to your routine to set yourself up properly for the day. Taking just 5 minutes every morning to leverage movement and nature can be enough. That said, while having a simple routine is key, simple doesn’t always mean easy. Taking action and integrating healthy daily habits into our morning routine can be challenging at first, but worth every minute once you get into the swing of things!
Here are 5 ways to quickly and easily integrate more movement and nature into your routine to activate your body’s normal functions and help balance your circadian rhythm for better sleep:
- Leverage the Sun
Circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour cycle and can affect us both physically and mentally. Light plays a central role in regulating our daily circadian rhythm. Morning light signals your hypothalamus and all corresponding organs and glands to be alert and wake up. This is a natural way for us to know it’s time to start the day.
The low solar angle of the morning sun has been shown to help stimulate the retinal ganglion cells in our eyes called melanopsin, which help trigger the production of melatonin (which helps you fall and stay asleep at the end of your day). Sunlight also triggers your body to produce optimal levels of daytime hormones and neurotransmitters.(1)
Try to get outside for a few minutes every morning as close to sunrise as possible to help promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Perform A Body Movement Sequence
When we move our bodies, we improve our mental and physical health. We can incorporate gentle bodyweight exercises that can focus on strengthening, stretching and toning our muscles and joints that will help increase flexibility and mobility, improve your posture and assist in relieving chronic pain.
When we start our day with movement it also gives a boost to our mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve your mood and boost self-esteem.
One of my favourite choices for a good morning movement routine is the Five Tibetan Rites. This is an ancient yoga practice that consists of a sequence of 5 exercises to help increase energy, mobility, flexibility, calmness and mental clarity.(2) Each movement is performed 10 to 21 times (the sequence takes about 5 to 15 minutes) and can have a mantra attached to it to help build concentration and focus.
Here is video demonstration that you can use to follow along and get you started: https://youtu.be/MAlQ0kQ2rLo
- Activate Your Lymphatic System
Having a fully functioning lymphatic system is so important for our overall health. Our lymphatic system is made up of vessels and nodes that carry a fluid called “lymph” from tissues and organs to the bloodstream. Lymph is meant to help the body filter and clean toxins, debris, and pathogens that compile in our circulatory system as a result of toxic environments, medications, and an unhealthy diet. The major lymph node areas of the body are: supraclavicular, upper cervical, pectoral, abdominal, inguinal, and posterior knees.
It’s important to note that the lymphatic system does not have a pump of its own and relies on the movement of the body’s musculoskeletal system to circulate. This means as you move your body, you become the pump! Gently stimulating these key areas daily as part of your movement routine with a light touch, deep touch and vibration can help activate your lymphatic system.(3)
A good routine to start is to take 1 minute and apply light touch, deep touch and tap for vibration on the 6 major lymph nodes.
- Ground Yourself
Grounding, also called earthing, involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth.
From your cells to your nerves, trillions of electrical impulses are being emitted in your body every minute. All your movement, thoughts, behaviours and actions are powered by these impulses. The Earth itself is also electrically charged, meaning when you, a bioelectrical human being, make direct contact with the ground, you are absorbing a steady flow of electrons into your body. These electrons have an antioxidant effect that helps restore your body’s natural balance. Even short periods of engaging in this activity yield significant health benefits, whether you make contact on sand, rock, dirt or grass.
Consider doing some of the other suggestions outside barefoot if possible. Or simply head out into the back yard barefoot to watch the sunrise to start your day and take advantage of the Earth’s natural healing properties.
- Integrate Breathwork
One would think that there is nothing complex about breathing but there is more to it than meets the eye and we have to first ask ourselves the question: what is healthy breathing? Healthy breathing is conducted in and out through the nose while engaging the diaphragm at a rate and volume matching the current metabolic needs of the body. If you are at rest, your breathing should be quiet, with little or no movement of the upper chest and neck muscles. A resting breathing rate of between 4.5 and 6.5 breaths per minute, which study after study has shown results in the best balance between the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, the fight or flight sympathetic branch, and the rest and digest parasympathetic branch. Healthy breathing will help you feel calmer and more collected during stressful situations(4)
Start your morning with a 5-minute timer and focus on keeping your breath LIGHT, SLOW AND DEEP at a pace of 4.5 to 6.5 breaths per minute. Here a video of a colleague and Advantage Oxygen Master Trainer guiding you through this short breath work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XJQcWzE0B4. If you are interested in digging deeper with breathwork, Dr. Sly and I did a webinar not too long ago that you can watch here: www.hackyourbreathcourse.com
There you have it, 5 things you can do to enhance your morning routine and start the day off at your best. I personally like to play my favourite yoga or meditation music while I perform my morning routine. It helps me get into the right mindset for the day and grounds me even further. Give it a try.
(4) McKeown, Patrick (2015.) The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You. Published by William Morrow.