SUSIE RUCKER, nutritional therapist at Body With Soul
SALLY FORREST, managing director and holistic expert at Soul Centre, a centre for life skills and personal development
LI SI YANG, health and fitness coach at Journey To Fitness
1. Eat right
It’s not just about avoiding caffeine or other stimulants during the day. What you eat in the evening can affect how restful or restless your night is.
For good, sound sleep, Susie Rucker, nutritional therapist at Body With Soul, recommends eating foods that are rich in tryptophan. The amino acid raises levels of serotonin, which is needed to produce the hormone melatonin that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, oats, yogurt, eggs, fish, tofu, chickpeas, almonds, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
One way to give your melatonin levels a natural boost is to get 15 minutes of sunlight every morning – it’ll boost your mood too.
Another sleep inducer, magnesium, is present in foods such as green, leafy vegetables, chickpeas, almonds, cherries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and whole grains like buckwheat and wholewheat bread, and oats.
“Also, try limiting your sugar intake as it causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys,” says Susie.
2. Clean your bedroom
Do this the night before, not in the morning. “Your senses start picking up stimulus from the world around you as soon as you wake up. A dirty, messy bedroom gives a negative signal to your brain whereas a clean, tidy, well-planned room gives you a sense of lightness and order,” explains Sally.
3. Write everything down
Instead of cluttering your mind with all the tasks and errands of the next day or week, make it a habit to write everything down before you go to bed. It lightens the load on your mind, explains Sally Forrest, managing director and holistic expert at Soul Centre, a centre for life skills and personal development.
“Imagine your mind as a handbag and every thought you have to remember as a pebble you drop into the bag. You’ll soon find that your handbag is heavy and weighing you down. It’s much better to make a list and get it out of your mind. Then just refer to it when you need to take action or to cross things off the list,” adds Sally.
4. Try a quick massage
To relax your body and mind before bed, Li Si Yang, health and fitness coach at Journey To Fitness, suggests self myofascial release, a form of self massage. Use a tennis ball or foam roller and concentrate on areas like the upper shoulders, upper, middle and lower back, and the thighs and calves, where tension tends to build.
Massage each area for one to two minutes. Just roll over the area until you find a tender spot, and hold for one to two minutes until you feel the tenderness go down.
She also recommends massaging your feet with a tennis ball every morning, 20 times on each foot. Stand up and place the tennis ball under your foot. Massage by pushing and rolling the ball around the arch area to hydrate and soften the plantar fascia, the tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes. “You will be amazed at how much more energy you have and how awake you feel,” she adds.
“Self massage encourages lymph movement that can help your body fight infection while increasing blood flow by getting rid of knots and tension in the connective tissues or fascia. This helps you recover faster from injuries or workouts, and reduces the physical stress on your body to help it work more efficiently,” says Li Si.
WHEN YOU WAKE UP
5. Practise gratitude
Start your day on a positive note by spending a minute or two thinking about all the things you are grateful for, says Sally. “The simple practice puts the mind in a positive setting, which then travels with you throughout the day. The reverse happens when you wake up and remember all the negative or uninspiring things in your life,” she explains.
So whether you’re grateful about having a happy family, good health, clean air to breathe or a job to go to, start planting these positive thoughts in your mind.
6. Play with your pets
For an instant mood booster, spend a few minutes with your pets, says Sally. Making time for your furry friends before you head out will do both of you a world of good, and is guaranteed to set you up for a great day ahead.
7. Take 10 deep breaths
As soon as you wake up, focus on your breath and give it your full attention. Sally’s advice to make the most of this meditation technique: As you breathe in, visualise the energy of the universe coming into you, and energising you for the day. Take 10 deep breaths, let each one out slowly and you’ll notice yourself feeling calmer, more positive and ready to face the day ahead.
8. Stretch it out
Even if you’re not one of those early morning workout types, stretching in the morning will get the blood flowing to all parts of the body, including the brain. Besides boosting concentration and sharpening your senses, the release of endorphins from gentle stretching boosts your mood and helps you start the day with a positive frame of mind.
Stretching can also do wonders for your posture and alleviate stiff or achy muscles and joints. Li Si says the cat, dog and cobra yoga poses, as well as the trunk rotation stretch, can help your flexibility and strengthen your shoulders, torso and back.
9. Daily detox
Begin your mornings with a detox, says Susie. “Drink one to two glasses of water (room temperature or warm) with a squeeze of lemon juice to flush out toxins from the digestive system and rehydrate the body,” she advises.
Besides offering a hit of vitamin C, lemons have a low glycaemic index and are packed with potassium, which stimulates brain and nerve functions and keeps your blood pressure in check.
Susie adds that this morning ritual is an effective way to prevent constipation and ensure smooth bowel movement. What’s more, the citrusy scent even has energising and mood-lifting effects.
This story was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Simply Her.