Our experience of the world is being sourced from one place: our brain.
Our brain is a magnificent organ and the more I learn about it, the more I am in awe.
When we first wake up, we have an opportunity to set the dial for our brain and tell it what to focus on.
The brain will fall back on familiar patterns (habits) to preserve energy. This is why it is imperative to have a set morning routine that helps us focus.
Having a routine doesn’t have to be boring or a drag. As Jeff Olson says in The Slight Edge, “The price of neglect is worse than the price of discipline.”
Having discipline in the morning will help set the tone for the rest of the day and really, the rest of your life.
It’s powerful and worth the 10-15 minutes to sit, settle, ground, and intend.
Below are five morning routine ideas focusing on the brain. Take what resonates and leave the rest.
1. Take six steady breaths in the nose and out the mouth.
In John Assaraf’s book Innercise, he talks about the restorative power of taking six steady breaths in the nose and out the mouth, like you are blowing out of a straw.
This ‘calms the brain circuits’ and deactivates the stress response in the brain, thereby restoring the body to the ‘rest & digest’ setting.
Starting your day with these six breaths is not only relaxing, it tells the brain you’re safe. Now, you can focus on creative solutions, positive associations, and an overall better mood.
Speaking of breath, if you have not read James Nestor’s book entitled Breath, I highly recommend it.
Breathing is widely considered to be an autonomic function, but it is also a powerful healing modality that few people know about or tap into.
The way we breathe affects every aspect of our health. To know more about it will open your eyes to the beautiful design of the human body and how you have more control and say over your health than you’ve been told.
Breath is life, so take six conscious breaths in the nose and out the mouth before you do anything else.
2. Ask yourself what you want to focus on for the day.
Do you want to focus on feeling good? Following your intuition more? Being a better listener and communicator? Completing tasks for a big project?
Choose something that sets a theme for your day. There will be lots of details and things you need to take care of, but you can have this constant focus in the back of your mind that helps you to make better decisions, know where to place your time, and know what to leave for later.
Focusing on a larger theme or goal for the day also helps you avoid spending time on tasks you don’t truly resonate with or don’t make you feel good.
Now, you can check in throughout the day and ask, “Is this in alignment with my bigger theme today? Will this make me feel good?”
Mindset work must be done throughout the day because of all the distractions, old programming, and unconscious habits we fall back into so the brain can preserve energy.
3. Read your goals.
Do you have a list of long-term goals?
If not, I suggest you make one because it’s essential to setting your brain’s dial.
Reading your goals every morning (and every night, too!) is helping your neural networks form stronger connections and therefore, helping you fall back on those new, positive habits associated with the things you most want to achieve or experience in life.
You’ve been practicing habits and cycles of thought for so long, and most of them are probably unconscious to you.
When you read goals and define them, your brain helps you out. It starts looking for ways you could achieve these new goals by honing in on anything relevant to them.
The reticular activating system is hard at work scanning for anything that could be useful or helpful to get you what you want.
Reading goals also creates excitement about them over and over and triggers novelty in the brain, sparking a desire to take action.
See how powerful the brain is?
4. Connect to your inner wisdom, guidance, and intuition.
You don’t have to be spiritual to connect to intuition.
This is a gift everyone possesses and few people use and access it well.
Most people live in their heads all day long, disconnected from the body where all intuition comes from.
Connect down into the earth and feel into the body.
New research is finding that we feel decisions in our body, not our mind. The gut is called “the second brain” because of the 100 million neurons lining the digestive tract.
It’s important to make a conscious point to connect with your intuition and ask it to speak up and show you the way with clear, easy steps.
Divine intuition or inner wisdom will always give you a simple step within reach like drinking a glass of water, taking a nap, or texting a friend.
Many people say they don’t get their prayers answered because they’re too busy looking for them to manifest the way they want and then miss an opportunity.
Most people are looking for those big moments when the Universe will swoop in and save them!
But intuition works in the present moment and it will look like very small steps.
Your intuition will lead you to what you want through the path of least resistance and that may look different than your version or idea.
A good way to get in touch with your intuition quickly is to connect to the pelvic bowl so that you consciously send your energy down.
Grounding will help you hear your intuition because all intuition comes from the body, even if you experience it as a conscious thought.
There is a feeling of “rightness” and relief in the gut.
5. Do five minutes of brain training.
Do you know what neural linking is?
It’s a technique to help you feel emotionally connected to short-term and long-term goals so you can take actions that are in alignment with achieving them.
Most of us are lazy thinkers. We fall back on patterns because the brain is trying to preserve energy.
When we make a conscious effort to think about the things we want, measurable physiological changes happen in the brain to help us achieve those experiences.
Neural linking works like this.
Think about something you really want – it could be a loving relationship, an awesome job you’re after, or to feel more peace throughout your day.
Hold that in your mind and notice how it makes you feel – in your body, soul, gut, and mind.
Now, think of your favorite person, color, animal, or sound – anything that has a positive association for you. It can be an experience, a smell, or something as simple as a flower you like.
As you think of this positive association during or right after you think about your goal, you are linking neurons and making them stronger in relation to your desire.
As you create this new neural connection and then recall an already existing neural connection that makes you feel good, you are creating positive emotions in association with your goal and this makes it easier to become excited about it and take action.
Dopamine gets released in the brain, the hormone connected to the promise of a reward.
Now, you have dopamine coursing through your brain, igniting the spark to take actions that will help you attain that experience or thing you want.
Do this every day and watch what happens to your habits, time, and mood.
And the best thing about brain training? It’s completely free and can be done whenever you decide.
There are a wealth of brain training games and techniques you can find online.
Five Benefits of a Morning Routine
Once you decide on the morning routine that feels best, you’ll want to look out for these five benefits:
1. Better focus.
Start to notice what thoughts you repeatedly ‘fall back’ on and if those patterns are changing – even slightly.
Remember, small habits compound to deliver amazing results.
Your focus will be more in alignment with those things and experiences you truly want because you will be practicing that ‘lens’ more consistently.
Instead of seeing lack, you will start to see abundance because you’re clear on your goals and desires.
2. Better or improved mood.
Consciously connecting and focusing on what you want during your morning routine releases these yummy hormones: dopamine (the promise of a reward), oxytocin (the love/bonding juice), and endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers).
The result? You start the day in a better mood, which will keep you focused on what’s working, which is what I talk about next.
3. More awareness of what’s working.
A routine is like a primer for our minds to focus on what feels good and what is working.
Routines also inform our reticular activating system, which I mentioned above.
This is a collection of nerves in the brain stem that cause alertness, awareness, and awakening when stimulated.
Your RAS is scanning for what is relevant and urgent to you.
If you desire a blue car, your RAS will hone in on blue cars because that is now relevant to you.
If you hear a scream in a parking lot, your RAS alerts you that something could be urgent and dangerous.
When you tell your brain what to focus on (feeling good, an awesome new job, or being more at peace), your RAS will start looking for those things because now, they are relevant to you.
You’ve made them relevant.
This means, your dial will be tuned to what’s working and by focusing on that, you will create more of what you want by consistently taking small steps that will compound over time.
4. Less anxiety throughout the day.
If you start to breathe better, you’ll start to experience less anxiety.
Some of the latest research is finding that anxiety may not exclusively be a mental health issue, it could also be a physical one buried deep in the brain.
The chemoreceptors in our brain stem talk to the lungs and tell them when to take a breath.
The impetus we feel to breathe is based on the pH level in our blood – which goes up or down based on our carbon dioxide levels.
Carbon dioxide levels change based on the quality of our breathing – fast, slow, steady, or shallow.
So, you see, if you uplevel your breathing, you’ll rebalance those chemoreceptors.
James Nestor, the author of Breath, explains:
The nagging need to breath is activated from a cluster of neurons called the central chemoreceptors, located at the base of the brain stem.
When we’re breathing too slowly and carbon dioxide levels rise, the central chempreceptors monitor these changes and send alarm signals to the brain, telling our lungs to breathe faster and more deeply.
When we’re breathing too quickly, these chemoreceptors direct the body to breathe more slowly to increase carbon dioxide levels. This is how our bodies determine how fast and how often we breathe, not by the amount of oxygen, but by the level of carbon dioxide.James Nestor, Author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
5. More resilience to deal with challenges.
Training your brain to focus on solutions and abundance will help you shoulder challenges and setbacks with more ease.
When you come across a challenge, your brain responds and triggers your fight/flight/freeze response.
This blocks your higher brain functions, logic, and creative solutions.
Many circumstances that cause our stress cycle to be activated are not immediately life-threatening, although they may feel that way.
Furthermore, because our stress cycles have been evolving to keep up with technology, crowded populations, and more things to accomplish in modern life, some people have chronic stress cycle responses which wear down the vagus nerve, causing poor vagal tone.
Poor vagal tone is linked to the inability to ‘bounce back’ after the stressor has passed because the body hasn’t completed the stress cycle and told the brain it’s safe.
When we train the brain to separate real threats from conditioned responses, we create resilience for ourselves.
We are able to complete stress cycles with more confidence and awareness. And we can separate a real life-threatening situation from one that is merely happening in our minds.
Is an angry text from a loved one stressful? Of course, it is.
But it’s not life-threatening and you have the power to remind yourself of that.
Resilience also includes being in full awareness of when we are in a stress cycle and making a conscious effort to complete it.
This must involve something physical – dancing, screaming, punching a pillow, or going for a run.
Having a morning routine (and an evening one) is a powerful technique for our psyche, mindset, and stress levels.
Whatever you do, do something in the morning to help yourself have a better experience throughout the day.
A resonant routine will improve all areas of your life because you are starting with the most influential part of your body: your brain.
What helps you feel calm or centered in the morning? Do you have a set routine?
Leave me a comment and I’ll feature you in another blog post about morning routine ideas!