My current bedtime reading is a timeless self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I got it as a gift a while back from a person who thinks I’m always optimizing my life – looking for the best and most time-efficient workouts, eating the most nutrient-dense food and focusing like crazy during working hours. Making the most out of your day is not just about the ways you think or approach everyday challenges though. In my opinion, optimization and effectiveness have a lot to do with simple habits and routines you develop and create in order to have you flourish and keep your energy levels high throughout your day.
In this post, I’ll focus on mornings and share a few simple routines I’ve found to be super useful in order to start my day energetic and invigorated. They’re all very quick and easy and won’t take up too much of your precious morning time. Read on and pick your favorites to optimize your mornings like a pro.
Step #1: Oil it baby!
The first thing I do when I get out of bed is oil pulling for five minutes. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach, and then spitting it out. It’s said to draw out toxins in your body, to improve oral health and also to improve your overall health. While the benefits of oil pulling haven’t been scientifically proven, my dentist has stated my gum health has improved since I started it about 5 years ago. It just feels like an efficient way to clean and even detox your entire mouth incl. gums and tongue, of course in addition to actually brushing your teeth.
I use organic virgin coconut oil for the purpose but you could as well use good-quality sesame, olive or sunflower oil – whatever you happen to have in your cupboard. Not sure if I could handle sesame in the morning though. Hardcore fans and enthusiasts claim you need to carry on for 20 minutes but personally I don’t want to wake up that much earlier in order to swish oil in my mouth for such a long time. Five minutes seems to have the same effect on my gums and oral health and it provides an opportunity check out the news headlines of the day while swishing.
Remember to spit the oil out into a handful of tissue paper, and toss into the trash bin when you’re finished. You don’t want to end up unclogging your sink due to your new and improved morning routines! Once you’re done, it’s also a good idea to rinse your mouth with warm/hot water to get rid of the oily feeling before proceeding to step #2.
Step #2: Scrape ‘n’ Brush
Next, I’ll scrape my tongue. It takes about 15 seconds and removes all the gross stuff you have sitting there after a good night’s sleep. According to a Huffington Post article the soft, spongy, bumpy texture of the tongue is the perfect little breeding ground for bacteria. What you scrape off your tongue is this bacteria along with various other toxins. The bacteria is odor-causing, so the fewer bacteria, the less smell.
The benefits are claimed to range from improved taste and digestion to less plaque and better overall health. For me, it’s enough just to get rid of the nasty stuff and to happily rinse it away once I’m done scraping. The mouth feels fresh and, once again, my dentist keeps complementing my oral health which is supposed to be the window to your overall health. Tongue scrapers can be purchased at any supermarket for a few dollars, so this health hack won’t break the bank. Win-win!
After tongue scraping, I’ll brush my teeth for 2 minutes. I use an electric tooth brush which is gentle for teeth and gums and removes plaque efficiently.
Step #3: Move like a Monk and meditate upside down
Once I’m done with all the swishing, scraping and brushing I’ll do a quick mobility exercise following the Five Tibetan Rites. More than 2000 years old, the monks believed this simple series of five movements to hold the secret to longevity. They are a combination of mobility and yoga movements that are now used to maintain range of motion into advanced age, and work wonders to remove back and shoulder pain for us office folks!
I finish this quick little exercise with a few handstands. Not because it’s something the monks used to do but because handstands are awesome, and it’s difficult to do them later on in the day wearing skirts and heels.
Handstands strengthen your upper body, build your core strength, improve your balance, help with bone health, circulation and breathing. In addition, they can boost your mood and regulate your metabolism.
For me personally, it’s all about the great ideas I get when blood is packing to my brain. I stay there for 60 seconds and usually do a variety of balance exercises while standing upside down but recommend you start easy and increase the duration slowly. A proper handstand tutorial will follow in a separate post as soon as I find time to type it.
Step #4: Cactus bristles and freezing water
Next, comes dry brushing before the morning shower. I use a cactus bristle brush and go through the entire body in circular motions which takes about 2 minutes. Remember not to scrub too hard, the point is not to damage the skin! This routine helps to get rid of dead skin cells, but is also fantastic at boosting circulation and lymphatic drainage, and ultimately ridding the body of toxins. In the long run, it really helps to keep your skin soft and smooth.
After dry brushing, it’s time to take a shower. Many health enthusiasts claim a cold shower is the best thing you can imagine: increased alertness, refined hair and skin, improved immunity and blood circulation, stimulation of weight loss, decreasing muscle soreness, boosting training recovery, decreased stress, and even depression relief. Unfortunately, in Singapore, you can’t get really cold water straight from the tap, so I end up showering with cool, not really cold, water. If you hate the idea of standing in a freezing shower for several minutes and washing your hair with cold water, it might be a good idea to just rinse your body and head quickly with super cold water at the end of your nice and warm shower session.
Step #5: Lemon water
Last but not least, I drink a glass of lemon water before I eat breakfast. Lemon water is said to aid digestion, detoxify the liver, erase age spots, speed up your metabolism, help with depression and anxiety, relieve heartburn, and reduce inflammation. Personally, the only major difference I’ve noticed myself is the clarity of skin – drinking my daily dose really helps me to look fresh even through stressful times.
For my lemon water, I squeeze half a lemon in a large glass of water. To save my tooth enamel from acidic erosion I always drink it with a straw. The preparation of my drink takes about 30 seconds and drinking it another 30 seconds, so this health hack is pretty quick. I always drink another glass of water without lemon afterward just to save the teeth from any acidic remains and so far haven’t had any enamel issues despite carrying on with this routine for years.
Win the morning, win the day!
After these few steps, I’m ready to get dressed, have breakfast and go to work. My body feels awake, there’s no stiffness left, and my circulation is up and running. All in all, I’ve spent only about 10 minutes with oil pulling, tongue scraping, mobility exercises, dry brushing, and lemon water. Tooth brushing and showering are part of everyone’s routine anyway so I won’t count them as “extra” time consumption in the morning.
During the summer vacation, I skipped my routines for two weeks out of curiosity to see if it has an impact, and indeed noticed some changes in my mood and well-being. The lack of mobility exercises made the biggest difference, and I felt sleepy and stiff for quite a long time after waking up. Furthermore, after a week my skin started to look dull – no major changes but just not as clear and even as it usually looks without makeup. Lastly, my gums started missing the oil and scraping routines rather quickly, and to be honest I was glad when this two week experiment was over.
Here’s the quick list summarizing my best tips for energetic mornings:
- Oil pulling
- Tongue scraping
- Mobility exercises
- Dry brushing
- Lemon Water
BONUS: Wim Hof breathing
This is an awesome breathing exercise to mitigate stress, boost your energy levels, and even switch on a positive brain chemistry. You can be done in under 10 minutes, but it might be the best investment into your day!
Check out the official instructions from the man himself.
What are your easy hacks to boost your health and guarantee a smooth start to your day? Do you have some interesting morning routines that make you feel like a ball of energy instead of a sleepy zombie?