Been feeling a little frayed around the edges lately? Yah, me too.
We are living in physically, mentally, and emotionally dysregulating times. So if you want to feel better fast, re-regulation is the name of the game.
With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite ways to go from feeling frantic and discombobulated to centered, calm, and in full possession of myself — fast.
1) Try My Three-Minute “Morning Minutes” Practice
You’ve probably heard that doing a morning meditation or having a morning ritual is a good idea. But if you’re like a lot of people, you might be struggling to make that happen.
Why? You might have made it more complicated than it needs to be. And thus, fitting it into your busy life is tough. You might also be in the habit of reaching for your phone first thing on waking. If so, I encourage you to challenge that habit, and I’ll give you a science-based reason for doing so.
When you first wake up, your brain is in a super-sensitive and receptive “theta” brainwave state. It is operating in a highly creative, impressionable mode between waking and sleeping, a mode in which your subconscious mind is accessible, and your emotional self is also rather vulnerable.
When you wake and go straight to your devices, you expose your still delicate self to an assault of world news, worries, to-do lists, manipulative ads, petty social media matters, and worse. You can easily throw your whole body into an inflammatory stress response before you’ve even gotten going.
So rather than letting the whole crazy, “out there” world come at you all at once, and letting it trigger you into reactive state before you are fully awake, I suggest you instead claim the first few minutes of your day for yourself.
Use these high-value (impressionable, creative, suggestible) moments to set your own goals and intentions, to establish a positive habits and mindsets, and to access your most creative, flexible patterns of thought and feeling.
I call this practice the Morning Minutes. It is one of three Renegade Rituals I swear by, and like the other two, it is delightfully simple.
How to Create Your Own Morning Minutes Practice
Right when you wake up, before you do anything else, simply give yourself the gift of coming into your waking state gradually — without any digital devices, electronics, or demands.
That’s it. Before looking at ANY screens, including news, social media, email or text messages, just use the first few minutes of your day to enjoy doing something (anything) that you find appealing. The more enticing something feels to you on that particular day, the better.
My agreement with myself is that I will do a minimum of three minutes in this mode, but you can extend it as long as you like. Keeping the base commitment short is the best way to avoid making it feel burdensome or like something you “don’t have time for” on a given day.
You DO have three minutes. And if you feel you can’t commit three minutes to your own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, it is worth challenging that belief or setting a new boundary so that you can.
What you do with your three minutes is entirely up to you. I usually light a beeswax candle and journal or play guitar or pet my dog while I sip a cup of really good coffee with heavy cream.
Sometimes I stay in bed for a little while, awake, just checking in with my own body and mind, stretching my limbs, and envisioning how I want the day to go.
On different days, I do different things: Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I do yoga, sometimes I step outside and look up at the sky. I never feel burdened or pressured to do or accomplish anything in particular — only what I feel like.
For me, noticing and honoring what I feel like doing is part of the practice.
Again, the key is this Morning Minutes ritual is doing it BEFORE you start looking at screens. That means before you start checking overnight alerts and notifications, before “just peeking” at the news or weather, before you start scrolling through social media feeds, email or text messages.
If you do any of that, you’ve let the “out there” world’s agenda for you into your sacred space, and you can pretty much kiss your theta state goodbye. Your brain will be in an executive-function beta state by then, and in that state, while Morning Minutes practice is still certainly worth doing, it won’t be the same.
Based on experience, I would also say your chances of successfully accomplishing your Morning Minutes practice diminish radically with each moment you spend plugged into mass media and mass society — or what I call the Unhealthy Default Reality.
You can get more guidance on my Morning Minutes practice in the “Morning” episode of The Living Experiment podcast I cohost with my friend Dallas Hartwig. Or you can watch this little video I made about it for my friends over at BOOM by Cindy Joseph. Or you can read about it in this excerpt of my book, as recently featured over at Mindful.org.
In my book, The Healthy Deviant, I also supply some fun tools for establishing your Morning Minutes practice, and for tracking your success with it over time.
Whatever you do, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THIS PRACTICE. I know it sounds like a tiny thing, but I have heard from hundreds of people that this single, simple, three-minute ritual has changed their lives in wonderful, radical ways.
Try it and see for yourself. And, hey, don’t be surprised if NOT reaching for your phone first thing turns out to be a whole lot harder than you thought.
2) Establish a sensory haven.
We all need a place where we can withdraw from the Unhealthy Default Reality, and recover from its overwhelming, undermining influences. We need a place where we can reset our brains, calm our nerves, and remind ourselves that things are, in fact, going to be okay.
I call that sort of place a sensory haven.
Even if your sensory haven sits within a single room (or under a blanket, or in a bathtub) and even if you can only avail yourself of it for a few minutes a day, make a point of consciously creating a sense-nourishing atmosphere that lets you relax into a sense of “aaaah.”
How to Create Your Sensory Haven
Choose a space that you can generally control, and where you feel safe. Create some physical or psychic boundaries to define and protect it.
When you are using this special space in haven mode, silence the phone. Have no media playing in the background, except maybe some beautiful, calming, centering music of your choosing.
Surround yourself with good smells. Soft lighting. Cleared surfaces. Serene or vibrant colors. Comforting textures.
Sit in a comfy chair. Swaddle yourself in a quilt. Or just lie down, close your eyes, and breathe.
Yes, the world is straight-up wacky a lot of the time. Yes, there’s always going to be more to do. But remember: It is also your birthright to just be. To go slow. To pause. To enjoy. To process.
Your body-mind needs that. It really needs that.
Think about it. Your eyes blink open AND closed. Your heart valves move blood in AND out. Every system in your body oscillates between active and restful, between effort and recovery, between full and empty.
Always on, always pushing ahead, always taking on more without fully processing — that just does not work. You are managing a lot right now. So create some time and space for recovery, too.
One of my favorite “sensory haven” tools is an album-length piece of music called Roots and Branches by artist and therapist David Lauterstein. It is an uninterrupted, hour-long track of gorgeous, resonant, super-serene acoustic guitar music. Just one instrument playing one gradually evolving melody at one consistent, heart-beat paced rhythm.
I never tire of this piece. Just hearing its opening notes makes me feel instantly better, more “rooted” and more human — even on my weirdest, most disrupted days.
If you listen to Roots and Branches and enjoy it, please support David Lauterstein’s work by ordering a copy of his CD from his website. As he explains there, all the copies available elsewhere online are pirated. (Even though he kindly makes the whole track available for free on YouTube. Seriously. Gah.)
3) Take yourself for a no-phone walk in the great outdoors.
If I had to choose between the gym and a brisk walk, I’d choose the walk every time. Walks come with so many bonuses and benefits — particularly when you leave your electronics behind.
Bundle up if you need to, and then get OUT. Look OUT. Look UP. Breathe in. Breathe out. Revel in the fact that you are here and you are alive.
Carry only what you must. Leave biometric gadgets, and all your other noise-making, distracting electronic thingamabobs behind.
If you can only make 10 minutes, fine. If you can go for 20 minutes or a half hour or longer, even better.
If you feel you can’t safely go for even a short walk (even around the block) without your phone, first, notice that (the Unhealthy Default Reality at work!). Then put your phone in a zip-top bag inside another bag with a rubber band wrapped around it tight, so you are less tempted to reflexively (addictively) reach for your device or have your attention held hostage by it the entire time.
Be in your animal body. Sniff the air. Open your ears to the wind and the flutter of living things. Make eye contact with other animals (including humans), plants, clouds, puddles of water and sunshine.
Make heart contact with yourself. Smile at some folks. Let your random thoughts flop around in your too-full brain until they quiet themselves down and begin to re-order themselves.
Notice who you are when you are unplugged, unburdened, free to connect with yourself and the real, embodied world around you.
Give these three practices a try, solo or in combination, for a few days running and let me know how it goes. My hope is that they will leave you feeling less frazzled, less world weary, and more capable of handling whatever comes next.
Want more life-shifting wisdom?
Check out my book, The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World. You can get a free preview and find purchase links here. Thank you for supporting my work!