It took me some time to get to grips with the idea that how much I enjoy my day is completely up to me. The barriers that we instinctively put up when faced with this concept are plentiful, especially when our day to day life can feel monotonous, negative or difficult.
Spending 40 hours a week in a job you hate takes some serious toll, but it doesn't have to be the hell you may have become accustomed to.
While working on this mindset shift myself there were 3 very distinct things that helped me have a good day every day.
1. Start with gratitude
This is a yoga staple and I'm sure you've dabbled before, if not created a regular habit. Gratitudes help us to slowly shift our mindset from one that naturally focuses on the negative to one that finds the positive from a situation or if there is no evident positive, we are able to learn or adapt instead.
The world is full of pain and struggle, and it's human nature to notice and focus on the potential risks and pain that could impact our owns lives. We've developed this skill to help us survive, but long gone are the days of remembering where the sabre toothed tigers live.
There are dangers every where yes, but we don't have to fill our minds with worrying about the 'what if's'.
Practicing daily gratitudes help keep our mind on the good things in life, and these can be small and go completely unnoticed if we continue to be consumed by the negative.
When you start to look for things you're grateful for every day you start to notice them more and more. They may crop up when you least expect it. You're in a meeting, it's stressing you out, but the smell of coffee wafts into the room. How delicious, how comforting, how easy to dismiss unless we choose to take a single moment to notice it and all the warm feelings that come up with a favourite smell.
Start small, just note down 3 gratitudes each day, before bed is a great time as it helps you go to sleep on a positive note. Remember, you can't be sad when thinking about something you're grateful for.
2. Notice your focus
This one can take a little longer to get your head around, but it's definitely something everyone can do. What we focus on grows, what we ignore dies away. So where we focus our attention becomes bigger and bigger and sometimes this can become all consuming.
Let's go back to that example of the job you hate.
If you spend 40 hours a week in a job you don't like, and every minute of every hour you're there you're thinking how much you hate it, how much you resent the boss, the task in hand or the fact you have to be there, that's a lot of negative focus and it's only going to block any sense of enjoyment.
What if you then head home in the evenings and complain to your friends and family about how much you hate your job.
Then at weekends and every social event (that has the potential to be fun) you 'ruin' it by discussing your deep dislike of your day job.
That's dissatisfaction 24/7, 365. No wonder you're not happy.
What if you stop giving the thing you hate any brain space outside of the hours you're there? Suddenly 2 full days of the week are free from that miserable focus.
What if when you're at work you start to notice your resentment, then lean on those gratitudes and start to realise the small things throughout your day that have the potential to be good instead; a lunch break, a colleague bringing you a hot drink, a text message from a loved one. Whatever it might be, there will be good moments in your day, even if it's just being paid to poo (who doesn't love that).
3. Just let it go
We often let 10 'bad' seconds ruin an entire day.
You may well have heard me say "don't let it ruin you day", and this can take effort, and to do this effectively it takes mindfulness, the mindfulness to notice when you're letting your mind focus on just one thing, and not letting it go.
Similarly to noticing how we can focus on something that we deem negative, we can also pour energy into some tiny mishap, which in the grand scheme of things won't matter in just a few days time.
A simple example of this is someone lets you down, you were meant to meet at a particular time but they don't show up. You've taken time out of your day to get ready, travel and be at the arranged location, but they have forgotten, double booked or over slept, what ever it might be. It wasn't their intention but it's happened.
It would be very easy to dwell on this, perhaps the initial reaction is to be angry at the waste of time and the fact they don't prioritise you and your needs. After a while your anger may turn to resentment, outrage or even full on bitch mode. You call and text all your friends to complain about them, you go home and moan about it to your loved one. You think about nothing else for hours on end, plotting revenge, rude messages to send them and how you'll never make time for them again.
What if you just let it go?
What if you checked said person was healthy and happy and then stopped focusing on it?
Yes it's an inconvenience but does it need to impact YOU negatively any more? By choosing (and it is a choice) to fuel the mishap by talking and thinking about it you only ruin your own day. Your negativity will bring you down, you might even impact other peoples lives with your negativity too, and who wants to be that guy?
Noticing what you are fuelling helps to make your day better or worse. Choose to fuel the minor mishaps, the things that haven't gone to plan and the things you deem negative, you're going to ruin your day. Choose to let them go and put your energy into something that actually brings you joy, or the positives that come out of a change of plan, you are only going to nourish the joy and the wonderful things in your life.
Here's to having a good day, every day.
Love and light
We kick off our yoga classes pretty early most mornings off the week, with the option to get your practice in before the day really starts. But the season change and the darker mornings can make it harder to get out of bed and onto your mat.
To be honest, I like the darker mornings. There is a certain sense of peace when it feels like the rest of the world is sleeping. There is a low level excitement, reminiscent of heading to the airport. You get the feeling of accomplishment; you've got up and will get what need done before anything else can get in the way.
When it's daylight at 5am, this magic doesn't hit the spot in quite the same way. But this could just be me.
To help you get back to your early starts and hopefully make them a little easier, here are my top 5 tips for getting out of bed in the morning:
1. Use a light to help you wake up.
The body uses sunlight to start the process of waking up, in the winter this natural process is hard to come by unless you're staying in bed until 8-9am. But there are some very good lights available that create that morning sunshine feel all year around.
There are many of these lights on the market now, I use a Lumie light, but other brands are available and vary in price.
How it works: So when you set your alarm (on the light) for 5am, it slowly starts to light up about 20 minutes before. It's so dim to begin with it's unlikely to wake you but by the time it gets to 5am you wake up with ease, to a bedroom full of a lovely soft light.
What the light also helps you to avoid is the feeling you're digging yourself out of a deep sleep when the alarm goes off, which is a horrible feeling, and unlikely to be followed by a productive morning.
2. Try to get up at the same time every day.
This is a tough one for some, but this technique really does work. It was first introduced to me in the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, and then I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ayurveda recommends the same thing.
Getting to bed at a similar time helps too, this way you can make sure you're hitting your 7.5-9 hours sleep a night. But when it comes to getting out of bed with more ease, it's the waking up time that has the biggest impact.
Your body thrives off routine, so when you start consistently waking up at the same time each day you'll find it easier and easier no matter how dark it is outside. Obviously if you go to bed at midnight and expect to wake up at 5am each day this isn't going to work, you will suffer. But if you can get to bed by 9-9:30pm, that 5am alarm will get easier and easier.
If you're wanting to make 6:30am yoga, you might even be able to delay that alarm until 6am.
Try it and see. You won't regret it.
3. Establish a night time routine.
Sometimes we get to bed early enough to set us up for a great morning, but sometimes there are those nights where we get into bed and the brain doesn't switch off and sleep alludes us for hours.
Once again, the body and mind thrives on routine, and having a bed time routine helps prepare us for good sleep and we're much more likely to fall asleep quickly.
Examples of a bedtime wind down could be:
- A bath or shower (some alone time)
- Write a to do list for the following day (get the stress out of your brain and onto paper)
- Get your morning outfit, coffee, breakfast all prepped. (Clothes waiting, coffee machine primed, breakfast in the fridge ready to go) This limits barriers. So if you want to get to Yoga in the morning, have your mat out ready.
- Switch off screens (you know this) at least 30 minutes, if you can 90 minutes, before bed. Read a book perhaps if you need some kind of entertainment, but keep the screens off and out of the bedroom.
- Write or think of 3-5 things you're grateful for so you fall asleep with happy thoughts in your head
- A 5-10 minute meditation or sleep story to fall to sleep to (many available online)
- Open the window (having a cooler bedroom is conducive to good sleep)
There are many other routines and lovely things to do to finish your day, so play around with what feels wholesome to you.
4. Try Vitamin D3
A lot of people struggle with the shorter hours of daylight, and it can lead to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can cause a serious drop in mood and energy levels. If you work inside all day 5 days a week, get to work and leave work in the dark then it can be really tricky to get any daylight, or even sunlight at all. Therefore the amount of Vitamin D we are able to absorb really drops and with that your mood and energy levels.
There are a couple of ways to help combat this, firstly, try to make it a priority to get outside for at least 10 minutes on a sunny and 15-20 minutes on a cloudy day at some time in the course of your morning. And add to this by getting outside on your lunch break. It really is important to get outside everyday.
But you can help supplement this by taking Vitamin D3. It's available online, in most health food stores and pharmacy's. By taking Vitamin D3 each day you help keep your levels topped up through the winter months to combat the shorter days, lower moods and energy levels.
5. Make you Yoga Practice part of your morning routine.
By having your mat and your yoga gear out ready the night before, the odds of you getting your practice in first thing is more likely.
Once you create that pattern of making the same 2 or 3 classes each week you won't even think about it. Getting onto your mat and ensuring your daily practice will be guaranteed.
By leaving our yoga practice until later in the day we're more likely to talk ourselves out of it, to find an excuse on the get it done or make the time.
Putting aside 40 minutes in the morning for yourself will help set you up for the day in both body and mind. If you do nothing else all day, you know you've taken care of number one, and once you've done that you know you have the capability to look after any other challenge the comes your way.
Love and light
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.