A Morning Routine To Cultivate Mental, Physical and Spiritual Health
Updated: Oct 19, 2019
The benefits of a morning ritual for developing presence, focus, energy, equanimity, and physical fitness
I have been trialing various morning routines over the past few years and have tried many different methodologies. There are many benefits to establishing some form of a healthy and conscious morning ritual. It allows a person to start the day off in a great way by working on personal growth mentally, physically and spiritually. Having a conscious practice enables one to reprogram bad habits and subconscious behavior set in by previous conditioning. It gives the opportunity for some time of solitude and stillness in our busy and distracting lives. You can maintain a healthy body by getting outside in nature, exercising and emphasizing consumption of quality nutrition. It helps manage stress, provides structure and gives a sense of accomplishment by achieving small goals all before the start of the work day. Also, one will have better present awareness throughout the day allowing for improved focus, willpower and decision making.
I feel that in the technological era we are in now it is very important to develop good habits upon waking. What's the first thing most people do after they wake up? Most likely, look at their smart phones to check for any texts, calls, emails or notifications from social media. Research is showing this is having a negative impact on health physically and mentally that I went into detail in this blog post. We aren't designed to wake up first thing and look at an artificially lit screen while allowing a global connection, this puts your body under stress and when done daily over time can cause problems with all aspects of your health. With so many distractions in our modern world, the vast majority of people get up and start the day in a low awareness state. Immediately going on autopilot and letting the subconscious mind and conditioned programming run the show, allowing for negative habits and patterns to dictate their lives. Each morning is an opportunity to restart, take control over our lives and begin the day in a beneficial way, not to be wasted.
Many famous and successful people of today and throughout history tend to have some sort of morning ritual to start their day in order to accomplish their goals and dreams. From Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs to Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. they can vary greatly, but have one underlying theme. They take time for themselves to prepare for the day while minimizing distractions and also have a strong sense of purpose. Having a morning routine is the foundation to build achievements and success on and as the adage says, win the morning to win the day. In this blog post, I want to share my current daily morning routine and how it helps manage thoughts and emotions, keeps me focused, develops a healthy body, while giving me great energy and awareness throughout the day.
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” – Meister Eckhart
Rise and Shine
I usually get to bed between 10-11 PM every night in order to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, sometimes a little more depending on my recovery needs. This enables me to get up around 6-6:30 AM fully rested. I try as much as possible to allow my body to wake naturally at the end of a sleep cycle so that I wake up in a refreshed state, but usually have an alarm set in case. I get up before my wife and son so that way I am able to have a moment of solitude and stillness. I prioritize setting aside a little extra time for myself each morning because it allows me to be a better husband, father and man the rest of the day.
Also, the time I wake up tends to align with the seasons and when the sun rises. In the fall and winter when the light cycle becomes shorter I will turn in earlier and get more sleep as nature intended. While in the spring and summer as the days become longer, I will get up earlier with the sun rise as well as stay up a little later than usual. This aligns with my chronotype of a bear, which describes a person's unique circadian rhythm. You can take a quiz to find out your chronotype and how it impacts your lifestyle at Dr. Michael Breus's website, the power of when. Immediately after waking up, I sit up in bed with my back against the wall and prepare to do some breath work and meditation.
Meditation and Breath Work
I have tried various different forms of meditation and breathing techniques, which have evolved into the daily practice I enjoy now. I use a combination of a few strategies I have learned. Sometimes I incorporate music with specific frequencies and tones or binaural beats to help reach an elevated state and desired brainwave patterns. Although, I don't like being dependent on them so I let my intuition guide me. Also, if I do use music on my phone I make sure my screen brightness is very low as well as using blue blocking apps like Iris that are set from the previous night and wear blue blocking glasses especially, if it's the time of year when the sun rises later. I don't want cause a disruption of my circadian rhythm by looking at a bright blue lit screen that tells my brain its noon time right when I wake up. Constantly looking at artificially lit screens upon waking is a bad idea as it is in vast contrast to the sun, which we have evolved with over millennia to wake up to.
I start with 2X breathing (exhale twice as long as inhale ie. 2 sec in 4 sec out). I perform this in a rhythmic pattern, which I learned from SOMA Breath, for about 30 times while bringing my awareness into my body and senses, just feeling the sensations. I take a final full inhale all the way in and on the last exhale I let out all of my air from my lungs, then relax my chin to my chest and hold my breath. While in breath retention, I recite an attunement that I learned from Paul Selig through his channeled books. It goes as follows; I know what I am in truth, I know who I am in truth, I know how I serve in truth, I am free, I am free, I am free...I am in the upper room and I have come. This helps me align to my higher self and raise my energetic vibration to a higher octave. After this attunement, I think of something I'm grateful for and then something I need to forgive or surrender to, all while still holding my breath, as it's a way to press pause on life and allows for better present moment awareness.
Next, I will sit with my thoughts and emotions for roughly 5 min (going in and out of breath retention) while chanting a mantra in my head, which I received when going through a meditation course at zivameditation.com. Now as I am repeating my mantra, after I fight the first sensation to breathe, I will take a short inhale followed by full exhale and another breath hold allowing for my body to get into a deeper state of intermittent hypoxia, which has many benefits on our physiology. I will do this for a total of 3 breath holds and on the last one, when I get the urge to breathe I will take a big inhale while applying mula bundha (squeezing pelvic floor) imagining the energy coming up the base of spine to my head while focusing on my third eye. I hold this until I need to exhale, in which I let the air out slowly while performing vocal toning.
The video above is a 6 phase mediation that I have used before which I modify into my own practice now. It is a great guided meditation to start with.
At this point, I am in a high alpha or theta brainwave state, which is great for getting past my lower nature and analytical mind, allowing access to my higher self for better understanding and connection. Now, I take a few minutes to think about my vision for the future, getting as detailed as possible including the perception of all senses and calling in elevated emotions such as peace, love, joy, gratitude, fulfillment, freedom and abundance. This tactic, I learned from Dr. Joe Dispenza through his books, interviews and lectures as he puts a lot of emphasis on raising your emotional state in order to manifest ideas. Next, I take a minute to visualize my day and completing all the tasks at hand. Finally, I finish my mediation with a prayer for myself and others depending on whats happening in my life at them moment. If you would like delve more into the ins and outs of meditation check out the eBook, Meditation Demystified, which is a fantastic resource.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” – Aristotle
Sun Gazing and Hydration
After my mediation is over, I get up to empty my bladder and put about 1 tbsp of coconut oil in my mouth to start oil pulling for oral hygiene and immune support. As I am oil pulling, I head to the kitchen and start to boil some water for a nice cup of Kion Coffee. As my coffee is steeping in the french press I get outside to see the initial sunrise, exposing my eyes and skin while grounding to the earth (with bare feet or Earth Runners sandals when its extremely cold). I stand outside for at least 3-5 min (longer if time and weather allows) to set my circadian rhythm properly. When the days are shorter and the sun doesn't come up very early I use dim amber or red lighting along with blue blocking glasses until I can get outside and see the sun. When I come back inside I spit out the oil in the trash. take a swig of apple cider vinegar and hydrate with 20-32 oz of high quality spring water or reverse osmosis (RO) that is structured with minerals added as well as a squeeze of lemon.
Listen to the Daily Stoic on Audible app
Read a passage from The Daily Bread app
Read the daily passage from Healing After Loss
Fill out the the daily questions in The Christian Gratitude Journal
Fill out a morning reflection in the Daily Stoic Journal
This may seem like a little much for some, but really only takes less than 10 minutes as I drink my coffee. It helps me tremendously with starting the day off in a good mindset by gaining quality perspective, mindfulness and clarity. Most people waste more time playing around on social media or watching TV, which isn't productive and wastes valuable time one could better use working on the development and growth of themselves.
Health Tracking and Supplementation
At this time I sync my Oura ring, a health and fitness tracker, to review how my sleep was and analyze my Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is the measurement of the time between heart beats, which provides great data about the health of the nervous system. A healthy HRV would have a lot of variability between beats, where a poor HRV would not fluctuate much. The Oura app takes your previous night's sleep and HRV along with some other factors like amount of activity, temperature and respiration per min to give a readiness score. I use this app to see how I'm recovering from exercise, managing stress and understand how other lifestyle factors effect my body. I take into consideration my readiness score and how I'm feeling to gauge the type of exercise I plan to do for the day and to decide if I need to incorporate more recovery tactics.
I take a few supplements depending on what my plan is for the day. I don't believe you should rely heavily on supplementation and need to take care of the basics first such as diet, hydration, lifestyle and environment. Although, a few high quality supplements that are tailored for ones personalized goals can be a great addition to help with overall performance, health and well being. Usually, I take 10-20g of Kion Aminos, which are essential amino acids along with 2.5 g of creatine to provide my body with a non caloric form of fuel and is a great way to maintain muscle and enhance performance during my fasted morning workout. Also, I take a 10 mushroom super food blend from Four Sigmatic, which gives a variety of benefits such as improved cognition, stamina, mood and immunity. Sometimes, I will add in some electrolytes during longer sessions and about 2g of citrulline malate to promote nitric oxide production and blood flow.
During more intense training periods, as well as cold and flu season I will take 10 drops of Kion Oregano, which is a great support for the the immune, digestive and respiratory systems. I use an essential oil called Respire from Essential Oil Wizardry, which is also great for the respiratory system by opening up the sinuses and allowing for better ability to perform deep breathing during my morning exercise session. A lot of times, I also use a small amount of CBD, with a dosage of 10-20 mg, which helps improve focus, clarity, mood, and a balanced energy level. The brand I love and trust is BioCBD+, which is natural, organic and is highly bio-available because it is water soluble.
Now, after meditation, getting outside, reading, journaling, hydrating, analyzing my readiness score and taking a few supplements I'm primed to do some physical activity and get the blood flowing. The method I choose varies quite often considering season, weather, mood, recovery, time available and if any events are coming up such as an obstacle course race or another competition. Although, there is a lot of variation I still do some sort of movement everyday even if its only 5-10 minutes. At this time, I'll also incorporate some deep tissue and mobility work using foam rollers, balls and other contraptions. I'll target trouble areas most of the time along with generalized full body movements, depending on what my exercise looks like for that day and recovery status. Taking a few minutes each day really helps to stay injury free by keeping flexible and improving recovery time between workouts.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
Whatever the exercise modality is I like to perform it at an easy-moderate conversational pace. I keep heart rate in an aerobic zone using the calculation 180 minus age popularized by Dr. Phil Maffetone to prevent crossing into the anaerobic threshold. The reason for this is because I want to get the benefits of morning fasted exercise without causing too much stress on my system potentially disrupting hormones and causing other issues down the road. I save the hard, more intense exercise sessions for the afternoon when our body is better adapted for strenuous activity and can handle the stress due to circadian rhythm alignment. Although, sometimes life gets busy and if I need to hit a harder workout by incorporating resistance training and higher intensity exercises in the morning due to adjustments in my schedule, than I will and adapt accordingly.
A few examples of what exercise I will do could be as simple as a walk, body shaking, breath work, or a natural movement session utilizing my own body weight. Some days I will go for a run, bike ride, or swim and other days I will do yoga, qi gong, or tai chi as well as mobility and postural work. Like I said, it really depends on many factors, but whatever I'm doing I try to get outside exposing my body to the elements. I mix things up a lot and let my intuition guide me, but generally throughout the course of a week I do a little of each and a lot of times combine things. For instance, I might bike to the beach and go for a swim while incorporating tai chi; go for a run followed by yoga and mobility work; or perform body weight exercises along with qi gong and energy work.
I really enjoy doing some type of physical exercise each morning after working on mental and spiritual aspects of myself. It helps me further contemplate my thoughts and feelings with a way to release them through my body during activity. Also, it helps me gain further perspective from my meditation, reading and journaling. While at the same time, keeping in great physical condition! At this time, I like to take some time to connect with my wife and son and will have him accompany me during my morning exercise sessions whether it be a walk, bike ride our just playing around in the yard. If my wife is in the mood she will tag along as well lol!
Bringing It All Together
After my exercise session is over I get ready for the rest of the day by taking a shower. Here, I always incorporate the cold water to get the metabolism, immune and brain boosting benefits. Sometimes, I take a complete cold shower, especially in the summer, but the majority of the time I alternate between hot and cold for 30-60 sec 3-4 times each, getting the vascular benefits of the contrasting temperatures. Regardless, I always end the shower with cold to allow my body to warm up on its own, helping with cold adaptation and improving resilience to stress. This puts the "icing" on the cake so to speak to finish up my routine, which leaves me refreshed and charged up to tackle the day.
After getting dressed, it's time to eat breakfast unless I'm doing a longer intermittent fast, in which I hold off for a little while longer. Breakfast mainly consists of a meal that is high in protein and healthy fats while low in carbs in the form of a smoothie and/or quality cuts of grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and pastured eggs with seasonal variance. This is usually my biggest caloric meal of the day and I like to save my carbohydrates for around my afternoon workouts to help limit glycemic variability, maintain insulin sensitivity and replenish glycogen storage.
Now, its time to head into the day where I like to make a quick list of things I need to accomplish. Sometimes it's just a mental list and other times I will write things down if I have a lot of little things to do. Writing out lists can be great for productivity, but I don't like to become dependent on them and don't like feeling like I have a whole list of things to do and check off each day as it can vary depending on what I need to accomplish. I try to go after the most challenging tasks first while I have the most energy and to get them out of the way to reduce procrastination.
This may seem like a lot to do in the morning to get the day started, but I didn't jump straight into a routine like this. I trialed many practices and built upon multiple concepts over the years, where I created habits so that it's not something I have to think about doing in a dreadful way each day. It becomes something that when I go to bed each night I look forward to getting up and going through my ritual. This current practice is pretty involved because it really helps me manage the grieving process of my daughter, River, who passed away in December 2018, due to an aggressive brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, DIPG. Check out DIPG.org, The Cure Starts Now, and The Chad Tough Foundation to learn more and please think about donating to help fund research towards developing treatments and potentially a cure. Also, this morning routine really allows me to stay on track with my life purpose and mission so that I can show up in the world as the best version of myself and promote positive change.
A morning routine is like a living document that is always evolving and adapting, so things may change and some days I may have to improvise somewhat, but I have a framework that I work within. This consists of some sort of mental, spiritual and physical practice everyday. It could be as simple as taking a few breaths, thinking of something you're grateful for and stepping outside for a short walk. Each morning is a chance to start over, trying to improve from the day before and practicing a good routine allows present awareness and proper alignment with your higher self. Once you prioritize a morning ritual you will find the time for integration, especially as you eliminate distractions and feel more focused throughout the day, allowing for improved efficiency with tasks.
If you would like to begin creating a personalized morning routine that will help you start the day off right by giving you presence, focus, energy, and equanimity, while working towards the physique you desire then schedule a consultation today!