When I first developed my morning routine, it served me well to stick to a disciplined and structured format that was the same day after day. After a few months, I noticed that the simple and predictable steps no longer felt like nourishment, they felt like a chore to get through.
What serve’s you at one point is not what will necessarily serve you forever
My mental health was no longer in a dire condition, and I had more space and energy available to see options and to explore emotions outside the realm of depression and desperation. I realized that each day calls for something different, and while my "routine" now varies based on my current state and desires, the goal is the same....tap into my ideal STATE of mind.
Here are 5 simple steps for you to start practicing Your Ideal State:
1. Deep Belly Breaths
It is a common issue to not know how to breathe deep into the belly. Many of us have spent most of our life sucking our belly in, thinking that holding it tight all the time will make our muscles stronger and leaner. Well, turns out the opposite is true. If you hold your belly in all day long, your core muscles are exhausted and will not develop properly, in balance. So let that belly hang! Put your hand on your belly, and breathe deep. Feel your belly button expand away from your body, your sides and back too. Pause at the peak of your inhale, relax around the sensation of fullness. Slowly exhale, and assist your belly button in towards your spine, hollowing out until there is nothing left. Now, let go of tension and allow your belly to inflate like a balloon. Continue for five deep belly breaths.
When we breathe like this, our mind and body tap into natural relaxation and release. Our habitually fearful or anxious mind will calm down when our breath leads the way. Let your breath be your greatest teacher.
2. Get to know Your Higher-Self
I struggled a lot as a teenager. My mood swings and emotional fixations took me on a wild roller coaster ride on a daily basis. I recall frustration and anger when I would attempt to get to know “the real me” through IQ tests or personality exams or potential career surveys, because how I showed up in life was not really who I believed or knew myself to be. I was lost, sick, and confused. I would read a question and my answer would be, "sometimes yes, sometimes no," or "it depends," or "when I am in a good mood yes but when I am in a bad mood, hell no." These exams made it more clear that I had a community of characteristics or qualities within my own mind and body.
Your Higher-Self is the you you strive to be. We all have a best-self state, and you get access to him/her when you have had a good sleep, you are nourished with food and inspiration, you have taken time to connect with others, connect with yourself, and you feel you are making progress. That is who you are at your core. Get to know that core. What does it feel like? How do you respond when you are in that state? What external conditions support you in tapping into that state? What internal conditions are necessary for you to tap into that state? This is the most important relationship you will ever foster, you between you.
3. See your Progress
We are biologically hardwired to crave and love progress. We get a boost of dopamine when our mind and body assess a situation as promoting our survival. Progress feels good. Begin your day by completing something on your to-do list. Whether you begin with the biggest or top priority item, or just follow the mantra of "Just Start," our mind reacts with dopamine which will motivate you to keep going.
4. Don’t judge your impulse to Compare
We are biologically programmed to notice others and compare ourselves in terms of status. The problem is not that we compare ourselves, the problem is we believe these thoughts to be fact and pure truth, and allow ourselves to feel bad or do crazy things to get attention. We can fill this gap by taking time daily to think and write out what we are grateful for. You can take time daily to reflect on how far you have come and what you are proud of. And, take time to acknowledge the beauty and the benefits of where and who you are in this moment. There are always ways we can negatively compare ourselves, and others, but we can reverse that habit and learn to retrain our thoughts to absolutely love and appreciate what is. While you can’t control the impulse to compare, you can control whether you feed that thought or re-direct towards something more expansive and nourishing.
5. Conserve and Create high quality energy
We have a certain amount of energy to use on a daily basis. There are ways to create a bit more and conserve what we have. But overall, the best plan of action is to limit the amount of ways you waste or drain your own energy. When you have a tank full of fuel, you are able to step back from a situation and consciously choose how to respond versus getting caught up in your auto-pilot reactions.
When you notice you are replaying a past event, over and over in your mind, remind yourself that you are not fixing anything and are wasting energy you could use for something productive. Redirect your thoughts to gratitude, growth, and do-overs. When you notice you are fantasizing about the future, in worry or in excitement, remind yourself that happiness can only be found right now, with a deep belly breath, and a content smile on your face. Know that this is not about being perfect or training your mind to be always focused and in the present moment. The practice is in noticing what isn't serving you well, choosing love and compassion, and returning to your breath and contentment in the now.
The practice is in returning, not staying. The beauty is in growth, not perfection.
Find time each day to tap into this ideal State. Each time you do, it becomes easier and more accessible. It is not a race, and it is not about getting the most done each day. Allow this to be journey, a lifestyle, and a long-game. Over time, with persistence and consistency, you are going to create the epic shift and be who you truly desire to be.