Courtesy of Jessica Schatz
7 Min ReadHealth 30 July 2020
The morning is a powerful time of day. It is during the first moments of waking that your mind is shifting from the subconscious stages of sleep into the more conscious state of reality. During this transition, your mind and heart are open, alive, and just waiting to soak up the energy of a new day.
Starting the morning with self-care, love, and acceptance can help shift our mental dialogue and allow space for us to truly flourish in our daily life.
The morning is also a time when your intuition is more readily accessible and your creativity, problem-solving skills, and motivation are at their highest. This is why it is commonly believed that how you spend the first 30 minutes after waking will determine the energy with which you move through the rest of the day.
So what if you could shift a couple things around in your schedule to reclaim some of this sacred space in order to set your mind into a positive state the minute you woke up? What if there were little rituals you could practice that would change your whole outlook of the day so that you could think more clearly and be more productive? Well, a simple morning routine may be just what you need to set the stage to make your whole day more successful.
Make sure to choose the practices that fit your personality and your life, that make you feel good and uplifted, and that you will look forward to doing on a regular basis.
When you start the day with a conscious and powerful ritual, it can help you to:
- Feel more positive
- Manage your energy
- Tune into your intuition
- Be more productive
- Feel more aligned with your purpose
- Feel motivated and inspired to get things done
- Be more patient and compassionate to yourself and others
There are no steadfast rules when it comes to creating the perfect morning ritual. However, it is a form of self-care — so make sure to choose the practices that fit your personality and your life, that make you feel good and uplifted, and that you will look forward to doing on a regular basis. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Cultivating gratitude and appreciation is a perfect way to start your day, as it is selectively positive. It reinforces happiness and positivity by shedding light on those things, small or big, that grace your everyday life.
To achieve this, try reflecting for a moment on the things in your life for which you are most grateful, whatever they may be: family, friends, your comfy bed, a roof above your head, the ability to stand, to breathe, or to move your arms above your head. Or perhaps you feel gratitude for the day ahead and all of the amazing opportunities it holds for you. Whatever it is, be clear and specific. Let that sense of gratitude begin moving into your physical experience, coming into the body, and spreading out through your limbs. Feel the shift in your energy and in your body.
Meditation Or Mindful Breathing
Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. With science on our side, we have become more aware than ever of the many benefits of meditation — or mindfulness. Some of these benefits include:
- Reduces stress
- Controls anxiety
- Promotes emotional health
- Enhances self-awareness
- Lengthens attention span
- Improves sleep
- Helps control pain
- Can reduce blood pressure
- Can help generate kindness
Practicing meditation, or any form of conscious breathing, will help you relax and restore your energy before you're off to the races. I suggest about ten minutes. But even just a few minutes will help you improve your mental and emotional state.
If you're new to meditation, simply start with three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Sit tall and gentle either on the floor, a cushion, or a chair. On the inhale, visualize fresh, new oxygen filling you up. On the exhale, visualize the releasing and letting go of all things that no longer serve you. Or simply breathe and repeat the mantra, "I am healthy, well, and vibrant."
Even just a few minutes will help you improve your mental and emotional state.
Meditation courses and apps are widely available and there is a great variety of styles from which to choose, each with different strengths and benefits. Trying out a style of meditation suited to your goals is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes to do it each day.
But most of all, be gentle with yourself and try not to judge your experience. Like everything else, mediation is a "practice."
Exercise is a great way to get your energy moving and flowing for the day ahead. An early morning workout offers enormous benefits to both your health and your daily schedule. In fact, engaging in morning workouts is often touted as your all-natural cup of coffee — waking your body and preparing your mind.
Movement, in general, is a wonderful source of both physical and mental energy, something many of us need when we start our day. But beyond that, morning exercise has been shown to improve focus and mental abilities all day long. Not only will you feel awake and have more energy after your workout, but your mind will be ready to take on whatever tasks you have in front of you.
Of course, there are many mental health benefits of exercise, and working out first thing helps you experience those benefits right away! Exercise leads to the secretion of neurotransmitters that promote mental clarity and improve attention spans.
Working out in the morning not only improves the length of sleep you will enjoy but also the quality of your sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles.
Breaking an early morning sweat will also reward you with a rush of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine — feel-good chemicals that will boost your mood and help eliminate stress. Plus, you're guaranteed to feel happier knowing that you started your day doing something amazing for yourself and your health.
A morning exercise routine will even help you get better sleep. Evening exercise can actually have the opposite effect: it can boost the body's temperature and stimulate the body, which can make falling asleep more difficult. Working out in the morning not only improves the length of sleep you will enjoy but also the quality of your sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles.
If getting up for a morning jog, a HITT routine, or weights is not your style, try yoga, Pilates mat, or even some light stretches. All of these things can be found on my website — there is literally something for everyone! Plus you'll feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as rejuvenation and recharge.
Breakfast is recognized as the most important meal of the day, because it energizes your body, helps improve your concentration and productivity, and boosts your metabolism, keeping your blood sugar levels stable throughout your entire day. Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
Research shows that breakfast-eaters have increased energy levels, higher consumption of important vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, and are more likely to be within their ideal weight range compared to breakfast-skippers. Studies also show that eating breakfast reduces the risk of cravings and overeating later in the day.
But probably the most appealing benefit is that it jump-starts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
I suggest eating within two hours of waking to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to provide you with essential nutrients to kick-start your body, mind, and spirit.
So what are the best breakfasts to reap all of these benefits? A healthy breakfast should be balanced and provide a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats to keep you satiated and fueled up for your day. Here are some of my favorites.
Studies have also shown that eating breakfast can improve memory and concentration levels and lower stress levels, improving our mood and making us happier! So the next time you start to rush out the door in the morning without something to eat, consider that without breakfast you are essentially running on empty, like trying to start a car with no gas. On the other hand, a healthy morning meal can give you energy, satisfy your appetite, and set the stage for healthy eating habits all day long.
A morning ritual is an investment in yourself and a commitment to improvement. If you don't take some time in the morning, you may find you've put your personal well-being on the back burner for the whole day. But starting the morning with self-care, love, and acceptance can help shift our mental dialogue and allow space for us to truly flourish in our daily life.
By using the morning to be fully present, compassionate, and alive in your body, mind, and spirit, you can consciously form positive habits that will significantly transform and empower your life.
This article was originally published March 23, 2020.
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5 min read
Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.
I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.
I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.
Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.
My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.
I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.
When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.
So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.
Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.
And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.
This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.
I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.
I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.