Hello! With the holiday season upon us I thought it might be a great time to share a few things I do each day to help cultivate a sense of calm, to reset my mind, and remind myself to just be present. With multiple to-do lists a mile long, three kids under five, a job (well, on maternity leave right now), and a blog, I know the pressure you feel each day.
About six months ago, I was so strung out racing from one thing to the next each day, I realized there were only a few random moments each day that I actually felt present and engaged. That’s no way to live your life. It’s not really living at all, it’s just going … on autopilot … mindlessly. I realized I was missing so much … with my husband, with our kids.
When I did a self-assessment, I realized I was always in the best mood, and the most engaged in the early morning … right after I had done two things that I do nearly every day: my morning prayer and my workout. So, I figured, why not add a few more “pauses” into my daily routine to see if I could carry some of that cheery calmness through the rest of my day? I did it. And I can say without reservation, the days I consistently do these four things, I feel better. I have a more positive outlook. I remember little moments, moments I hope to file away in my memory bank for years. I appreciate the people around me more. I feel more gratitude. I can all but guarantee, if you do these four simple things, every day, you will too.
So here’s they are:
If you’re a person of faith, make prayer the first thing you do every single day. Nothing centers me, calms me, and fills me with meaning and gratitude more so than talking with God. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God[.]” When I start the day by taking a moment to focus on God and put my trust in Him for the day, I can just let go. Let go of unrealistic expectations, worry, anxiety … it’s in God’s hands, not mine.
You can always speak to God about whatever is on your mind, but if you’re looking for a more guided approach, you can also use a daily devotional or a Bible study. In addition to my morning prayer, I always read the daily devotional in Our Daily Bread … they provide a link to a short reading from the Bible (usually only a couple verses), a quick summary providing insight and context for the reading, and then a short narrative written by a religious leader, writer, or scholar. It takes me no more than 2 minutes to read, and then I generally spend another few minutes reflecting on the message and thinking about how I can apply it to my own life that day. She Reads Truth is another great resource with all sorts of books, devotionals and studies.
For those of you who don’t identify with any particular faith or religion, I haven’t forgotten about you! I’d still urge you to take a morning pause, do a short meditation, or just think about the challenges you may have facing you that day, and how you can approach them in a positive, productive way.
Ok, I’ve been working out consistently each day longer than I haven’t. I started around age 14, and now I’ve been doing it so long it’s like brushing my teeth. And it’s like mediation for me. On days that I don’t get the chance, I just don’t feel like me. The whole “runner’s high” thing … it’s real. The adrenaline rush, the breaking a sweat, it just calms my mind and lets me focus on nothing but my breath and the sound of the music coming from my ear buds. Everything else just fades away. Can you think of any time in your day each day that your mind is able to be that free? Free from worry, free from running through your mile-long to-do list, free from the guilt you feel over an argument you had with a friend or loved one? I doubt it. There’s something about working out that just shuts it off.
Now, I know not everyone can commit to a full workout each morning. I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s such a high priority for me that I generally make it happen. But, it may not be a huge priority for you … and that’s okay! So instead of setting yourself up for failure by planning to work out for an hour each morning, how about setting aside just 15 minutes? Go for a quick walk, do a workout routine that you pull from Instagram or Pinterest (I plan to start posting short workout clips of some of my go-to routines soon, so stay tuned for those!), or get a membership for a streaming workout service (I have one with Openfit, which I use for barre, pilates, and yoga classes). Social media and online subscription services make it so easy to work out from the comfort of your home, there’s really no excuse for not moving a little bit each day.
And when you do take the time, focus on the workout! Shut everything else off, and just be in the moment with your body … feel it working, feel each muscle contract, feel your breath leaving your lungs … turn off your brain and be fully in the moment.
One more note on timing — I urge you to try to workout first thing in the morning. You’re more likely to do it if you can squeeze it in before your day gets rolling, things come up, and there’s a high chance it gets shelved for the day due to more important priorities. Plus, at least for me, feeling all the benefits first thing tends frame my whole day in a positive light. But, I understand the early morning may not work with your schedule, and that’s fine! Fit it in wherever and whenever you can. Take 15 minutes on your lunch break, throw on a workout video during nap time, or even do it after hours when everyone has gone to bed. You’ll reap the benefits no matter when you do it.
This is what I like to call the mid-day check-in. I generally do it around lunch time, when I can take 10-15 minutes to just be still and silent. Think about how your day is going … what has gone well, and what can you do better during the remaining hours of the day? The point is to re-center yourself. Be mindful while you take the time to eat your lunch or sip some coffee or tea. Get outside if possible, and just smell the fresh air. There’s no magic formula here, the key is to remind yourself to just be.
The last thing I do to close out the day is take 10 minutes each night to write down a few things for which I’m grateful, something good that happened that day, and a few things I think I could improve on. Think about your day, and get specific… I know we’re all grateful for our family, our health, etc. These are big picture things that are great to acknowledge, but I’m looking for in the moment, daily specifics. Think about what you’d want to read if you found these writings twenty years from now … would you want to read “I’m grateful for my kids, for my health.” Or would you want to read, “I’m grateful for John’s giggles … today after feeding him, we snuggled for a few minutes, I tickled him, he giggled with a big gummy smile, his big brown eyes looking at me adoringly.”?? Even twenty years later, you may actually be able to recall those precious moments, you may even still be able to hear the beautiful sound of that giggle. And this approach forces you to think about the specifics of each day … to acknowledge and be present for the individual moments that make up each day of your life — to appreciate them so they don’t get lost in the mad frenzy and just fade away.
Much like your morning prayer, you can take a freestyle approach or choose a more guided option. I linked to several gratitude journals below that include prompts to help guide you through the process. This may be a good way to start — once you become more aware of these moments each day, you can transition to a regular journal and just write free form.
And there you have it … just four things … each taking no more than 15 minutes (the workout may take longer, but even only 15 minutes will have an impact)! Be committed, be consistent, and I promise you’ll feel calmer, happier, and more grateful every day. I hope you all have a fabulous week !