Journey to the 8:15 Class
*alarm rings* Your eyes open, it’s 6:30 am. It takes a moment before you realise you’re only awake at this hour for your 8:15 am class *internal groan*.
Many of us have gone through the same experience throughout our SMU life. So, to ease this process of waking up and getting ready, we recommend three mindful morning practices to start your early mornings right!
Practice 1: Getting out of bed mindfully
We found that Yoga practitioners use this exact technique to get up from a lying position too and we thought this would be good to practice mindfulness at the very beginning of the day.
According to Kabat-Zinn (2001), the quietness of the early morning is a great time to practice mindfulness, to expand our consciousness, and be aware. This probably sounds vague, so we devised key tips to help you get out of bed mindfully.
“It was hard to get used to mindfully getting out of bed when I’m so used to just jumping out to start the day, to get as much sleep as possible. I had to set my alarm slightly earlier to give myself more time to do this.” - Audrey, Class of 2021
“Tried to do this but then went back to sleep.” - Charmaine, Class of 2021
Take a few seconds to focus on your breath the moment you wake up, but try not to fall back asleep! (This has happened to some of us a couple of times when we first started our practice.) If it is difficult to stay awake while focusing on your breath, avoid dozing off again by keeping your eyes open.
Afterwards, while paying attention to your breath, roll onto your side, placing your arm on the bed to slowly push your upper body up from the bed. If you are on an elevated bed, you can hang your feet over the side of the bed. For mattresses on the floor or bunk beds, you can slowly sit up with your legs to the side. Focus on your breathing while sitting for a minute or so (the duration is entirely up to you!), and you are ready to start the rest of your day.
“Due to my bunk bed, rolling and getting up the mindful way is the only way I can get up. This process is extended as I also have to climb down my ladder mindfully, which I find interesting as each step can be accompanied with a mindful thought which can be quite refreshing in the morning.” - Delaina, Class of 2022
Pro tip: If you realised that you slept through your alarm and are running late, don’t
fret! Doing some mindfulness while focusing on your breath for a few seconds
can be sufficient, or just leave it for another day. In practising mindfulness, we do
not strive but instead, offer self-compassion.
Practice 2: Morning exercises and stretching
Many of us wake up, only to immediately check our phones and ruminate over
our commitments for the day. So what if we don’t want to sit still just… breathing?
Mindfulness literature has found that exercise can be beneficial to both our
mental and physical health in terms of relieving stress, anxiety, and releasing the
tension in our bodies (Russell, 2011; So et al., 2020; Tsang et al., 2008). Thus, we
explored the incorporation of easy exercises in our morning routines, suitable for
any fitness level.
“(I’m) more aware of bodily tensions (and release) during the stretches, which made
me feel more refreshed…(I also) noticed that when I’m especially tired, I tend to space
out a lot during the exercise. (But) then I’ll just take my time to bring focus back to my
body and breath.” - Joellen, Class of 2021
This is just one example of morning stretching for incorporating mindfulness - you
can source for more! The stretches can either be done in bed or on the floor,
whichever is more comfortable for you. It’s more important to get into the activity
rather than worrying about “doing it perfectly”.
In the beginning, you might face some muscle soreness and reluctance, but just
like cultivating a new habit, this takes time and perseverance!
“I feel like it helps with ‘waking up’ the body. It relaxed my body that got stiff during
sleep. Felt slightly more awake after stretching” - Shi Min, Class of 2021
Pro tip: If you’re running short on time, do a quick stretch while you’re walking to
the bathroom or just before you change outfits!
Practice 3: Morning grooming
If time is tight, consider informal mindfulness practices; these are important in
cultivating trait mindfulness since they are “more closely aligned with daily
experience” (Hanley et al., 2015).
Informal mindfulness practices can be incorporated into your daily morning
grooming routines, including washing up and dressing yourself. Just being
mindful when going through your usual morning routines can facilitate the act of
being fully present in the here and now.
“Brushing my teeth in the morning started to feel like a massage for my mouth” -
Charmaine, Class of 2021
Hanley et al. (2015) found that the informal practice of mindful dish-washing was
associated with higher levels of positive affect, lower levels of negative affect,
reduced nervousness and greater feelings of inspiration. These benefits can be
carried over to mindful grooming, and are especially pronounced in our waking
hours. Incorporating mindfulness into your morning routine can help you start the
day without feeling rushed for time, and without ruminating on your pending
If implementing new mindful practices seems too daunting, we recommend
incorporating mindfulness into existing parts of your morning routine instead. For
example, you can be present in the moment as you choose your outfit, and
carefully observe the sensations of the cloth. You can also observe the weather
for the day and use this awareness to pick an appropriate outfit.
“Each day I start with looking myself in the mirror and telling myself while breathing
mindfully that my day will be perfect.” - Shi Min, Class of 2021
Morning mindfulness can also help us be less forgetful in the morning by being
fully aware of our physical state and needs whilst bearing in mind the key
purpose of our morning grooming.
Extending Grooming to Others
You can also consider grooming someone/something else! Both the Dalai Lama
and Thich Nhat Hanh say that to be connected with nature is the meaning of love
- understanding how the natural things in life interplay and how we fit into that
According to Hanh, “I am fully present in the here and now, not carried away by
my sorrow, my fear, my projects, the past and the future. I am here available to
life.” This ‘life’ equates to the people, pets, or plants that depend on your care.
Pro tip: If you’re feeling moody in the morning while practising informal
mindfulness, try drinking your favourite morning beverage or eating breakfast
first! This is very important to start the day too.
We’ve covered three kinds of mindful morning practices substantiated by our own experiences and past literature that can help us start the day right. Everyone has different preferences, so it’s totally normal for your mindful morning routine to differ - choose the practices that suit you best! After all, getting to know yourself better is part of mindfulness too.
“May the force of mindfulness be with you” - Prof Hiro
By Liau Weh Deng Charmaine, Yong Pei Lin Audrey, Ng Shi Min, Phua Hui Ning D’alene, Delaina-Mei T. Karuppiah, and Joellen Cheah Kai Wen
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2001). Mindfulness meditation for everyday life. Piatkus Books.
Hanley, A., Warner, A., Dehili, V., Canto, A., & Garland, E. (2015). Washing Dishes to
Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindfulness Practice.
Mindfulness, 6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0360-9
Russell, T. (2011). Body in mind training: Mindful movement for severe and
enduring mental illness. British Journal of Wellbeing, 2(4), 13-16.
So, W., Lu, E., Cheung, W., & Tsang, H. (2020). Comparing Mindful and Non-Mindful
Exercises on Alleviating Anxiety Symptoms: A Systematic Review and
Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public
Health, 17(22), 8692–. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17228692
Tsang, H., Chan, E., & Cheung, W. (2008). Effects of mindful and non‐mindful
exercises on people with depression: A systematic review. British Journal of
Clinical Psychology, 47(3), 303–322. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466508X279260