And what a beautiful morning it is.
No? What do you mean you had a one-sided fight with a tube barrier then dodged a killer pigeon, only to nearly be mown down by a guy on a Boris Bike trying to break the land-speed record for riding on the pavement? And all before your first coffee of the day... which was so hot it burnt your wind pipe.
Let's all go back to bed
Whatever form your morning takes, it can set the tone for your entire day. There's a whole lot of truth in the saying 'Got out of the wrong side of the bed'.
I'm sure we'd all love to float through ten rounds of sun salutations and a 30 minute meditation followed by homemade rye bread with poached eggs and fairy dust, before breezing into work. Unfortunately, the reality can be pretty different.
A few small changes
Some mornings it might feel like the world is conspiring against you. But, with a couple of tweaks to your usual routine, it's possible to start the day in a more positive frame of mind. Now, that doesn't mean waving a magic wand and making the killer pigeon vanish. It just means better equipping yourself to avoid its line of attack whilst simultaneously sidestepping Boris Bike guy, all with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
First things first
As far as I'm aware, human beings are the only animals on earth that don't stretch when they wake up. Take a look at your cat or dog the next time they stir from their slumber. The first thing they do is give themselves a good old full body stretch - nose to tail.
When you wake up, take a few moments to reacquaint yourself with your body - start to wriggle some life back into your fingers and toes. Lie on your back, place your hands on your belly and take some deep breaths. Right from the bottom of your stomach up to your chest.*
Then place your feet flat on the bed, point your knees towards the ceiling and move them gently left to right to massage your back. Hop out of bed and spend five minutes doing the following routine:
- Kneel down, sitting on your heels. Make sure your big toes are touching, then separate your knees about six inches.
- Stretch and fold the rest of your body down and forwards, resting your stomach on your thighs and your chest on your knees. Place your forehead on the floor.
- Lay your arms on the floor alongside your body, hands pointing backwards, palms facing up. Or, if it's more comfortable, stack your hands underneath your forehead.
- Breathe. Feel the weight of your shoulders stretching your shoulder blades apart. Breathe again. Breathe some more - around 10 times in total.
'Cat to cow'
- Make yourself into a table top: kneel on all fours, with your knees directly under your hips and your wrists directly under your shoulders. Whilst inhaling slowly, drop your belly towards the floor, arch your back, lift your chest and look forward with your chin slightly tilted up.
- As you exhale, come back through the neutral 'table top' position. Still moving slowly, round your spine towards the ceiling and imagine you're pulling your belly button towards your spine. Tuck your chin to your chest and relax your neck.
- Keep repeating this flowing movement around 10 times, inhaling as you arch you spine, exhaling as you round it.
- Sit down on the floor and bring your knees towards your chest, placing the soles of your feet on the floor.
- Slide your left foot under your right leg, to the outside of your right hip, knee bent. Your right leg should be over the left, with the sole of your right foot pressed on the floor outside your left knee. Point your right knee directly up at the ceiling and wiggle around a bit, so that your weight is distributed equally across your bottom.
- Take a deep breath and, whilst you exhale, twist towards your right side. Press your right hand against the floor just behind you, and bring the left arm round so that it rests on the outside of your right thigh or knee.
- Pull up through the top of your head to lengthen your spine. Whilst slowly breathing in and out, twist to the right as far as your body will let you. Don't push it too far, your body is still waking up.
- Hold for about 30 seconds and then do the same on the other side.
A couple of other ideas
On your way to work, say 'good morning' to an older person who you might pass in the street (bear with me on this one). I used to walk past an elderly gentleman on my way to the station most mornings. I would smile and say 'hello' and he would return the greeting and doff his flat cap, which I thought was a wonderful gesture. It may be that he lived with his lovely wife, had lots of family and an active social life. Or he may have lived on his own, and our brief exchanges were one of his only daily interactions. Either way, positive interactions with strangers can make a real difference to your mornings.
In a similar vein, try smiling at people who really hack you off on your commute. Force a really beaming grin at the worst offenders. It's hard to be angry when you're smiling.
Finally, when you reach your place of work, instead of blustering in and bemoaning the morning's woes to your colleagues, try this:
- Take the stairs or walk up the escalator, or walk once around the block before you reach the office
- Find a quiet place, stand with your hands on your hips, chest open. Breathe in and out deeply, three times
- Tell yourself (in your head or out loud) that you're going to have a freakin' awesome day
Then go ahead and make it a good one. Small changes, practiced consistently, make a big difference.
*I fully appreciate that this won't be possible every morning and that some days, you'll be woken up with a jolt by screaming children and the like. My personal favourite is when my cat jumps on my head and sticks her claws into my scalp - no amount of deep breathing is going to zen you out after that special kind of alarm clock.