Mindful

We’ve all been there. It’s morning, the dreaded alarm clock goes off, and you just can’t muster the will to sit up and start the day.

Sadly, most of us are sleep deprived and any extra minutes of shut-eye seem far too precious to readily give up. Our brains and bodies have been asleep for hours, and the shift from sleep to wake isn’t easy. Oftentimes a busy day lies ahead, so we must struggle to get a grip on our immediately racing thoughts upon awakening. Keeping a routine morning mindfulness practice can help awaken the brain and bring stability and focus to your morning. You may even find that, with regular practice, you begin to enjoy awakening just for the moments of quiet that it brings as you start your day.

1. Let the sun shine in.

You may not want to give up your weekend lie-in, but keeping a consistent bedtime and especially wake-time every day, seven days a week is key to getting up with less trouble in the morning. Morning light helps set the body’s sleep-wake pattern, signaling an end to melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) production at night and bringing about wakefulness in the morning. Open the shades and soak in the natural light. Even a cloudy day will do the trick.

2. Find a comfortable spot.

Once you have opened up all the shades in your room, find a spot near a window to sit (edge of the bed, a chair).

3. Observe your breath.

Feel your breath as it moves into your body and then out. Focus on this breath and allow your mind to travel with it as you inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders to something else—like how you’d love to crawl back into bed and sleep for the rest of the day—simply note that it happened and nonjudgmentally bring your focus back to the breath.

4. Observe the weather.

Look out the window and bathe your face in natural light. Take a moment to observe the weather outside as you gaze out your window from your comfortable, seated position. Is it sunny outside? Cloudy? Rainy? What do the clouds look like, what color is the sky? Become aware of your feelings, positive or negative, about the current weather situation. Notice what arises in your mind as you allow yourself to experience the weather as a nonjudgmental observer.

5. Stand up to start your day.

Plant your feet firmly onto the floor and notice the texture, temperature of the floor. Is it carpeted and warm? Cold and concrete? Stand straight up, stretch your arms up high, take a deep breath and get moving.

Shelby Freedman Harris

Shelby Freedman Harris is a clinical psychologist and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

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