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Do this first thing in the morning

Welcome to our first lesson in the five-week series on self-appreciation. 

I firmly believe that in order to discover your full power, you must first understand and love yourself. That is why I came up with a few quick and simple daily exercises to shift your focus towards yourself. Last week I sent instructions on two minutes of slow breathing exercises to help reduce your heart rate, stress, and anxiety. Click here to see that post. This week, we will focus on how to start off each day with a self-appreciation activity.

We all know intuitively the importance of how we start our mornings. The old phrase “you got up on the wrong side of the bed” refers to this understanding. The way we get up in the morning sets the tone for our entire day. Set a goal of starting your day right, and you get a return on your morning investment throughout the day.

Most of us are immediately flooded with a tsunami of worries and plans the minute we open our eyes from the night’s sleep. Our poor brain is forced to go from a state of rest to an overdrive in less than a few seconds. This is like starting up your car with your foot pressing all the way down on the gas pedal! Car manufacturers prevent this by not letting you start your car unless your foot is on the brake, but no one installed that same safety measure in your brain. You must do it yourself.

With the advent of smartphones, we have developed the bad habit of grabbing our phones the second we are partially awake. Have you ever found yourself checking your email or the news, or on social media while you are still groggy with the last remnants of sleep? When we do this – and I am as guilty of this as anyone – we are neglecting ourselves and turning our attention to other people and things. If you want to start your day right, you must resist the temptation to reach for your phone.  Put your phone across the room and far from your bed if you have to. Make it a ritual to pay some attention to the most important person who is going to get you through the day, namely yourself, before you turn your attention outwards. This does not have to take more than just a few minutes, but it is crucial for honoring you and your well being.

Here are some suggestions for a healthy morning ritual: 

  • Five minutes of meditation while you’re still in bed.
  • Stretching in silence (music or TV are both enjoyable, but also very distracting). 
  • Two minutes of deep breathing with the technique I sent last week.
  • Repeating positive mantras (e.g. “today is a good day,” “I am taking good care of myself today,” “I am surrounded by love,” or any other mantra that feels good to you).
  • Grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting outside in silence.
  • Snuggling with your loved one or your pet.

When you start this practice, your mind will initially fight you. Whatever distracting habit that you have for your morning routine is going to demand your attention. Fight the urge to return to your old habits. Reassure yourself that you are only taking a very short time to honor yourself, and then you will turn your mind to whatever else is demanding your attention. Every bad habit we have takes about three months to break, so be persistent and don’t give up. Once you get into this new habit, you will love it, I promise.

Self-care practices are very rewarding once they become habits. Your body and mind know that you are attending to your health, and reward you for it. These exercises are also an affirmation of the fact that you care about and honor yourself, which is an absolute necessity for finding your power.

If you try any of these exercises, please comment below and let me know how it went.

Yosemite National Park – Photo by Sayeh Beheshti M.D. – 2010

Personal story:
I contracted Lyme disease in 2010 while camping in Yosemite National Park (where I took a ton of gorgeous pictures like the one above). In a year, I lost 30 lbs, took about a minute to walk from one side of my small kitchen to the other, and could not go up the stairs. I used to crawl on all fours to go upstairs while my daughters each sat at the bottom and top of the stairs and cheered me on. Throughout the ordeal, I continued to work full-time while administering daily IV antibiotic therapy to myself through a surgically inserted IV line in my chest. 

It took Lyme disease for me to realize that I had taken myself for granted my entire life. At that point when doing any little thing took exorbitant amounts of time and energy, I started practicing daily self appreciation and self care. In my case, these practices truly saved my life. Now I start each day with deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. You can, and must make time in your day to pay attention to yourself.

Sayeh Beheshti, M.D.

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