Without wishing to get too personal, how do you spend the first hour of your day?
I’ve come to the conclusion (after lengthy research on a target audience of one, namely me) that the way you spend the first hour of your day is really, really important.
Like the first course of a meal, it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Cold, flavourless soup = ‘check please’
Warm, tasty soup = ‘bring on the main‘
Here’s how the first hour of my average day used to go…
Alarm clock went off at a time that had been carefully calculated (to the very last second) to provide me with the maximum amount of sleep and the minimum amount of time to get ready for work.
A muffled curse would be heard from beneath my duvet.
I’d eventually peer out, bleary-eyed.
My dog would gaze at me from his spot on the floor next to my bed.
‘Walk me,’ his gaze said. ‘Walk me now before I start barking and howling and wake up the entire street.’
I’d stagger out of bed, pull on some clothes and stumble to the door.
We’d begin our walk.
My dog would trot along happily, sniffing at all the new and exciting smells from the bushes and the pavement and the freshly peed on lamp-posts.
I on the other hand, would trudge along behind him beginning to stress.
I’m going to miss my train.
I’m going to be late for work.
Why does he have to sniff every single lamp-post?
Why is it raining again?
Why does it always rain in this country?
If it’s still raining by the time I leave for work my hair’s going to go all frizzy and I’ll look like crap.
Why do I always look like crap in the rain? Why can’t I look all sultry and sexy and like Bo Derrick emerging from the ocean?
And, after five minutes of this, my thoughts would start spiralling down into a darker place.
Any problems I might have been having, anyone who had even slightly upset me recently, and any fears I might have been having would all start looming large in my mind like comic book baddies.
It’s as if, while I’d been sleeping, Fear had been bench-pressing and popping steroids next to my bed and was stronger and badder than ever.
And, because I was still all soft and blurry from sleep, I didn’t have the strength or clarity to fight it off.
By the time my dog and I had done a few laps of the park I’d often be in a state of complete and utter panic and stress.
And this negative mindset would spill out into the rest of the day.
As I raced for the train.
As I fought my way through the crowded London streets.
As I slumped over my desk.
But for the past few months I’ve changed the way I spend the first hour of my day and the results have been so positive I had to share them with you here.
Firstly, I set my alarm clock way earlier so I don’t begin the day already feeling late for something.
I still curse and feel like death when it goes off but I make myself get up.
Then I take myself off for a power-walk or jog around some nearby hills.
If I’m honest, for the first five minutes I feel one coffee away from a coma but I make myself keep going because I know that if I force myself through the pain barrier something so magical it’s almost mystical happens.
I actually start feeling good!
As the blood starts pumping and the sweat starts flowing I feel energised and alive.
And even more importantly, I feel strong.
And when you feel strong in your body your mind follows suit.
Instead of being plagued by worries, I feel alive with ideas.
Instead of trudging around looking down, I power around looking up – at the sky, the trees, the birds, the breath-taking view.
And my perspective on things expands accordingly.
When I get home, because I still have plenty of time, I speed-journal for five or ten minutes.
This basically involves writing really fast about anything that’s on my mind so that I can get it off my mind.
I was going to call it a ‘diary dump’ but it didn’t sound quite so sophisticated or Bo-Derrick-on-a-beach-esque.
Anyway, I finish my journal entry on a positive note, jotting down five things I’m grateful for and then I sit in stillness for five or ten minutes, focusing on my breathing and getting calm and centred.
As a consequence I start the day happy and focused and full of energy and far better equipped to deal with whatever life may throw at me.
So to recap…
To get the very most from the first hour of your day:
- Set your alarm so you’ll have an hour to spare
- Get out into nature
- Do a form of exercise that raises your heart-rate and makes you feel sweaty and strong
- Get rid of anything that might be on your mind in a ‘diary dump’
- Write a list of five things you’re grateful for
- Sit in stillness for at least five minutes and feel your whole body relax
And see how much better you feel in all the hours that follow.
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