This method to Create Your Day in 5 Minutes. can quickly and effectively improve how you experience every day, reduce stress and get connected with your life’s purpose.
Create Your Day is a daily practice that focuses you on your breath and intention that can dramatically improve your life. Before you get distracted with everything’s that packed into your typical day, do this practice in the morning before you do anything else. This is an act of loving kindness toward yourself, a necessary first step before you may offer it graciously to others.
Create Your Day by spending five minutes each morning right after you arise to focus without distraction on the things you’re grateful for, and what you want to experience during the day. Reinforce your desire for these things by writing them on a 3×5 card or notepad. You may refer to it, if needed, during your mindfulness practice when doing the 4x4x4 breath work taught by the military to reduce stress and create calm and focus.
Create Your Day bends the age curve by helping to develop a clear sense of meaning and purpose in your life, which has been demonstrated to reduce the probability of death (1), and by increasing telomere length, those chromosomal tips whose length are predictive of lifespan (2).
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It’s not obvious why “creating your day” would be an act of “loving kindness” that could thoroughly improve the quality of your life, nor why this could be facilitated by using a military breathing technique, which is why an explanation is forthcoming.
If your mind is not set on making the necessary lifestyle changes required to live a long and strong life, it ain’t gonna happen. You simply must cultivate the right mindset to gradually, consistently and progressively make the element of an “age-proof life” habitual.
The first thing to consider is Loving Kindness, simply because if you don’t think you’re worth the effort, you won’t do anything. Feeling loving kindness toward yourself is a necessary first step, however you cultivate it.
If “loving kindness” is too woo woo for you, find another expression that suits you. The aim is the same: We need to get to the place of feeling worthy enough to embark upon this age-proof journey.
[thrive_text_block color=”dark” headline=”Here’s what we cover:“]
- Jean and the military’s 4x4x4 breathe technique
- Fuel your sense of purpose with loving kindness
- The science of positive psychology
- Make a habit of creating your day [/thrive_text_block]
let’s dig in…
Jean and the 4x4x4 Technique
Jean is a caretaker I know. She takes care of her two children, her husband and elderly mother who lives with her family. Jean also works full time. Every minute of her day is spent in the service of others, and she’s exhausted.
Although I don’t know this to be true, like many caretakers, Jean may be chronically stressed in a way that affects her adrenals and the length of her telomeres. That this could be true is not ignited by some stretch of the imagination, but by the dictates of biology, as we we’ll discover.
In the past, Jean would bolt from bed early in the morning to turn off the alarm clock, and then mindlessly rush to attend the needs of everyone in her household, while somehow getting herself ready for work as well.
That’s no longer the case. She’s now first preparing herself for the day by intentionally crafting it. Each morning, Jean spends five minutes doing a mindfulness practice that creates her day, one no longer rushed, mindless or harried.
When she gets out of bed, as soon as her feet touch the floor, Jean gets the “trigger” (feet touching floor) to begin her five minute journey of peace, clarity and control.
This is the first part of the morning mindfulness practice, because it’s the first thing we do to begin our day — we get out of bed.
Make up an affirmative statement, a mantra, that resonates with you. When you arise from bed and your feet touch the floor, silently voice the mantra. Hold that thought, that intention, as you do your bathroom business. The mantra opens the door to the rest of the morning practice of creating your day.
(My feet-touching-floor mantra is: “Today is a perfect day, and I experience it in bliss”.)
We’ll return to Jean’s morning mindfulness practice in a moment, but first let me ask you,
“How do you start your day?”
Do you flop out of bed and drag yourself to the bathroom while anxious thoughts about what you must do today boomerang in your head, pushing you into the stress zone?
Instead of beginning your day anxious and rushed, why not take a moment to create it just the way you want it to be?
Before you do anything else, spend just five minutes creating the day you want to experience. You need just three things:
- The belief that you can make a better day happen if you focus on it;
- A proven technique; and
- The habit of putting aside five minutes each morning to do this daily practice.
Let’s look at each of these three through Jean’s lens.
As mentioned, her life was stressful, and she felt it, not only by being tired and depressed, but by getting frequently sick. That makes sense: stress can make us depressed and sick.
Sustained or chronic stress results in elevated cortisol, the “stress hormone”, and reduces serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which has been linked to depression. When these chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, energy, and sex drive, and permit expression of normal moods and emotions. When working abnormally, as they do under the burden of sustained stress, we can get depressed, lackluster, sick.
Research shows that chronic stress will weaken the immune response through it’s suppression of several of its biological structures and processes, such as T-cells (“killer” cells that fight tumors and viral infections), and immunity-boosting gamma interferon (an immune-boosting cell signaling protein).
Jean learned about this, and realized that although there was no quick fix to the external factors that were compromising her life, she could do a lot to alter how they affected her by adjusting her response to them.
After her quick mantra triggered by her feet touching the floor as she got out of bed, Jean sits in a chair with a 3×5 index card. On the card she’s written several things she wants to keep in mind throughout the day, every day. A few of these things are goal-oriented, a few speak to the state of mind she wants to experience. All are affirmative statements. None specifically refer to loving kindness, but that doesn’t matter, as I’ll explain in a minute.
Sitting erect but relaxed (like this), Jean begins the second part of creating her day using a proven technique, one used by the military. Yes, when soldiers are in a stressful situation — like when bombs are exploding nearby and bullets are whizzing past their heads — they can be more effective dealing with the mayhem if calm. Getting to that calm mind state is the role of the “tactical breathing” technique taught to combat soldiers.
You can use this technique whenever facing a stressful situation, like bumper to bumper traffic, a whining child, or berating boss. If it works when bombed in the battlefield, it’ll work for whatever you encounter.
Tactical breathing is about control and focus. It’s actually difficult to have a physical stress response when our breath is controlled and focused.
Remember this breath technique as 4x4x4.
Here’s how you do it:
Expand your entire trunk area (front and back) with a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four seconds; hold it for four seconds; breath out through your nose, allowing your trunk to contract; hold for four seconds; repeat.
I taught Jean the following mindfulness practice she uses to create the day as she wishes to experience it, and I’d like you to try it, too. Take two 4x4x4 breathes to settle in and gain focus, and then do this:
- Hold the card with your affirmations in your hands, hands in your lap.
- Get your posture erect but relaxed.
- Deeply inhale through your nose such that the entire trunk of your body, from lower abdomen to throat, front and back, expands.
- Count four seconds in, pause for four seconds, four second exhale, pause for four seconds — that’s one set — and repeat.
- Use the Ujjay breath which is the breath you would use to fog a mirror, but using your nose, not mouth (see below).
- After two warm-up breaths, glance at the first item of your card, close your eyes, and as you focus on that item (silently repeating and/or visualizing it), do the breath work, one set per item on your card.
Sit there for as long as you want, but just five minutes is all you need to center yourself, and become mindful of how you intend to experience the day that’s about to unfold.
[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”Click here to learn the Ujay breath” no=”1/1″] [responsive_video type=’youtube’ hide_related=’1′ hide_logo=’1′ hide_controls=’0′ hide_title=’0′ hide_fullscreen=’0′ autoplay=’0′]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRb56apRa40[/responsive_video][/thrive_toggles][/thrive_toggles_group]
Obviously, you will not maintain this breath work throughout the day, but you will be able to greatly influence your response to stress — not to mention have a much more peaceful experience — if you keep yourself tethered to whatever was your focus during your morning practice. Should a stressful situation arise during the day, do the 4x4x4 breath, just as solders do in combat.
Fuel Your Sense of Purpose With Loving Kindness
Yes, we’re back to that. Earlier I wrote that it didn’t matter if loving kindness was actually on your 3×5 card. That’s because creating your day is an act of loving kindness, both to yourself and everyone else you encounter. You may not expressly focus on this during your morning mindfulness practice, but just by doing it you’re being kind and loving to yourself. Once in that state of being, it just emanates out from you onto everyone else.
You can not be peaceful with others, if you’re are not at peace with yourself. You can not forgive others if you haven’t forgiven yourself. And you can not offer or emanate loving kindness to others if it hasn’t been cultivated within yourself.
As is often the case with loving kindness, the more it’s expressed in conscious thought, deed and expression, the more harmonious will be your life, and that of those around you. In effect, making loving kindness the underlying intention of all our thoughts and deeds becomes a default sense of purpose so important to an emotionally satisfying and long life.
To find out if having a sense of purpose has an effect on aging and adult development, Patrick Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and his colleague Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center, looked to see how more than 6,000 people answered questions like, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them,” and other questions that gauged positive and negative emotions.
They found that 14 years after those questions were asked, people who had reported a greater sense of purpose and direction in life were more likely to outlive their peers; a 15 percent lower risk of death compared with those who said they were more or less aimless. When this sense of purpose was found didn’t matter — it could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s. (3)
Dr. Hill’s analysis controlled for factors known to affect longevity, such as current age, gender and emotional well-being, and found that sense of purpose was the strongest determinant studied. Interestingly, we’re not talking some epic, get-your-name-in-the-history-books type of purpose, but things far more mundane, such as ensuring that your family is happy, performing well at work, or being creative, such as producing a work of art (whether museum worthy, or not).
The key attribute for this sense of purpose is that it provide us a compass, road map or lighthouse that guides our intention and the interactions of our day-to-day lives.
If you think this is all silly talk, pay attention to the next section.
The Science of Positive Psychology
What’s in your life is what you’ve consistently focused on, good or bad.
Now, you don’t have to swallow this contention completely. Certainly, we can all pretty quickly conjure reasons why some of the things (or people) we’re dealing with are beyond our control. Or so it seems. But let’s agree that we can sometimes unconsciously or unknowingly create something in our lives we rather not have.
If that’s true, why not be conscious about it and create something great!
Again I say, all this goodness can begin with a five minute morning practice that shifts your focus to the positive realm in order to dramatically improve your happiness.
Why is this effective?
When you start the day with a consciously-chosen intention, things have a much better chance to happen the way you want.
Remember we went over focusing on positive affirmations or mantras at the start of your day? Well, there’s a specific affirmation that studies show will evoke positive emotions, and make us more resilient to adversity.
I’m referring to expressions of gratitude.
Expressions of gratitude have the opposite effect of depression and anxiety. When we cultivate a consistent awareness of everything for which we’re grateful, we get aligned with what’s good in our life — the good we’ve created — and thereby open ourselves for more of it.
When you consciously express the appreciation of the gifts in your life, you overwhelm the negative. Remember: What you focus on consistently, you get.
This isn’t mumbo jumbo talk — there’s some good science behind the contention that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. There’s even a wing of psychology that studies these effects called Positive Psychology.
As the In Praise of Gratitude article in Harvard’s Mental Health Letter attests, gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
The “Harvard Letter” reviews a few experiments that show people who consistently cultivate a sense of gratitude by taking such actions as writing thank you notes, thanking people mentally, counting blessings, prayer and meditation are happier.
I suggest you add something for which you’re grateful to your list on your 3×5 card. Jean did.
Make A Habit of Creating Your Day
Hopefully, what you’ve read so far about Create Your Day appeals to you, and you realize that practicing it daily will do a lot help create your Age-proof Mindset. The right mindset is necessary to accomplish all the other things needed to slow down your aging rate and live a long and strong life.
So, what are you waiting for… go cultivate loving kindness in the oasis that is your five minute morning practice, and let that lead to a better. longer, healthier life.
- Loving kindness is the motivating force to create your day with a five-minute mindfulness practice, and to feed the other Age-proof Biohacks into your life.
- “Create your day” in five minutes every morning by visualizing how you want to experience it using the 4x4x4 breathing technique taught to the military to help them stay calm under fire (literally).
✓ Ending the day on the right note can be essential to a good night’s sleep, eliminating negative thought loops and learning more about yourself. Therefore, before you go to sleep, you can pick up that pad and write down what actually happened that day for which you’re grateful.
✓ After “creating your day” on the mental/emotional level, get a good start on the physical as well. Make yourself a quick cleansing drink. Squeeze a lemon into a glass of warm water. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, and contemplate how you wish your day to unfold as you drink it.
Questions To Wrestle
- What thoughts arise to convince me that taking the time to do this morning practice isn’t worth doing?
- Who, what, how am I being thwarted from doing this biohack, and am I willing to allow it to keep me from trying it?
- What belongs on my list that makes me anxious, and how can I develop a better attitude about it?
Resources for Create Your Day In Five Minutes
Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Joe Garma