Imagine how you would feel if you did everything your personal trainer, doctor, dentist, hair dresser, pastor, business advisor and your other “life advisors” recommended on a daily basis.
That’s right, exhausted.
While the list of the things we should do every day seems to continually expand, the time and energy we have to actually do these things doesn’t.
So the struggle continues…
We struggle with stress, energy, health, weight and even our outlook on life. We’d like to do everything our advisors tell us to do, but who has the time? The good news is that, with a little knowledge of how the brain and body work together, we can combine some super-efficient daily rituals to begin the day by putting emotional, mental and physical struggles to bed.
All that’s required is:
- About seven minutes
- A quiet place
- Something to write with
- A stopwatch
- 1 glass of water
- 1 tennis ball (or similar size ball)
With this simple “toolkit,” you can build a powerful physiological and psychological engine in only a few minutes each day. Perform the following exercises in succession each morning, or whenever you need a “feel good” pick-me-up.
Exercise 1: Create Your Foundation: Belly Breathing (60 seconds)
When most people perceive stress, their “fight or flight” brain takes over their bodies. Their heart rate increases, they grow tense and believe and act like the sky is falling. This often happens in conjunction with their morning alarm, before they even get out of bed.
The good news is that strategic, deep breathing can help dampen this stress response, having a positive effect on one’s thoughts, actions and overall mojo.
When your morning alarm goes off and it’s “off to the races” with your anxiety-laden thoughts:
1. Stand up, close your eyes and place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
2. Breathe in through your nose and expand your belly without raising your chest.
3. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 1 second, and then breath out with intention for 3 seconds.
4. Listen intently to the sound of air running into your nose and out through your mouth.
5. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Exercise 2: Your Emotional Masonry: Practicing Gratitude (60 seconds)
Daily stressors can create powerful physiological responses that hijack your emotions. Because stress physiology leads you to focus on what could be going wrong in your life, it’s important you start your day with a focus on what is going right.
Various studies on personal happiness, fulfillment and general life contentment have linked these emotions to the frequent practice of gratitude. In short, it’s important to say thank you!
1. Sit down with a pen and paper.
2. In 60 seconds, write down three things that immediately come to mind when you think of gratitude in your life.
3. Manifest these with no judgment. If you are grateful for them, write them down.
4. Keep this list somewhere for quick access when you need a little midday boost.
Exercise 3: Your Spiritual Nutrition: Create Your Soundtrack (10 seconds)
Most of us would probably like to read more, but we don’t have time. With modern technology, however, we can have someone do it for us. With so many online services and aps, it’s easier than ever to immediately access a favorite audio book, song or podcast.
1. Download an inspirational song, book or podcast.
2. Play it while you are performing exercises 4-7 each day, or even before you start exercise 1.
3. While five minutes isn’t that long to read, learn or listen to music, it’s long enough to get “good stuff” into your brain.
Exercise 4: Boost Your Brain Power: Crossing the Midline (and Drinking Water) (60 seconds)
The human brain consists of right and left hemispheres connected by an “information superhighway” called the corpus callosum. These hemispheres create a “midline” that divides the body in half vertically. The right hemisphere of the brain controls movement of the left side of the body and vice versa.
A bit of a coordinative conundrum arises, however, when something from one side of the body crosses the midline to perform a task on the other side of the body. To coordinate this, a ton of information has to be sent across the corpus callosum. When this happens frequently, it appears to increase both the number and rate of neuronal connections between the two brain hemispheres. The result is a smarter, faster, more coordinated brain and body.
- Fill a 16 oz. glass with water and place it on a table in front of you with your right hand on your right side.
- Reaching across your body with your left hand, grab the glass of water, take a drink and place it down in front of you with your left hand on your left side.
- Continue alternating sides, crossing the midline and drinking water each time for 60 seconds.
You’re now both hydrated and coordinated.
Exercise 5: Unbind to Unwind: Soft-tissue Release (60 seconds)
The human body’s muscular system is encased in thick connective tissue called “fascia.” Without this interconnected system of tissue, it would be difficult to coordinate muscles to work together. When you don’t move frequently, or when you’re stressed, sick, injured or dehydrated, fascial tissue becomes bound. This can make you feel tight or “creaky,” particularly in the morning.
Massaging this tissue can elicit a reflex that helps it relax and unbind, and allows muscles to work together more freely. Because the bottom of the feet is an often-used and poorly cared for area of particularly thick fascia, a little self massage here goes along way to moving better throughout the day.
1. Place a tennis ball (or other similar size ball) on the floor.
2. Place your foot on top of the ball.
3. Begin rolling back and forth across the entire foot.
4. Control the comfort level (pain) with the amount of pressure you apply to the ball.
5. Continue for 30 seconds on each foot.
Exercise 6: Grease Your Gears: The “Tactical Frog” (60 seconds)
Now that your fascia is unbound, it makes sense to get some key joints throughout the body “lubed” for the day. Because the front, back and side of the hips are major intersections of fascia from both the upper and lower body, starting the day engaging this joint complex can help make everything feel better.
Try the “Tactical Frog” stretch
1. Start on the ground in an “all-fours” position, moving the knees wider than the shoulders if possible.
2. Begin to “rock” forward and backward, like an infant who is learning to crawl.
3. As you rock, synchronize your breathing to breath in on the way forward and out on the way backward.
4. Continue for 60 seconds.
Exercise 7: Start Your Energy Engine: Sunrise Squats (60 seconds)
Contrary to popular belief, energy doesn’t come from a can or cup. It’s created within a cell’s mitochondria when ample glucose and oxygen are present. Because blood circulation is what transports these necessary components throughout the body, more blood circulation means more energy-building material to the cell. The easiest way to increase circulation is to move, particularly using large muscles through a large range of motion.
1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and take in a deep belly breath.
2. Keep the heels on the floor and reach toward the floor, bringing the hands toward one another, between the knees, and breathing out while descending.
3. Once you either touch the floor or descend as low as possible without pain, or your heels start lifting off the floor, rise back up with the hands moving away from one another, palms moving upward and thumbs turning back as you inhale.
4. Continue to raise the arms as you move them away from each other, above the head, until the entire body is as upright as possible.
5. Repeat, descending and ascending for roughly two to three seconds each repetition.
Exercise 8: Unleash Your Inner Rocky: Elevate the Heart Rate With Exercise
While merely circulating blood through the system helps create energy, driving this process with higher-intensity movement can create a large amount of energy at a tremendous rate. It appears that in as little as 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise, cellular physiology begins to favorably change.
Combine heart-pumping movement using different body parts, sides of the body and rhythmic demands to unleash your best brain and body on your day.
1. Keeping your hands by the face, “shadow box” while moving both the feet and hands (10 seconds)
2. Alternate kicks to each side (10 seconds)
3. Jumping jacks (10 seconds)
In only a few minutes each day, the brain, body, heart and soul can be mobilized to energize. Stop feeling overwhelmed by everything you should do, and start doing what you can to live extraordinary.