True to societal form, what we do with our time in lockdown so far has seemed to be all about outsourcing; what ambitious project can I complete, how many open university certificates can I acquire, how can I get my sourdough to rise to perfection? If your motivation is low, or you find yourself breaking huge promises of big feats you made to yourself, maybe it's time to go inside.
I don't mean inside in the obvious way, though we do need to keep observing that, but instead to turn your ambitions for achievement inward, which is, essentially free. Furthermore this post isn't about deep psychological or spiritual work, but just some simple changes you can make that will help you form habits that benefit your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. These are habits I've formed over the years, and particularly adhered to and benefited from in the last couple of months. If you adopt just one of these that is more than enough. My advice is to start with one or two max., and keep with them until they become habitual, before adding more. If you overload yourself and end up missing a day, it can have the opposite effect on your self esteem. Bottom line is, these work. Adopting these over the years have taken me from an anxious, constantly tired, binge eating and drinking individual to where I am now, still a work-in-progress, but much, much happier. Enjoy.
1. Leave your phone out of the bedroom.
This one may be hard at the moment, given that most of us can't physically be with our loved ones, so keeping our phone close might seem like a comfort, but if you, like so many of us, are struggling with sleep, this will be your most important new habit. The blue light of the screen inhibits the production and secretion of melatonin, which is like the starting gun for sleep. Without that, we miss that window to nod off peacefully, and enter into that restless and exhausted state. Furthermore, mindless scrolling through a newsfeed is potentially a lot more traumatic at the moment, and we absorb a lot more than we realise. Also, when your phone is on the bedside table, it's often the first thing you grab upon waking. It becomes an addiction of sorts, where you grab hold of your phone as soon as you open your eyes, without knowing why you've even picked it up. If setting an alarm is an issue, there are so many affordable alarm clocks you can get hold of, the mechanics of which are often more reliable than a smart phone. Also, when you don't keep your phone by your bed, you seem to need to check it less throughout the day; helping to therefore set the tone for your day. Not having my phone in my room also means that I read so much more now, which makes something that seems like a dying pastime remain as a timeless habit.
2. Drink water as soon as you get up.
If you need to widen the gap between waking up and then going to check your phone, hydrate! As someone who consistently forgets to drink enough water, getting a good amount down me first thing really sets me up. I try to drink 3-4 glasses, but I'm sure 2 is plenty, that's just the all-or-nothing in me. You can even add lemon and/or drink your water tepid if you're fancy and more organised than me. There are the obvious health benefits of drinking water, but what's especially interesting is how lack of it can lead us to think we need other things. I'm much less reliant on coffee and sugar throughout my morning when I drink enough water first, and I seem to eat less and when I do it's less cravings-driven and I pick more nutritious food.
3. Meditate, breathe, sit...
This one is a bit more personal as there is no one-size-fits all when it comes to peace of mind. Basically, if you can find something to be still for even for 5 minutes first thing (ideally before you check your phone), whether that's a guided meditation (there are many good, free ones on youtube, breathing exercises (again, youtube - I recommend Wim Hof), or, perhaps the hardest, just sitting quietly and observing your thoughts as they pass, not pushing them out, but not engaging with them either. Basically, whatever it takes for you to sit without external distraction for a moment, so that you can take stock of, and therefore clear, some of the internal distraction.
4. Eat breakfast.
Even if you don't think you have time, you have to make time. There's a reason this is known as the most important meal of the day. In fact, everything you do in the morning is the most important, because it dictates how the rest of your day will go. It's also really quick and easy to prepare yourself a fancy and super healthy breakfast these days, often on a reasonable budget, plus, nurturing your body with whole foods is an investment, and if you've the means, spending money on good fuel for your body as opposed to a takeaway or a glass of wine, is the best investment. I have loved using my food processor to make nutritious smoothies in the morning, mixing in superfood powders and nut butter. It feels like a ritual of self love and fills my heart as well as my belly. Admittedly there's a lot more time to do this now, but I consider this a habit that I will carry on long after lockdown is over. For me it's super smoothies but it could be something totally different for you. Whatever you choose though, make time for it and make it a proper meal.
5. Have a realistic goal for the day.
Whether this is a manageable to-do list or a simple intention, having something that gives your day context and meaning is a powerful anchor. Maybe you write this down in a journal, or phone notes, or just keep it at the front of your awareness, so that when a challenge arises, whether that be external or some inner conflict, you have this to remind you to hold your centre. If what you use is more geared towards a to-do list, make it reasonable and maybe even err on the side of short. This isn't because you aren't capable of achieving what you plan, but rather, aside from life happening and things getting in the way, a shorter, simpler plan or goal carries more meaning, and you're more likely to focus fully on it, rather than to worry about what is next on the list.
This one has come to have nothing to do with fitness and everything to do with dissipating energy that has become stuck. You can absolutely dedicate time for a proper 'fitness' workout at another time in the day, but let this one be a 'shaking off' of sorts. Just like you clean your teeth at the beginning of your day, or clean your body in the shower, you can also clean off yesterday's energy. As long as this is your intention, this movement can be anything from dancing, yoga, jumping up and down, even swearing and hitting a pillow if you feel that way. Maybe this sounds a bit woo woo and self-indulgent, or maybe it seems too simplistic, but given that so much of what causes us general malaise gets stuck in our cells, it is up to us alone to release it, how and when we do this is also entirely up to us.
Image: Yoga and Photo (@yogaandphoto)