The secret to supercharging your day

Do you ever drag yourself out of bed in the morning feeling less than great?  If you answered yes, you’re not alone there.  A large percentage of the nation wake up feeling like crap, and have to scrape themselves off their duvet like a slug off a garden patio each day.  For many this lethargic state permeates their day.

Plenty of us feel sluggish in both our minds and bodies, and over time come to consider this to be the norm, you know, just the way it is.  We accept this physical and mental sludge as the way we’re supposed to feel from the moment we wake up until our first caffeine or nicotine hit.

My years of working within the health and wellness industry have led me to the opinion that when it comes to our physical and mental wellbeing the majority of us are far too inconsistent.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re great starters (see January gym membership sales) but when it comes to staying the course, the tale of the hare and the tortoise definitely springs to mind.

Life just isn’t that kind!

The thing is, that blissful feeling of wellbeing most of us crave, doesn’t happen all by itself.  The universe just isn’t that kind, it wants us to earn it’s treasures.  And one weekly visit to the gym to spend 90 minutes on the cross trainer won’t tick that box unfortunately.  To get results we need to work a little smarter than that.

There are a number of things we are exposed to in our daily environment that can have a seriously negative impact on our physical and mental health.  I’m talking about things ranging from pollution, and chemicals, right through to excessive exposure to television, and advertising.  And we rarely have to look much further than the daily news for a dose of darkness and despair.

A constant battle

The bad news is that in the battle for our minds and bodies we’re really up against tough opposition in these adversaries.  Because you can bet your bottom dollar that the list of antagonists I just mentioned have got the rule of consistency down to a fine art.  These wily foxes don’t miss a single day, they’re relentless when it comes to bombarding us.

So we need to be on guard, and stay one step ahead of them, by creating our own personal wellbeing shield, and making sure we strengthen it every day, to prevent cracks appearing.

The great American Psychologist William James said “Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself, so that we find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do under like circumstances”

Harness the power of habit

Positive habits can be very powerful when put to good use.  But this is a two-way street, with the bad habits lane being much wider, as negative habits can easily send our physical and mental wellbeing on a downward spiral.

Unfortunately installing good habits requires our consistent focused attention, which many of us don’t want to spend our precious mental energy on, whereas putting bad habits in place requires no effort at all, a bit like allowing our homes to become messy.  If we take our eyes off the housework for long enough we’ll soon find ourselves living in a huge mess.

A stimulant nation

Many of us rely on stimulants to give us that much needed boost when we’re not feeling too energetic. And these things usually work, so why would we give them up? But the truth of the matter is, these things, according to studies, just make us feel normal.

So it’s not that that morning cigarette or coffee make us feel better, they simply make us feel as we would if we had never become dependant on them in the first place.

Is it all in the mind?

Think back to those mornings you had as a child, when you couldn’t wait to burst out of bed. Perhaps like me your parents had to force you to go back to bed until they were ready to get up. Most of us hadn’t even tasted coffee at this stage.

So what was the difference between the small child-version of us who burst out of bed like Tigger, and the older us who almost has to be dragged out by a crane and lifted to the nearest coffee jar? My observation is that children are often on a natural high, fuelled by excitement at what the day has to offer, and can’t bear to miss a thing, whereas this tends to fade as we get a bit older.

So how can we as adults revive that ‘Tigger’ feeling and bounce out of our bedsheets each morning? One things for sure, I’m pretty certain staying up till al hours watching celebrity Big Brother won’t help.

Trial & error

The thing is, sometimes we create that amazing feeling, but often, we do it by accident, without realising how we did it.  Without knowing what we did to make our mind and body feel like a really pleasant place to be that day.  Was it something we did yesterday, or perhaps even a few days ago, that’s now taking effect, or maybe it was something we ate?

Where many of us get it slightly wrong, is that the we often surround our positive actions with poorer ones, so the effects are hidden in a mist of negativity.

Life sure ain’t gonna slow down

Our lives are becoming busier and more challenging, with this trend showing no signs of doing a U-turn, so we need to do our best to kickstart our days by putting as much weight as we can on the positive side of the scales, before the inevitable stress storm hits.  We’ve got to be that little piggy who builds their house out of bricks, not straw, so that when stress hits we can weather the winds with no problems.

As a solution, I’m advocating what author Steven Covey referred to as habits of ‘daily renewal’. In his book the 7 Habits of highly effective people, he tells the story of the man who has been tasked with chopping down all of the trees in a huge forest.  He’s busy sweating, labouring away, when an old lady walks by and asks him “why don’t you take a short rest so you can sit down, have a glass of water and sharpen your saw so you’ll be able to chop faster?”  To which the man replies “Can’t you see that I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw, I’m too busy chopping down these trees”

Recharge your mental chainsaw

By taking a small amount of time, every day to renew our mind and body in some way we can supercharge our day, and feel good all the way through without the slumps in physical and mental energy that drive us towards the coffee machine, or the vending machine packed with sugary snacks.  We can naturally sharpen our saws.

I personally have a daily routine that I follow every morning, that includes activities that renew my mind and body.  What works from person to person may be different, as we’re all wired in different ways.  What works for me is a little bit of writing, to fire up my mind, then onto some light exercise and stretching to wake up my body, before meditating to further sharpen my mind, and give me a feeling of connectedness with myself.

It just takes a little discipline, that’s all..

I call this process of daily renewal my ‘Power hour’, and without fail, this 60 minute routine can take me from waking up feeling a groggy two out of ten, who needs a coffee now, to feeling a highly motivated eight or nine out of ten, and glad to be alive! The transformation is amazing, and it takes me less than an hour.  Like a trusty old friend, it never let’s me down.  Yes, it means I have to get up earlier than I would like, but it’s time well invested, as it keeps me physically and mental trim.

This means I start my day feeling great, and hardly ever have to reach for the cafetiere like I so regularly used to.  Now, I see a nice coffee as a treat rather than the mandatory morning companion I used to view it as.

So if you’re now feeling intrigued at the idea of creating your own daily power ritual, all you need to do to get the ball rolling is choose activities you enjoy (this is essential if you’re going to keep it up) that boost your mind and body, then pair them up.

I’d advise starting small, with perhaps a ten minute morning routine, then extend it as you please. And make sure you experiment with lots of different things. Because after all, you want this to be your personal pleasure time, and not something you dread doing like an annual tax return.

Then, once you’ve mastered your morning routine, if you really want to go the whole hog, why not surround your day with positivity, by having a morning and evening routine?  Having a morning and evening ‘power hour’ could really supercharge your days.

Now, no matter what happens during the middle part of your day, you’ve safeguarded yourself by throwing in lots of positive and affirming actions to out-weigh the bad stuff, and build resilience to this stressful world we live in.

And when that little voice on your shoulder starts telling you that you don’t have time to do a morning routine, simply remind it, that you don’t have time not to.  That should shut it up!
Jonathan Pittam
Corporate Resilience & Wellbeing Coach, Consultant, Writer, Speaker

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