Self care is an important part of our mental health and wellbeing. Taking the time to invest in ourselves, eating right, sleeping right, exercising, and doing things that restore our energy are key components of a balanced life.
But I don’t pretend that this is easy. If you are struggling with mental health challenges, just getting through the day can be a huge burden. It might not feel like you have any extra energy to invest in yourself. Whether it’s depression that has sapped you of energy, or ADHD which makes the routine or mundane feel boring or unappealing, I get you.
My six minute morning routine aims to address this, with the idea being that you set the bar super low and just do something, anything, and consider that a win. To that effect, the six minutes are somewhat arbitrary, even 60 seconds you spend caring for yourself are literally infinitely better than not having done so. The goal is to reduce the perceived difficulty and stakes around this ritual, and increase the chances of you being able to do it daily even if you’re not doing that great. (Who’s got time to go to the gym? I hear ya. Who’s got six minutes to spare for themselves? Hopefully you.
Here’s what my six minute morning routine looks like, but you can of course modify any part of it to suit your needs and preferences. Doing anything at all is far more important than what you actually choose to do:
2 Minutes of Exercise
- I do a few calisthenics, like running in place and jumping jacks, for cardio.
- And then I do some kettlebell swings for strength. Watch some videos on how to do it right, as there is a lot of ways to get it wrong; many of which I did myself. (Tim Ferris, who heavily influenced me in many ways, extols the virtue of kettlebell swings in his book the 4 Hour Body, which is all about getting the maximum benefit from an activity with the least amount of time or effort)
2 Minutes of Yoga
I do a few different yoga poses in a row, which I looked up at some point as being beneficial for mood. These poses all focus on stretching over strength, because that is my goal with yoga, as part of helping me release stress. Based on the allocation of time, I only have like 20 seconds for each pose, which I can choose to do, or I can cheat and take more than 2 minutes to complete this. 😀
- Camel Pose – on my knees, hips pushing forward, with back arched back to touch my heels. You can modify this to make it less intense.
- Cow Face – this is good for my hips. Cross one leg over the other, then lean forward with a straight back. Then repeat with the other leg on top.
- Bridge – this I find stretches my stomach. Lying on your back, with your heels against your butt, thrust your hips up as high as you can, lifting your back off the grand. You can do a supported bridge to make it easier.
- Candlestick / Plow – this is a good stretch for my back. Lying on my back, I lift my legs up and over my head, so most of my weight is on my shoulders. My variation ends up with legs going more behind my head than a candlestick, but not quite touching the ground behind me like plow.
- Standing forward bend – I learned this pose later, but I added it on because it’s one of my favorites and stretches multiple parts of my leg, back and shoulders at once. You start crouched, and actually grab the bottom of your heels while pressing your chest against your thighs. Start straightening your legs, which will bring your head downwards, while trying to keep your body pressed against your chest. Hold wherever you start to feel the stretch, I find it can happen at different places depending on where I’m tight.
2 Minutes of Meditation
Here I spend two minutes relaxing and tuning inwards. There is a lot of ways to do this, depending on your own practice.
Where you do it:
- Meditation Stool – a meditation stool can help you achieve the correct posture and have a nice straight back. I find I instantly start breathing better and “get in the zone” when I sit on my stool. I have a meditation Stool from Kindseat which is one of my most prized possessions, but there are also far more affordable variations to purchase, or you could even make your own. Pillows can also be helpful.
- Savasana – you could carry your meditation right out of the yoga you did, lying flat on your yoga mat.
- Walking – you can meditate while walking! Just make the meditation the main focus. Noticing the sensation of your feet touching the floor is a common way to start practicing this.
What you meditate on:
- Noticing breath – you can spend your time noticing your breath, at whatever pace it occurs.
- Breathing exercise – you can deliberately control your breath, using techniques from Behavioral Therapy, Kundalini, or Wim Hoff. There are a ton of variations around things like “478 Breathing”, the idea being that you hold your breath on the exhale and make sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale , which sends a cue to your body to relax.
- Listening to recordings – you can listen to a short guided meditation on YouTube or an app like Headspace.
- Noticing thoughts – you can observe any thoughts that cross your mind, making a point of not analyzing, judging, or attaching to them. Let them float in and out like clouds in the sky.
- Mantra – you can repeat any mantra to yourself, which helps calm your mind. It could be something you understand, or in a foreign language like Sanskrit.
- Compassion – you can focus on fostering compassion for yourself and others by repeating a mantra like “May I have peace, may I be happy / May all beings have peace, may all beings be happy.”
There you have it. This morning routine attempts to touch upon 3 key important areas of your life – your physical body, your mood, and your mind. Impacting each of these positively will have ripple effects on other aspects. Meditation will lead to less tension in your muscles. Exercise can help elevate your mood and reduce stress and racing thoughts.
Remember, the key is just doing it, not getting caught up on what you’re doing or how long you’re doing it for. When you’re done, you can wrap it all up with a bonus cold shower.
Try the morning routine just once and see how it feels for you!