It started about three years ago. I was in my friend Melissa’s yoga class, when she started talking about the benefits of having a positive outlook. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am nothing if not positive–people often tell me I am one of the most positive people they know! So I started to tune out her words, when she said something that brought me right back: “Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest yoga teacher who is 98, competed on Dancing with the Stars, and can still do a headstand; starts every day by thinking, ‘This is going to be the best day of my life!’”
It wasn’t new. It certainly wasn’t something I hadn’t heard before. But somehow that morning, I really heard it. Like deeply. Fully. Completely. I heard it as if for the first time. So, the very next day, when I woke up, I decided to tell myself the same thing…and to share it with Melissa, too. As I picked up my phone and hoped it wasn’t too early, I sent Melissa a text, “Today is going to be the best day of your life!” Within minutes, she texted me back, “Today is going to be the best day of your life!” The next day, the same. And the next. For days, then weeks, then months, and now years, Melissa and I have started our days with each other–whether texting a reminder “TIGTBTBDOYL”, or sharing a quote, a photo of hearts (it’s amazing how many you see when you look!), or another thought, this intentional way of positively waking up has transformed my every day.
You know how when you’re going to buy a new car, you go from not seeing that car on the road at all to seeing it all the time? Suddenly, it seemed that everywhere I turned I was reading about how important mornings are–and not just about eating a balanced breakfast and getting in some movement, but about waking well, waking with intention.
Science tell us that we release the most stress hormones just after waking. This certainly makes sense in practice, because thinking about the day ahead and all that we have to do and accomplish, of the work waiting for us, of the emails that came in overnight and the meetings in front of us; triggers our fight-or-flight instinct and releases even more cortisol (the “stress hormone”) into our bodies at a time when it’s already at its peak. And because we can’t calm down from there, we spend our entire day in a state of heightened stress, and then we repeat the cycle the next day and the next and the next, until we burn out.
So, what can we do? Tomorrow, try this: Right when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, spend two minutes simply noticing your breath. As thoughts come into your mind, guide your attention back to your breath. It won’t be easy. Your mind will wander. But as soon as you notice, try to come back to the feeling of your breath at the tip of your nose, the expansion and contraction of your ribcage, the rise and fall of your chest, the sound that your breathing makes.
When I find myself waking and immediately running through my to-do list, I think, “first two minutes, first two minutes, first two minutes” over and over again until I can calm down and focus on my breath. I might do it 120 times in 120 seconds–because some days that’s what it takes–but it never fails to help.
You might be thinking that there’s no possible way you can do this, and that you absolutely have to check your phone right when you wake up. I used to think the same. I slept with my phone right next to me (hey, it was my alarm), until I learned about the damage it was doing to me, and by default, to my family, to my colleagues, and to my clients who weren’t getting the best from me.
I recently expanded my morning ritual. After my first two minutes of focused breathing, I write in this incredible two-minute journal (a gift from Melissa)!
Try using your first two minutes differently, however it works best for you and your uniqueness. After all, there are 1,438 other minutes to do as you wish.
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