The "Miracle Morning" Way to Reduce Stress
To continue last month's topic on scatter-mapping, this month's article details another way I use it. I often scatter-map as part of my "Miracle Morning" routine, a practice created by success coach and best-selling author, Hal Elrod. While originally conceived as a tool for self-development and increased productivity for business people like himself, it is an incredibly flexible tool and can be easily tailored as a tool to reduce stress or advance any other goal you might have.
The Miracle Morning routine is a wonderful combination of 6 universal practices, which Hal makes easy to remember with the acronym (life) SAVERS:
The life SAVERS can actually be done in any order, at any time of day, and in as few as 6 minutes! Here's one way I've used this remarkable method to reduce stress.
While you could meditate, pray or just sit in silence (or with soft music), often I choose a breathing practice to be my "silence". Even doing it for just a minute as a grounding process first thing in the morning can change the tone of my whole day. I like this guidance from Paul Cavel (founder of the London-based Tai Chi Space):
... focus on your breathing pattern. At first, just observe without trying to affect anything you notice. After a few minutes, start to encourage your breathing pattern to become a bit more smooth and more continuous. DO NOT FORCE YOUR BREATH to do anything, or you can elicit a stress response in the body. Actively wait for your breath to relax. Keep noticing until you feel you have gone as far as you can for today. Some days are better than others, so even if your breathing practice went well yesterday do not demand that it be so again today. (from Paul Cavel's blog: http://www.circlewalking.com/101/breathing-techniques/)
Affirmations can be anything at all you want to affirm in your own mind–from your priorities, to your beliefs, to what inspires you. When I want to remind myself to reduce stress, I often review two quotes I have printed on one of my Affirmations Lists:
"I am a Simplifier." (An idea from Dilbert creator, Scott Adams. More on this, below.)
"You don't get to pick what SHAKES your world, but you do get to pick what STABILIZES your world." (Bishop T.D. Jakes)
These affirm the choices I can make to reduce stress in my life, no matter how the day might be unfolding.
The Visualization part of the Miracle Morning is also a very flexible tool. It could include visualizing the big picture and grand ideas for your life to imagining the smallest details of a meeting this afternoon. I usually visualize something I plan to do during the day, previewing how it might go, sometimes even coming up with alternative plans or combining it with visualizing how to "simplify" my day.
For Exercise, Hal Elrod recommends "getting the heart rate up to increase your ability to be alert and to focus." While some people might do this with 60 seconds of jumping jacks or skipping, I prefer a different approach, often doing some form of tai chi, which can be soothing and balancing, as well as energizing. (Often this is so immediately reinforcing and rewarding that I want to continue for quite a lot longer than a minute.)
A Miracle Morning reading can be as simple as reading a few inspiring quotes, or as involved as studying a new philosophy. Even just a minute of reading can introduce us to so many helpful (and stress-reducing!) ideas. One quick idea I read about to reduce stress is called "Simplifiers and Optimizers" (from Dilbert-creator, Scott Adams)– A simplifier will plan or choose an easy way to accomplish something, even if extra effort might lead to better or more wide-ranging results. In contrast, an optimizer will plan or choose the best way , even if there is a greater risk of unanticipated complications.
An example of this is someone going to an early morning speaking engagement. A simplifier will have all their materials ready to go the night before, plan on taking the least-stressful driving route, and generally focus on arriving a little early, and mentally ready to go. An optimizer, on the other hand, will take advantage of an alternative (but potentially busier) driving route so he can make some copies at an office supply store along the way, plan to grab breakfast at a drive-through (hoping the line-up isn't too long), and agree to pick up one of the other presenters (counting on them being ready on time)! Both simplifiers and optimizers will end up with different payoffs, but simplifying often reduces stress, while also freeing up time and energy.
A fancy word for writing, "scribing" too can be done in many ways: from keeping a Gratitude Journal to writing a list of accomplishments to journalling about deeply personal experiences. During my own scribing time I really like to do scatter maps! Sometimes they are "random" notes about the upcoming day, other times I use them to solve problems I'm working on or explore inner conflicts. Download a Miracle Morning Scatter Map Colouring Page.
More information about the Miracle Morning Life SAVERS
While each of these practices alone are part of many suggested morning routines, Hal Elrod "packaged" them together to create the Miracle Morning, which is now used by thousands of people around the world. If you're interested in learning more about the six-minute version, see this article on his web site. He includes many more ideas and ways to use this method in his book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) which I also enjoyed.
Curious about Trying it Yourself?
If you have 6 minutes (or longer) tomorrow morning, and would like to try this yourself, I'd be very interested in hearing about your experience if you'd like to send me an email, or post in the comments section, below. I've found the Miracle Morning to be very supportive, endlessly customizable and therefore easy to keep fresh and engaging.