This morning, I awoke later than usual. The sun was not its brightest yet, as the clouds still washed the sky after the constant rainstorms of the last night.
I had gone to sleep later than I usually do; had not slept well through the night; and subsequently woken up groggy and bleary eyed. Why? I had surgery on my left foot, 2 days ago; and the pain was still quite intense. Why I had to have surgery is another story that I will share later in another blog.
Yet, the effects of the surgery on my day to day life are what concern me right now.
I realize, as I hobble slowly and carefully across the still wet floor – our Bali villa is quite open to the rainy season – that I am feeling a little unmoored and ill at ease today. As if something is not quite right.
Then it hits me. My morning routine has unravelled in the past two days. And it’s making me feel completely out of sorts.
It’s similar to the feeling you have if you’ve been traveling for a while, or have been in various time zones. That feeling of not being in rhythm with your life.
I am not someone who actually loves routine, but what I’ve realized over the years through my studies of Ayurveda, that routine helps me to thrive; which is why now there are a few non-negotiable things I do every single day in the same order. They’ve become part of who I am. Researchers call them “anchor habits.”
What is my morning routine?
I wake up by 6 or 6:30 a.m., stretch in bed; then walk over to the bathroom sink to splash cool water on my face and in my eyes. Then I scrape my tongue with my copper tongue scraper – a simple cleansing practice that helps to wake up my digestive system and signals to my body to empty the waste from yesterday. Usually after this, I go to the bathroom; or first drink a mug of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon (and then go to the bathroom). After the lemon water, I also do a quick neti rinse with warm, sea-salted water.
Today; it takes effort, but I endeavor to do all my morning practices. I drink my lemon water; I do my neti rinse and then I prop up my left foot way up high – the doctor said “elevate your foot” – on the kitchen counter and standing on one leg, I make myself some chai. I don’t really need to take the trouble to make myself chai with fresh spices; but in the act of pounding some cardamom and fennel and peeling ginger root, I notice myself slowly releasing something. It is almost as if, my mind and body relax as I settle into the rhythm of doing familiar things – things my body and mind have been used to for days, months and years. And I feel myself smiling. I am feeling a bit more like myself.
And it hits me. Habits are essential to the health of our nervous systems. Good habits that is. Habits that promote our health and our wellness.
They help us to create a scaffolding for our day. A buffer zone that offers resilience in how we react to things that come at us. Helpful habits help us to self regulate, so we can withstand life, especially unexpected events.
How do they work?
When we create a routine or what I call a ritual, we start to create points of recognition for ourselves in our day, which help to anchor us, physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
For example, when we eat breakfast at a particular time every day; our bodies start to ready ourselves for that meal by secreting digestive enzymes in preparation for our food. This helps our gut to digest our food more easily every subsequent day. When we commit to walking or running every morning, after a few days of struggling just a little bit to get ourselves moving, we start to do this on automaton. The habit becomes part of our daily ritual and we begin to look forward to this activity, it starts to move us, vs. us trying to do the thing. Effort lessons and the rewards grow exponentially as we feel better and more alive and happy through the physical exercise.
Most importantly, habits take away the guess work out of our lives.
And guess work takes away uncertainty. If its Tuesday night, at our home, this means we stay in for dinner and it’s a veggie meal. Or hey, it’s Saturday night, which means we go out to a favorite restaurant that our son loves; and on Sundays and Sundays only, he is allowed croissants from the French bakery down the street.
Sometimes we break these habits and let spontaneity in; but I notice how quickly too much spontaneity leaves me feeling unsettled. In Ayurveda, we call this a little too much of the Vata dosha; which we want to keep in balance as much as possible in ourselves and in life.
As a mama, I know how important it is for children to have habits and a regular routine. And how it helps them to thrive because it helps them to look forward to things in a habitual way which takes away the anxiety of constantly having to try on something new.
Over the years I have worked hard to create daily habits in our family life to keep all of us on track. Some of these in no short order include:
- Eating at approximately the same / similar times each day.
- Waking up early, close to dawn and getting outside in the morning light.
- Drinking my lemon water every morning + doing my net rinse.
- Giving thanks for our food
- Getting outside in nature every day for a bike ride, a walk or a run.
- Doing one creative thing daily, it could be reading a poem, making art or doodling.
- Saying or writing our gratefuls each night. Research shows this is the fastest way to shift your mood and I can see how it impacts our family daily. It may have been a challenging day, but when we start to look at what happened during a day with a gratitude filter, it really begins to shift things! 🙂
- Daily yoga or meditation – this week, for me my yoga is simply putting my legs up a wall and letting myself rest.
- Eating something seasonal to nourish our body, mind and heart.
- Sleeping before 10 p.m.
It doesn’t always happen, but we have these daily habits that feel like they are a part of us. It takes us a little closer to the simplicity that only comes from the hard work of editing down life. And appreciating it fully.
What are some of your daily habits? How do they help you? Would you like to know more about Ayurvedic Rituals to keep you more in flow with the natural rhythms of day/ night? If so, take a look at this post here. And for my favorite and familiar chai recipe, head over here.