I dislike mornings. Not for any logical or easy to explain reason, but I dislike them all the same. It takes me more time than is reasonable to wake up and be productive, and even when I think I’ve had enough sleep, I feel groggy and like I haven’t had enough rest. It is something which can be changed, but is difficult to make permanent.
Exercise is something many people do in the morning. The benefits can last for the entire day. You get your heart rate up to keep fit and healthy, generate endorphins which help with mental well-being, and tick something off your list early in the day. If you do it for days in a row you will be positively impacting the whole of your well-being. The days I have risen from bed before work or school and exercised I have felt the power of these benefits not only physically but mentally and spiritually too. The rest of the day it seems easier to be productive and stay on track to achieve what I set out to. I’m not terribly self-motivated when it comes to keeping fit but I am incredibly blessed with the body type I have. Meeting the right person for a low stress run helped counteract the resistance I felt towards waking and exercising in the morning.
If I have not organised to meet someone in the morning, for a low stress activity which requires little mental investment, I find it more difficult to maintain the same routine. Something about the darkness of the night is more attractive and I find myself staying up late more nights than its wise. I am often productive during these hours, but the feeling that I should be sleeping nags at the back of mind, usually in the form: ‘The world operates earlier, so I should conform’.
The Māori model of well-being developed by Mason Durie, Te Whare Tapa Whā, is immensely helpful to me. I first learned of it while studying to become a teacher at university. It depicts our hauora (well-being) as the foundations and four walls of a wharenui (meeting house). The model helps identify where we are at with four core dimensions of well-being; whānau (family health); tinana (physical health); hinengaro (mental health); and wairua (spiritual health); as well as a fifth dimension, the connection with the whenua (land). If our environment is out of balance, these four walls don’t have a strong foundation to rest upon.
“With its strong foundations and four equal sides, the symbol of the wharenui illustrates the four dimensions of Māori well-being.
Should one of the four dimensions be missing or in some way damaged, a person, or a collective may become ‘unbalanced’ and subsequently unwell.”
– Manatū Hauora, New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2017.
When there is balance and we are looking after all five dimensions we feel well and empowered to move forward. When one or more is neglected we may find ourselves struggling. It can be difficult to remember that sometimes it’s not the aspect of our well-being we think we are neglecting which tips us out of balance.
Another thing which helps me in the mornings is reading scripture and spending time in prayer. Being still and present with God helps ground me and solidify my focus for the day. Without doing this it becomes easier for me to fall into the trap of unnecessary overthinking , particularly things which are out of my control, or which I have legitimately passed responsibility for. If I instead turn this worry and anxiety over to God I can let go of what I need to, and focus and work hard, spending my time where it will be most beneficial.
I know not everyone is Christian, nor does everyone pray, nor does everyone feel the same positive mental buzz from exercising in the morning. Everyone is different, and this is a beautiful thing. Mornings may not be a time when you feel productive. You may need a coffee to get going, or a shower to sear off the last remnants of sleep, or a gym workout to focus your mind, or time to write all your thoughts from the previous night in a journal. But, whatever you need, at whatever time you need it, organise your time to make it happen. If you miss doing it for a day, remember to be kind to yourself. No one is one hundred percent efficient one hundred percent of the time. It is OK to acknowledge you didn’t achieve what you set out to, but work on moving forward rather than being overly critical of yourself. Eat some food, have a shower, go for a walk, meet up with a friend, and when you are up for it, put plans in place for the next day to encourage yourself to keep going.
Go to sleep earlier if you need to. Sleep longer for one morning if you know it will benefit your well-being. Eat regular meals at appropriate times for your schedule. Turn off any screens at least an hour before trying to sleep and read a book. Most importantly, when your body tells you it is time to sleep, listen. This is my work on for the coming months. I know some days it won’t happen, but like anything we can practice and get better at it.
If you feel one of your friends or family needs support, reach in to their life. It can feel like we are overstepping, that the right thing to do is wait for them to reach out, but I know first-hand how much of a struggle it is to reach out when we feel darkness all around us. Do so with love and you will bring light into their life.
Dream big. Embrace peace. Love, always.