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  • Writer's pictureThalien Colenbrander

HEALING HABIT #3 - mindful morning routine

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

When I was in 12-step recovery, one of the one-liners I heard all the time was : 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.' The logic behind this is simple. Humans are creatures of habit, and once a habit is firmly in place, we crave it. This applies to healthy habits like taking cold showers and going to the gym, but also to self-defeating habits like process addictions and isolating ourselves when we feel down. So to break a habit, you need to strategize a routine. If you don't, your brain will just slip back to default mode and do the same old thing you've always done.

A mindful routine, and a mindful morning routine in particular, can do wonders to shield us from scattered brain activity. A routine is best implemented first thing in the morning, so we literally 'rise strong' and are less likely to get lured into whimsical behavioural patterns.

We crave whatever we’re feeding ourselves. So if you’re used to reading the news or scrolling stories on social media first thing in the morning, your mind is going to resist your new morning ritual. It’s going to want to do the old thing you always do, no matter how attractive that new thing sounded the day before. Our attention is our #1 most valuable asset. Online marketeers know this, and their methods are increasingly conniving to get our attention and keep us engaged. And so, as consumers, we must respond adequately. Try to postpone opening your (private) email or getting on social media. Even if it's just for 15 minutes. It will take you awhile to get over the urge, but eventually you will realize that everything can wait a few hours. Use the morning to tend to what is important to you, rather than catering to other people's agenda's by reacting to external stimuli and distractions in the form of emails, newsfeeds, notifications etc. Training our impulses helps us to act from intention versus urge.

"The mind makes for a wonderful servant, but a terrible master" – Robin Sharma

When you analyse and trace back the urges and impulses that drive any negative behavioural patterns, you'll find there is a window. The window where you can do something to break the chain. If you don't act or if you hesitate, chances are you get sucked into what's called the 4-staged habit loop of cue, craving, response, and reward, and it's much harder to break out once that cycle is at speed. The best chance of not getting pulled into it in the first place, is either by avoiding the cue altogether, or, when the cue is presented, immediately act before the limbic system kicks in. The cue is best avoided altogether (turning off notifications on my devices for example) but when I missed that step, and I'm already feeding my craving (for example scrolling on social media without a clear intention), I try to implement Mel Robbin's 5-second rule.

“I was the problem and in five seconds, I could push myself and become the solution.” – Mel Robbins

The 5-second rule is ridiculously simple yet effective: whenever you notice the idea to act on a goal or a commitment, or the moment you feel yourself hesitate on doing something, and you know you should do, use the 5-second rule. Start by counting backward to yourself: 5-4-3-2-1. The counting will help you focus on the goal or commitment and distract you from the worries, thoughts, and fears in your mind. As soon as you reach “1,” DO IT. Immediately, straight into action. For me, physical movement is an important part of the method, too, because when you move your physiology changes and your mind follows.

Segue on the servant/master quote above, I feel obliged to write a paragraph on the d-word. Discipline. Ugh. If there's one thing I lack, I feel it's that. In yoga philosophy, the word is Tapas. Which is ironic considering I especially lack discipline when it comes to food and I spend a large chunk of the year in Spain, home of terribly tasty tapas. However, it seems I found my discipline hack. Lately I've been using the platform stickK which functions as a Commitment Contract. It's brilliant because it utilizes the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability to drive behaviour change. I've been using it for over 6 weeks now for my (modest) fitness regime, and I'm thrilled with my output, especially given my track record of inconsistency in that area. I've recently also added flossing my teeth and tidying my camper to the method, as these are both things that I couldn't seem to get myself to do regularly enough, and they make a real difference. When I see myself taking actions that imply self-care, I do actually start caring more for my myself and am more inclined to engage in other positive habits that foster self-love and healing. That is the compound effect of habit building.

Back to the morning routine: Use your morning for your personal projects and/or employ a morning ritual to help you stay focused and anchored in yourself throughout the day. For example meditating, journaling, yoga, intention setting, a cold water plunge, breath and/or energy work. Even if it's just 3 minutes of conscious breathing on the toilet or under the shower, it's the intention and consistency that counts. It does not have to be a 30 minute candle-lit breath work session on a fancy meditation cushion. It's the pictures of perfection that paralyse us. To improve any habit, you need to standardize it first. So start small. To give you an idea, my fitness 'regime' consists of a 4,5 minute workout and to keep my camper organised I set a 3-minute timer before I go to bed and tidy up whatever my eyes land on. There's a piece of paper hanging where I can see it, where I check off the days when I did these daily chores. To build a new habit, it needs to be obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. We can invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit: by making them invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.

To learn more about all this, consider joining The Healing Habits Retreat, 21-26 January in Andalusia, Spain. It’s the perfect time to assess, align, adopt or ditch habits in accordance with our intentions for the new year.

I'm offering an inspiring and potent blend of insightful dharma talks, powerful brain hacks, nourishing yoga, mindfulness practices, sound healing, delicious food and so much more!

The €100 discount is still valid till January 15th 2023. Click here for all the details.

Love, Thalien xx

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