If you’re like most busy professionals getting ready for work every morning, self-care in the form of a healthy breakfast, some type of exercise, and other mental or spiritual habits to feed your mind and soul will typically take a backseat to life’s other priorities before you fly out the door for work (or the nearest coffee shop).
But what if you could create some margin to focus on taking care of that one person so many others rely on — you?
What if you could shift a couple things around in your schedule to reclaim some sacred space to set your mind to a positive state the minute you woke up? What if there were little rituals you could practice that could change the whole outlook of your day so you can think clearer and be more productive?
Well, with science on your side, a simple, 17-minute morning routine may just be what you need to set the stage for that to happen. It comes down to three things:
Since many of us get up in the morning already anxious about the day’s events, there’s one quick, five-minute breathing technique that can set your day right. Psychologist Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, calls it “conscious breathing.” This is a focused form of yoga-based, breathing meditation that will help you to relax and restore yourself before you’re off to the races. (Seppälä demonstrates here with an instructional video to guide you along)
Conscious breathing is so effective, in fact, she investigated its benefits as an intervention used on combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. When they learned and practiced conscious breathing, it helped to significantly reduce their stress and anxiety levels–sometimes in minutes. Imagine what it can do for you?
Time length: 5 minutes.
Now that you’re a in peaceful and relaxed state of mind, take out your journal and write in detail about one positive experience you’ve had during the previous day. Make sure to bullet point each detail you can remember. Take no more than two minutes doing it.
According to popular psychologist Shawn Achor, best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential, this simple exercise allows your brain to relive the experience and teach it that the positive behavior matters. Achor says it works because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. In essence, you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain.
According to Achor, if you perform this ritual every morning for 21 straight days, your brain reprograms itself with this trajectory of positivity running throughout your life. In fact, research found that after performing this ritual six weeks in a row, patients who suffered from chronic pain or disease had dropped their pain medication by 50 percent six months later.
Time length: 2 minutes.
Now that you’re in the most optimal mental state, don’t make the mistake of even thinkingabout checking your email because once you open your inbox, you’ll get sucked into a whirlpool of others’ needs and requests. Instead, set quiet space free of distraction to plan what your day will look like.
To simplify so that this ten-minute ritual doesn’t hijack you into stress mode, come up with one or two goals you want to accomplish before heading home. To ensure success, make sure to break these down into smaller tasks in support of those goals so it doesn’t feel like you’re staring up at Mt. Everest when you begin your day.
If you’re not 100 percent sure of those goals, reflect on what your true priorities are going to be for the next eight or nine hours in relation to being a positive influence on others. Think about how best to answer three very important questions:
Time length: 10 minutes.
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Originally published on Inc.com.