Most of the webinars I’ve listened to in the past several months have acknowledged the mental health challenges that have occurred as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Many of these webinars begin with some inspirational morning practices or they focus exclusively on mindfulness. Whether you already have a morning practice that works for you, or you are looking for a few easy things to incorporate to get your day started well, here are some of my favorites. These five mindful moments have radically improved my mornings

Smile when you first wake up 

I smile often, but not necessarily first thing upon waking. It’s a small easy gesture, is a fun happy thing to do, and as my father would say, it costs nothing. I learned this from a talk hosted by the community mindfulness project. According to them, “Information flows in two directions between the emotional center of the brain and body. When we smile, we are sending a signal from the body to the brain that we are okay. Also, cortisol levels (the “fight or flight” hormone) are highest in the morning which is why we sometimes wake up with a sense of dread. We can counter that with a smile. It’s a great bio-hack.” It’s a great way to start the day.

Take a deep breath after you smile 

It’s amazing that we still need to be reminded to breathe, but we do. Now that you’re smiling, still in bed, breathe. Any breath will do, but a deep breath is better. One of my favorite breathing techniques is to inhale to the count of eight, hold it for four, and exhale until we need to inhale again. According to the community mindfulness project, “After that first smile, take a nice deep breath, paying close attention to what it feels like to breathe and smile. This begins our habit of paying attention to our body throughout the day. When our brains and bodies are integrated, we are at our happiest.” Waking up happy energizes the entire day.

Drink 16 ounces lime salt water 

This tip is from Liz Gleadle, a Canadian Olympic javelin thrower and motivational speaker who kicked off IIEX earlier this month walking us through her favorite morning routine. Her routine has five elements, including exercising, meditating and journaling. The things that were new to me also takes the least amount of time: Drink 16 ounces of lime-salt water when you get out of bed. Her recipe is water at the temperature you like to drink it, with the juice of a 1/4 of lime (specifically not lemon) and a dash of salt. This makes water so much more interesting, satisfying and refreshing, you’ll want another glass. The hydration of our skin and body from head to toe is palpable. Cheers. 

Take a 40-second cold shower 

This is another under one-minute tip from Liz Gleadle. When I first heard it, I thought I’d wait until spring to try it, but the power went out, so trying it was easy. We’ve all lost power and had a cold shower sometime in our lives, right? What I like about her tip is to have the water hit the back of our necks while taking 6 deep breaths (more morning deep breathing), because that’s about how long 40 seconds is. It’s an invigorating start to the day.

These four actions can be as quick or as languid as you like. And the best part – we’re now ready for our morning coffee or tea.

Enjoy your morning coffee (or tea)  

We’ve all heard about and know the benefits of coffee. It’s said that Thich Nhat Hanh, the famed Vietnamese monk from Plum Monastery, takes an hour to savor his cup of tea. “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” I don’t have patience to sit focused on my coffee for an hour, but I have learned a practice to savor the morning coffee experience, starting with the preparation, from Vivian Winterhoff, whose 10 days of “Brain Breaks” – a guided meditation series – includes “  Just me and my cup of tea” for day six. Vivian suggests, with her soothing voice, to “Let yourself be guided through preparing and taking your first sips of a warm drink. Take time to enjoy it, sense into every step of the process, and see what you uncover.” Smiling and breathing, I prepare my second cup of coffee.