"No matter how much faculty of idle seeing a man has, the step from knowing to doing is rarely taken."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ritual can aid us in our success. It brings order and focus to the forefront of our thoughts. Whether it's our morning coffee, sun salutations, or Captain Crunch, we all feel better when we start the day with a familiar helping hand. I've finally refined an optimal night time, as well as, morning ritual that creates the most efficient me throughout the day (insert karote chop). Not only understanding your sleep, but also your wake, can help influence your daily life in the commitment to a prosperous future. There are 3 steps to my nighttime ritual and 7 steps to my mornings.
Each night at approximately 10:30pm I begin step 1. Go to bed! I set a timer and read for 30 minutes without distraction. This helps me set my mind and body to a slower pace. During the 30 minute period, I also put my headphones in, and use technology to my advantage. Our brains emit different frequency and amplitude waves measured in hertz, at different times of the day, according to Brock University psychologist Robert Ogilvie (Ogilvie, 1993; Ogilvie & Harsh, 1994). During our sleep we produce different brain waves at each stage of the 5 stage sleep cycle. I found the perfect app to help me go from relaxed to lethargic.
I came across an app called MyNoise while looking into increasing my focus, and memory retention during studying, which I'll talk about in a later post. MyNoise and other apps like it, could be considered sound wave technology. Some people believe that sound wave technology can stimulate, or synchronize our brain waves to the hertz emitted to the frequency; within the five choices. So, step 2 is when I stick my headphones in, set the app to the frequency of first stage drowsy theta waves (4Hz) and gradually reduce the hertz to the typical slowest frequency, yet highest amplitude (delta waves) characterized by deep sleep (2Hz). Some other cool functions include different rainfall and white noises. By the time the timer beeps, I'm ready for some solid sleep. But before drifting off, I take my headphones out, place my phone on the corner of my bed and set up step 3, a sleep cycle alarm and analytic app appropriately called, SleepCycle.
The Sleepcycle app is what they call, an "intelligent alarm". Have you ever woke up and felt disorientated, groggy or confused? If you have, then you most likely awoke during a deep sleep stage when your body produces chemicals to keep you immobilized. Sleep Cycle analyzes your sleep movements using your phone's accelerometer and wakes you during your lightest sleep stage with a 30 minute window of your set time. Other functions of the app measure your sleep quality and even take your heart rate in the morning using the flash on your phone. This app has allowed me to analyze my sleep, and understand the differences in my sleep quality, depending on the activities of the prior evening. So, when the angelic predetermined melody of my alarm (it's Lil' Wayne) charms its way into my consciousness, I awake with a refreshed disposition. I have found that since introducing these 3 steps of nighttime ritual, I am fully awake and aware within 5 minutes after waking up.
I love waking up with the sun. Rise and shine has left its annoying nagger of youth, and blossomed into the literal meaning it was meant to have. My weekday morning ritual has 7 steps (or gears) and begins around 6 am. Step 1 of my morning ritual, is to chug a glass of water before putting on the kettle. Just to get the engine running. While the kettle is doing its thing, I lay my yoga mat down on my balcony, turn on a YouTube Sun Salutation yoga sequence and begin step 2, the 7 minute full body warm-up. This helps get my body into gear for the day ahead. When the sun has appropriately been saluted, I start the morning brew, step 3, coffee.
Coconut coffee has increased my morning energy output exponentially, straight through to the late afternoon, and is the third step in my morning ritual.
Here's the recipe: I grind a fresh high altitude bean ("bro science''), and let it steep in the french press for about 6 minutes. Whilst that magic is happening, I add to my mug a table spoon of coconut oil (MCT oil works too, but I like the tropical taste of coconut), a couple dashes of cinnamon, a raw egg yolk, a pinch of turmeric, and a spot of cream. After pouring the liquid motivation into the manna of the mug, I use my Bodum froth whip, A.K.A Harry Potter wand to emulsify the shit out of everything. Emulsifyium! This makes the most smooth and delicious, almost sacrilegious mug of Joe's I have ever had.
Why coconut oil? Not only is coconut oil helpful in the uptake of fat soluble vitamins, but this healthy saturated fat has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. That's not all. Coconut oil is an amazing source of medium chain triglycerides, which makes it easily bio-available for energy production. How? Simply put, It's sent directly to the liver for digestion, skipping the bile and pancreatic enzyme production process, making coconut oil a healthy choice even for those with diabetes, and gallbladder issues. In addition to these, coconut oil boosts energy, prevents obesity, reduces cavities, improves insulin secretion, protects the skin, and reduces wrinkles. So get it in and around you. I digress.
After the implementation of step 3 of the ritual , or "acceleration phase", I ramp up for step 4; a 5 Km bike, or run into work. This is my favorite part of the morning. Limbered up, and getting my sweat on before most people have wiped the crud out of their eyes. There is a sense of harmless egotistical satisfaction in that. The run, or bike was the toughest consistency of my ritual at first, but perhaps the most rewarding.
I sold my car two years ago for a few reasons. Environment, money, and health. What finally made me do it was the book, The Wealthy Barber. With work being so close and living accessibly downtown, the book reminded me that my biggest liability was my vehicle. It was a luxury to have and an ego boost to drive, but it had to go if I was going to get serious about making changes in my life. Since then, I don't miss it at all. No car payments, gas payments, parking payments, maintenance payments, or insurance payments. I truly felt like I had taken some control back. In addition to the money saved, I've also made one of the healthiest decisions in my life. 5 Km run/bike twice a day, is 50 Km a week. Need I say more? One more. Running past the gas station, seeing the faces of my fellow wage warriors watch, unimpressed as their phallic exchange of gas guzzling sucks the hard earned money from their pockets, is a position I will avoid going back to. A very sexually charged last sentence, I know. A testament to the romance for my ride, but the relationship was poison. It was an amicable breakup.
Step 5! Don't you know that the time has arrived! A couple of generations will understand that reference. Step 5 is the integration of yet another app. Instead of listening to traffic on my way into work, I decided it would be a great time to get in 30 minutes of French lessons from the podcast, CoffeeBreak French. Yes, it probably seems strange to people when I'm biking by yelling out French niceties, but I think they secretly like it. Quelle belle journee pour ne pas donner un baiser! Why not turn a training (possibly rainy) cycle into a learning experience. However, a good morning tune is a pretty sweet alternative. Like this one by Martin Garrix, Animals.
As soon as I get to the office (roughly 8 am) I peel off my clothes, lay a towel on the bench in the shower room, and put my headphones in, to once again utilize technology, for step 6: meditation. About 3 months ago I was asked by a close friend if I ever meditate. I wanted to say yes, but realistically I only did it once in awhile. Sitting cross legged pretending you're not in pain isn't the best way to reach Nirvana, however Zen-like in it's acute focus. She told me about this meditation app called Headspace. Headspace is a free app (at first) and guides you through a 10 minute meditation for 10 days. You can check out the creator Andy Puddicombe's explanation of meditation on TED Talk, and see if you'd like to give it a go. Since using the app every morning, I have come to appreciate the power of meditation. Meditation doesn't have to be uncomfortable, or long, to get some powerful results. This simple 10 minute addition to my mornings allows me to slow my spastic pace to a more focused energy. It also prepares me for the acceptance of step 7, The Viking Bubble bath.
The final stage of my morning ritual is the most exciting part by virtue of its inclination. The cold shower. Also known as the James Bond Shower, Scottish Shower or what I have dubbed, The Viking Bubble bath. After about 3 minutes of hot suds and nurturing warmth, comes the flip from hot, to freezing cold. The last two minutes is when the Viking Bubble Bath begins. You end up doing a cross between an Irish jig and the Harlem Shake, belting out the occasional, wooooowhooooo! If you have the right tunes playing in the background it makes for quite the experience for you, and the people within ear reach. My ancestors in Northern Scandinavia still to this day enjoy the ancient pastime called, "avantouinti", which is going from hot sauna, to a hole cut in the ice for a polar plunge. It's 'professionally' called hydrotherapy, or cold water therapy, however more commonly referred to as, crazy. The health benefits of the cold shower have longed been reported. Some of the health benefits include: improved circulation, helps relieve depression, healthy skin and hair, strengthen immune system, increased testosterone in men, and increases energy, and a sense of well-being. Conversely, if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, overheating or feverish, consult with a healthcare professional, first. The 2 minute cold shower as my last step in my daily ritual, drives the heat down into my core, and I leave feeling like a charged battery.
These are examples of my daily ritual, and create the most positive, energetic, and effective me throughout the day. Not everyone has the opportunity to follow these steps, or care to, given different circumstances, and time. I'd love to hear some rituals you do to make nighttime pleasant and daytime energetic. At the very least consider how you fall asleep at night, and how you wake up each morning.