What's the first thing you do when you wake up? No, I mean the very first thing you do when you wake up? If your answer is check your phone, you're not alone. I, too, used to compulsively look through my texts, social-media feeds, and various notifications before even getting out of bed or putting on my glasses. This almost obsessive scrolling took up the first 10 to 20 minutes of my mornings for years, until just recently.
You may be wondering what exactly I do after I wake up if it's not checking my phone. Well, after I've taken a few sips of water, opened a window to let some natural light into my room, and taken a dropper full of the CBD tincture I keep right next to my bed, I meditate. Depending on how grounded or distracted I feel that morning, I will either meditate on my own or follow a guided practice. I have anxiety, and because a symptom is the seemingly endless stream of thoughts circling around in my head, I sometimes wake up already feeling stressed out and somewhat absent from the world around me. These mornings, I find it helpful to follow a quick, 10-minute guided meditation, which I listen to by using a mindfulness app like Sanvello, Insight Timer, or Smiling Mind.
If I'm feeling particularly clearheaded, though, I'll try to meditate on my own for as long as I feel comfortable. When meditating without a guide, I find it most effective to focus on taking deep breaths to pull my attention away from my thoughts. When thoughts do appear (which they always do), I acknowledge them and then let them go, imagining that they're either a bubble popping or a cloud floating out of my frame of view after I have given them a moment of attention.
In the past, I wasn't someone who was a huge fan of meditation, as I could never get myself to sit still and focus with the overwhelming number of thoughts that race around my mind. The first couple of times I tried it, I definitely struggled with this, but as meditation has become a more consistent part of my day-to-day life, it's gotten much easier to peacefully sit with, acknowledge, and then release my thoughts. I've found that simply being with myself for several minutes, even if I sometimes am easily distracted during that time, is extremely therapeutic and helps me begin and move through my days with a clear mind rather than one that's tangled in a web of never-ending thoughts and scenarios.
Once I feel calm and satisfied with my meditation practice, I grab my journal and a pencil from my bedside table and fill out what I call a "daily gratitude entry." In this entry, I answer three prompts: What am I grateful for today? What can I do that would make today even better? What affirmations do I need today? I usually respond to each question with three bullet points. For example, I might write, "I am grateful for my health," "I am grateful for my support system," and "I am grateful for the opportunity to get an education."
Each of these three questions helps me prepare for the day ahead in various ways. For one thing, focusing on what I'm grateful for helps me begin my day feeling positively about life and excited for what's to come rather than dreading it. Following this up with a list of things that I can do to improve how the day turns out — such as spending time outside — allows me to create intentions that will guide me through the day and establish a much-needed sense of control over my life that I often feel is lacking when I'm anxious. Lastly, by seeking and receiving validation through positive affirmations about my strength, talent, or even beauty, I remind myself not only of these features, but also, once again, of the fact that I am in control of my life, which helps me feel more secure and confident throughout the day.
These practices, which collectively only take up 15 to 20 minutes, seem almost too simple to have positively affected me as much as they have, but there is no denying that my mental health has improved.
I don't check my phone until I've finished these practices. Sometimes, I'll try to prolong this wait even more — usually until after I've made breakfast — but completing a meditation and journal entry before I begin my scrolling is absolutely mandatory for me. As a 20-year-old living in the digital age, it's almost guaranteed that my phone will be full of news updates, emails, and horoscope predictions for that day each and every morning. Even if some of these notifications don't necessarily affect me personally, looking through all of them can still be a stressful experience, especially if I'm doing it within a minute or two of waking up. Postponing that process until I've taken the time I need to fully wake up and practice some sort of mindfulness has been extremely effective in reducing my anxiety and increasing my happiness and productivity.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety for most of my life, I've been encouraged to try meditation and journaling time and time again, but I never took either too seriously until about a month ago, and I'm so glad I did. These practices, which collectively only take up 15 to 20 minutes, seem almost too simple to have positively affected me as much as they have, but there's no denying that my mental health has improved since I first added them to my morning routine. I'm more productive, clearheaded, and intentional throughout the day.
Even if the idea of not looking at your phone until 20 minutes or so after waking up seems uncomfortable at first, I highly encourage everyone to try it at least once in combination with some sort of meditation or journaling. While our phones can often serve as a distraction from the stress and negativity of the outside world, it's important to be able to disconnect from them and connect with ourselves, which my morning routine is helping me get better at each and every day.