Good Morning, Sunshine
Sometimes it seems like the morning comes too soon. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. The good news, however, is that I don’t mind the mornings as much as I used to. For a long time my beginning “A.M. moments” looked something like this:
A blaring alarm goes off
My heart and other muscles contract with fear. It takes ten or so punches of the snooze button while my body tries to convince my brain that I don’t really need to get up. Sooner or later, however, my mind can’t take the repeated alarm noise.
Must get up.
My feet hit the ground. My eyes open just enough to see shadows in hopes of keeping me from walking into my dresser/door/wall. (I’m not always successful with this.) Finally, I walk.
*crack* *crack* *crack*
I hear an all too familiar sound of my joints making crinkly noises with each step. I have a whole day ahead of me but I feel exhausted, tired, and “closed in.” And then I think to myself…
“I really hate mornings.”
Sure, there are those “morning” people who seem to jump out of bed and sing the whole morning long, but for many of us this is far from the reality we experience. For far too many people, rough mornings fit right in there with back pain, lack of range of motion, and all those other “symptoms” that are associated with the aging process. It’s just a part of life, right?
Luckily, something changed my perspective. It is strange what can force us to see things differently. For me and my mornings, the change started when I noticed a pattern. And believe me, it definitely was a pattern found in the most unlikely of places. Take a look:
Do you see it? And it’s not just our pets:
Stretch, baby, stretch!
I have two cute little Yorkshire Terriers (well, they are actually my parents’), and I noticed that my dogs always stretched after waking up. I thought to myself, “My dogs are pretty old and yet they are not complaining of back pain, decreased range of motion, or ‘getting old’.” (Sure, they are both deaf and one of them blind now, but they are really really old.)
So once upon a time I tried an experiment for the next few days. I woke up, and before getting out of bed I stretched. Easy enough, I thought.
Oh, it felt good.
Actually, it felt great.
Since that day I have found that with a few simple morning rituals I am able to find more bounce in my step. I am also more aware of my world, my body, and happy to be awake. Even the cracking joints are history. That is not to say that I don’t still have those early mornings that feel like they come all too soon. But it only takes a few moments (and a little discipline) and I feel ready to take on the day.
Give it a try! Let me know what you experience.
A few ideas for waking up refreshed:
Start off right by getting a good night’s rest. No matter what rituals you do in the morning, if you aren’t giving your body the sleep it needs the mornings will always be hard.
Consider switching that blaring alarm clock for an alternative form of wake-up-system. Natural health guru Dr. Mercola explains that the worst side effect of an alarm clock is that it stimulates the fight-or-flight human defense response in some people, which prompts the body to pump the appropriate chemicals into the bloodstream very early in the morning, when there is nothing to fight or run away from (1).
“Sun Alarms” use gradually growing light to wake us up in a more natural way. Of course these tend to be pricey (anywhere from $80 – $200). I have found that a more economical solution (read: for the budget oriented folks like me) is a simple CD or MP3 alarm clock. I have been waking up to nature sounds for a few years. It makes waking up much easier. (Although if you’re not a light sleeper you may need a back up plan.)
Stretch! Remembering to do this may be the hardest part, but I promise you’ll feel a difference. And don’t worry, I’m not talking about jumping into the splits when you wake up. Here are a few easy and gentle stretches to consider putting into your morning ritual:
- Deep Breaths: A simple reminder that our breath is the key to life. It is also a great way to get your lungs, diaphragm, and core muscles moving—not to mention breathing is like a free massage for your internal organs.
- “Big X”: Allow all six limbs (head, tailbone, arms, and legs) to spread away from your core. Relax all six limbs back toward your center and repeat a few times. Allow your inhale to match the expansive stretch and your exhale to signal the release.
- Swimming Spine: You can do this on your back or sitting. Imagine your spine is a river. Gently sway your torso to allow all parts of the spine (including the head and pelvis) to wave from side to side.
- Shallow Downward Dog: Place both feet on the floor and then stretch your arms on the bed. Allow your tailbone to stretch away from the bed while the spine is long. This is a gentle version of its yoga counterpart that allows your legs, back, and arms to stretch.
- Little giggles: This is my favorite one (although I admit it is probably the strangest of the bunch). In a playful and easy manner, let your body “laugh” by subtly jiggling and shaking your body. This allows the synovial fluid in your joints to lubricate them and get rid of the “cracking” noises in the morning.Using the bed for balance if you need it, pick one foot up at the time and just gently shake it. Give your hands a little shake, and then follow it with an easy “shimmy” of the torso. You may feel silly, so go ahead and laugh.
What helps you wake up in the morning?
(top featured image by Madelyn Smith, Flickr)