Now, more than ever, we need to cultivate a healthy body for strong immunity, a positive mindset to cope with uncertainty, and a peaceful soul to trust that we are going to be okay.
Working from home has become the norm. For many, it’s no work at all. Either way, we are spending more time at home with family, taking longer walks with our pets (a good thing for them and us!) and trying to fill the days with activities for the kids. Our schedules have been derailed, to say the least. We went from a structured schedule with a set time to wake up, start our day, walk the dog, and send the kids to school, to chaos in the world and at home—a change that practically happened overnight. If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone. Lack of structure and routine can be unsettling and feel like helter-skelter. Long days at home can also mean snacking throughout the day, eating at times when you may not feel hungry and random times to prepare and eat meals.
Creating a morning routine can be a lifesaving practice for both you and your family. It can create a positive mindset that will help you better cope with the changes and uncertainty. It can also help you make healthy decisions when choosing when and what to eat for snacks. Starting the day with a short morning uplifting routine (that eventually will become a habit) can set the pace for the rest of the day. You might notice less stress and more peace, less reactivity and more proactive behavior, and overall better mental health that leads to optimal physical health.
Creating a morning routine may mean setting your alarm to wake up five to ten minutes earlier than your family and before the day officially starts. My advice? Do it. Even if you commit to it for three days or seven days or two weeks. Just try it. What do you have to lose?
For me, my morning routine has been a game-changer in how my day unfolds and how I cope with day-to-day stresses. I know this because the days that I decide to sleep longer or am “not feeling it,” and skip the morning routine, my mindset is considerably different. For this reason, I try to stay committed, even if I choose to do just one of the practices below. More often than not, that one practice leads to the others.
Maybe try one of these to start. It will literally take you two minutes or less to try just one of the suggestions below! If you can commit to five minutes, I’d love to challenge you to do it for one week. If you’re feeling very motivated then commit to two weeks — that’s only 14 days during a time when you’re at home and have the opportunity to start a practice that can become a life-changing habit. Trust me, once you start these practices, you’ll notice a change in your mindset, which leads to less stress, better decision making, less reactivity and overall better health. This is also the start of healthy snacking, which starts with a healthy mindset. Creating a morning routine will help you make better food decisions throughout the day. Stay tuned for simple, yet nourishing, snack ideas and recipes, coming up soon.
1. Start the day with a positive affirmation
What constant negative thought patterns give you a heavy, not-so-good feeling? Some examples might include:
“I’m not good enough”
“I look awful”
“I’m afraid of the future”
“I hate my body”
“I shouldn’t have done that”
“I would if I had the time, but …”
Whatever the negative thought in your head, try creating a statement that is the exact opposite.
Instead of “I’m not good enough” try “I am enough”
Instead of “I look awful” look in the mirror and try “I am beautiful” or “I love my ____” (insert what you love about yourself)”
Instead of “I’m afraid of the future” try “I embrace change and have everything I need to move into the future with confidence and strength”
Instead of “I hate my body” try “I accept and love my body”
Instead of “I shouldn’t have done that” try “I did the best I could”
Instead of “I would if I had the time, but …” try “I make the time for things that are good for my health”
When you change what you’re saying, your mind perceives things differently. When you practice positive affirmations daily, you’ll start to notice a shift in thought patterns and daily healthy habits start to form. It’s pretty magical! Your world will start to open up in ways that you never expected. Try it. Whenever you notice a negative thought pop up, flip the statement into something positive and notice how your mind and body feel.
2. Start a 2-minute meditation practice
Several years ago, I decided to commit to only two minutes a day since my go-to habits included not sitting still, a racing mind and being easily distracted. Two minutes sounded painful. Gradually, I bumped that up to five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. Now, twenty minutes feels really lovely (kind of like a mini-getaway vacation of the mind). There are some days that I want to jump out of bed and dive straight into work, but I find that, if I stay committed to this practice, there are major rewards throughout the day like less reactivity to situations, more creativity, better productivity and overall a greater sense of well-being. Many times, if I’m not “feeling it” I’ll tell myself “Just do five minutes” and before I know it twenty minutes has passed. So, try just two minutes to get started and see where it takes you. Here are some tips:
Start small — begin with a two-minute practice by setting a timer on your phone or other device. Meditate for two-minutes daily for 7 days then consider adding an additional minute on each week until you reach 15-20 minutes a day.
Pick a time that works best for you — I like first thing in the morning, waking up a little early before the world gets up and there are distractions. However, any time works! Maybe it’s during lunch break or before bedtime. Pick a time where you can consistently dedicate two minutes daily.
Keep calm with no expectations—time to let go of perfectionism. We all have thoughts and they WILL pop up. Just gently observe them then let them go. With practice over time, you’ll learn to not engage with the thoughts and instead simply observe them.
Focus on something — whether it’s your breath (counting to 5 as you inhale and counting to 5 with each exhale), the flame of a lit candle in front of you or meditative sounds/music (lots on YouTube!), focusing on something will help keep the mind clear of distractions.
This might sound simple, but really, how often do you tune into your breath and notice the sound, feeling and the air entering your nose, lungs and belly? Try focusing on five breaths. There are several ways to do this. Below are three ideas, choose one that resonates with you, or try all three on different days.
As you inhale, count to five. As you exhale, count to five. Do this five times.
As you inhale, say the word “Om” in your mind. Hold your breath as you say “Ahh” in your mind. As you exhale, say “Hum.” (This is my personal favorite for a quick meditation any time throughout the day. The mantras, “om, ahh and hum” help to clear and open the mind.)
The Relaxing Breath or 4-7-8 breath, created by Dr. Andrew Weil: Empty the lungs of air. Then breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale out of the mouth for 8 seconds, and repeat at least 4 times.
Please keep me posted! Let me know what you try, what works best for you and what becomes a habit.
Nichole Dandrea-Russert, MS, RDN, has been a registered dietitian nutritionist for 25 years, specializing in heart disease, diabetes, sports nutrition and women’s health. For the past ten years, she has focused on plant-based lifestyles through inspiring and educating people about plant-based eating to optimize their health and the health of the planet. Nichole has been featured in Yoga Journal, Veg News and Atlanta Journal Constitution through her plant-based chocolate company, Nicobella Organics. She also has a plant-based blog for wellness tips, recipes and inspiration called Purely Planted. She currently lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband. Her book The Fiber Effect will be released by Hatherleigh Press on January 2021.