I subscribe to a worthwhile list-serve organized by Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and professor at Columbia University, called “Real Age” (firstname.lastname@example.org) that regularly sends out health tips. This past week I received a piece called “8 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings” that began with this statement:
“The morning is extremely important. It is the foundation from which the rest of the day is built. How you choose to spend your morning can often be used to accurately predict what kind of day you are going to have.”
I got to thinking. How do I, myself, enter each day, and why do I do what I do?
Based on the inspiration of Dr. Oz’s list, I offer my own, with a disclaimer that I do not do all 10 every day, though I try and am certain that if I fulfilled them all I would be better for it.
- Calm beginnings – I need calm and quiet beginnings; no conversation (I’m usually the first one up, so no problem there), no music, no television or radio news; just the sound of the birds outside.
- Gratitude – Ever since my cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation four years ago, every morning I awake and am consciously grateful to be alive. Most mornings I say the Hebrew blessing “Modeh ani l’fanecha Melech hai v’kayam she-he-che-zarta bi nish’mati b’chem’la rabba emunatecha” – “I thank You Sovereign Source of life and existence, that You have returned to me my Godly soul with compassion and faith.”
- A little bit of resurrection – For me, a very strong cup of French roast coffee brings me a little bit of resurrection each morning. That stimulation helps me feel alive physically and mentally and brings me quickly a sense of well-being.
- Sweetness – When my children were young, seeing them in the morning filled me with sweet tenderness. They no longer live at home, and so now the first living creature I see is my little dog Sasha whose sweetness is the purest and most unconditional I have ever known.
- Awareness of being “here” – that is, in the quiet and process of waking up I consciously think of the interaction of four levels of my being – body, mind, heart, and soul and that being here right now is the most true and natural state.
- Exercise early – This is the toughest on my list because of the working nature of my life. I find that exercise (for me, brisk walking for an hour in my neighborhood) releases the toxins of yesterday’s concerns so I can begin anew with less burden weighing me down. I try and exercise in the morning (usually 3 or 4 days a week) not only because I feel better for it, but also because research has shown (reported by Dr. Oz some time ago) that morning exercise results in continuing to burn calories throughout the day long after the exercise has ended.
- The quiet needs of others – I require quiet and calm first thing, and in my family, everyone has the same need. By the time they wake up I am already operating on all cylinders, so respectfully, I stay clear of them until they are ready to engage with me. It’s only fair!
- Joy – I have learned that I experience the fullest joy when I am consciously appreciative of the blessings in my life; good health, loving family, loyal friends, meaningful work, creative and productive endeavors, open-hearted doing for others, and willful association with just and compassionate causes. Joy and happiness have nothing to do with material wealth, though, as Seinfeld once said, “Not that there is anything wrong with it!”
- Morning routine – Routine relieves me of heavy decision-making first thing in the day. I have pasted above my desk at home several quotes that I strive to live by (for a future blog). One is Thoreau’s prescription for an unburdened life: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Or put another way, some things are just not worth the bother because they really are not so important.
- Expressing love and gratitude to others and doing what I love to do – When I express love and gratitude to those I love and then go about doing the things I love to do early in the day, I find that I am more relaxed, freer of tension and stress, and happier.
I suggest making up your own list and then working to do as much of it as regularly as you can. If I could only do the above 10 every day, I am certain I would be a happier camper!
Happy Mother’s Day!!!