Lately, I’ve been needing more movement in my days to keep me awake.
Sitting all day for work is more exhausting than I thought it would be. I remember the days when I was working in a gym and was standing all day, moving around, picking up workout equipment, lifting things, and putting them back down. I felt tired, but not from my workouts… it was more from interacting with people all day.
Now that I’m working from home, I find myself sitting at a desk alone and interacting with colleagues by phone or video calls. This is a whole different level of exhaustion. My body is actually more lethargic without movement than when it is constantly moving. It turns out we were BUILT TO MOVE!
Here are the top 3 things I do in the morning to get my body moving right after I get out of bed.
I never used to do this before. Maybe this one isn’t new to you, but it is something I started doing when I moved into a smaller and darker space during the Pandemic.
The research is out there! Dancing can lower stress and raise levels of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. An 8-year long study followed 1003 community-dwelling older Japanese women and the different forms of physical activity that could possibly help reduce the risk of disability and dementia. The researchers found that exercise/physical activity generally helped women remain independent as they aged, but dancing led the pack!
The researchers found that those who frequently danced has a 73% lower chance of becoming disabled during the study period compared to women who did not. They deduced that it could be because dance is both a mental and physical activity, requiring balance, strength, endurance, and also cognitive ability (being able to coordinate with a partner, remember choreography, move gracefully and fluidly, and more).
Although I’m not at an age where I feel I need to worry about Dementia or other disabilities due to old age, this type of research has opened up my eyes to why dance has helped me personally with my struggles with depression, anxiety, and focus. It’s hard to think about my sadness while I’m dancing. It’s also hard to worry when I’m distracted by moving my body.
Other health benefits of dancing are as follows:
- improved condition of your heart and lungs (increased aerobic fitness)
- increased endurance and motor fitness
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility, and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- greater self-confidence/self-esteem
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
Whether you dance fast or slow, you’re moving, and that’s helping to boost your mood and lower your stress.
2. Get outside.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve personally suffered from a lack of sunshine this Winter.
Let me correct myself: We’ve all likely felt some level of being stuck indoors due to the pandemic. Whether you didn’t get outside enough or were simply told you could not exit your home without being fined, there has been a lot more tension than usual surrounding this pandemic and our mental health.
Getting outside, rain or shine, before my workday has helped get me set up for the day. If I don’t have the chance to go for a walk at lunch, I know I’ve at least done my part to get outside for a bit before starting my day.
What I do once I get outside doesn’t matter, but here are just a few things I try to do (some are easier than others):
- I find somewhere to sit and listen to a podcast. With fewer distractions, I can listen to something that will teach me something new or listen to a podcast in French and brush up on my language skills.
- Sometimes I go for a quick run so I get my 20-30 minutes of sunshine and then still have time to shower before work.
- I like to walk around the neighborhood. In the Winter, this is a great way to get up and watch the sunrise. In the Summer, it’s a great way to catch the sun before it gets too hot.
I live in a small space, so any excuse to get outside and escape the confines of my walls is a nice change. I used to go outside out of boredom, but now I’ve made it a routine because I know I feel better for it, even if I’m just sitting and people-watching.
3. Sun Salutations.
Getting some sun doesn’t always mean having to go outside!
I’m not going to pretend that I practice a traditional form of yoga.
My yoga is defined by bringing stillness and breath together. I don’t know a better way to get my day started than to breathe in stillness (or while moving), but with a focus on being mindful. Of course, we breathe naturally just to stay alive, but how often are we actually paying attention to doing so mindfully? Many of us would recognize uniting breath and stillness as meditation.
However, sometimes, I want to move in order to get out of bed and stretch a bit.
I should begin by saying that I in no way claim that “movement” is a form of traditional yoga. In fact, according to Dr. Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, “Yoga is also commonly understood as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness. While physical and mental health are natural consequences of yoga, the goal of yoga is more far-reaching. Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe. It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic, to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony.”. Although it can help you reach a higher level of health and fitness, it can also help you to connect to so much more within yourself and with others!
I’ve picked up on some movements that have felt liberating for my body and have helped to keep me breathing deeply, while also moving through different ranges of motion. Sun Salutations are traditionally performed in the morning to greet the new day. There may be more customary versions of this sequence that are passed down from the beautiful Indian tradition, but this is the simplest one I’ve learned in my years of learning and practicing.
Sometimes I will flow through this 5 times and then add some different variations for a few more sun salutations. These two different sequences are known as Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B (or more traditionally, Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B). Feel free to add some free-flowing movement and make it your own.
If you want to learn more about Yoga, its origin, history, and development, please read this article by Dr.Basavaraddi.
I slowly built up this habit of moving a bit in order to get my day started. Whether I go outside, stay indoors, dance, sing, or prepare a coffee with breakfast, the trick I’ve found works best for me is to do it all as mindfully as possible.
It’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day, starting my day this way is the best way to ensure I have something to come back to when I’m feeling angry, sad, or stressed. Who’s to say I can’t dance in the middle of the day for an extra boost of energy? I could also go for a quick run mid-day or after work to boost my self-esteem!
These activities don’t have to take long, but they hold a place in my heart because they keep me calm, cool, and collected on days that I know I’ll be sitting for 8 hours in front of a computer!
What do you do to get your day started? Do you like to prepare breakfast? Do you like to move or read or watch the news? Share your wake-up tips in the comments below!