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One of the greatest tricks that has really helped me live a happier, healthier life is establishing a rhythm to the day. This allows me to sustain just the right amount of energy needed to get me through my daily tasks without feeling depleted. Staying evenly energized isn’t just good for your productivity, but also your health: Ayurveda teaches that if you overheat or have too little energy, you are prone to a host of systemic problems including attention and memory issues, bad temper, a low immune system, restlessness or interrupted sleep.
In Ayurveda, we understand the world as a place regulated by natural rhythms and laws. We each have a distinct, easily accessed, innate ability to cultivate our minds and bodies to subvert negativity and aim for the positive. Our systems appreciate regularity, and reward you for routine. Set yourself with a healthy mental and physical hygiene program and you’ll find yourself more productive, less stressed and anxious, better rested, and with a stronger immune system.
Here are three strategies to prepare yourself for balanced success. Use these morning, afternoon and evening meditation tools, which are all much more effective than coffee or chocolate, to tackle your to-dos with vitality.
1. Rev up your engine and set yourself on a clear course.
Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. First thing in the morning, when your eyes open to the sunlight, take a few deep belly breaths. Then do a quick survey of your system: Are you feeling sluggish or ready to seize the day? If sluggish, take a few more vigorous breaths, massage your scalp, and rotate wrists and ankles before getting out of bed. If you’re up for it, roll out of bed and do a few simple rotations of all joints, including the hips to lubricate them and get the blood and lymph flowing.
Once you’re standing, and if appropriate, do a few forward bends, hands on hips, then stand and reach for the sky. Repeat three times. Execute three graceful side bends—right, left, right, left—to open up the side waist. Lean against the bathroom sink and alternately stretch your calves. If you are into body brushing, now’s the time for it, followed by some body balm or lotion applied smoothly along the long bones and in circular motions over the joints.
Next, try setting an intention for the day. An intention is formed by the heart and mind, a solemn vow or determination, that is meant to harness the will and your focus in harmony with the mind and body. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask what you want to accomplish today. Is it something specific at work or does it relate to your behavior or a relationship? Focus on what it is and decide on at least one good, simple way to address it. Make it practical and doable. If nothing comes to mind or you find yourself settling on negative thoughts, try reframing it. Instead of “this is hard, I can’t do it,’ tell yourself, “this may be difficult, but let’s see how I do with it today!”
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2. Avoid the afternoon slump without reaching for caffeine or sugar.
By mid-afternoon, no matter how effectively you’ve primed your physical and mental self that morning, many of us have stopped breathing deeply. We get tired and sluggish. We are getting less oxygen to the brain and nervous system. We have allowed our shoulders to get tense and hips to tighten. The logical solution may be to grab a coffee or candy bar. Don’t do it! Instead, follow this standing meditation (the complete guided meditation is in the above featured video) to get naturally reinvigorated in five minutes. The practice is simple: 30 seconds of deep, slow breathing followed by 30 seconds of quickened breaths accompanied by physical movement.
3. Unwind, detach, and sleep well.
By the end of the day, our shoulders may have tensed up all over again. A to-do list of things unaccomplished has likely built up. Sleep hygiene basics give us some snooze-happier tricks based on the idea that to sleep well, the mind and nervous system need a reset. Dim the lights as the evening goes on. Turn off electronics. Drink some sleepy-time tea to ease into a relaxed state. Gentle stretches may help set the mood by your bedside. Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing, followed by a few long, deep breaths.
Once complete, take out your journal or a piece of paper and make a list of any lingering thoughts or to-do’s. You can refer to your morning intention(s) here. Now, the priority is calm, worry-free sleep. This is a great time to sow the seeds for something positive that you would like to ponder in your dream. Be creative, but practical. Lay a thought or two in your mind that may feel like a resolution or a desire you can cultivate in your sleep. Now dream on.