Oh Spring, the time of new beginnings, or, if you are anything like I used to be, you looked at the start of this year with an overwhelming feeling of "meh". The weather has been miserable for so long. It seems like you must tackle weeks of work before a sniff of a break after all that festive cheer, and the bells of New Year have chimed in a year-shaped mountain that you must climb once again.
So many people feel this way during these last Winter weeks, and not surprisingly society has accepted that feeling this way is the norm. We even have "blue Monday" whereby the media tell us a particular day or week is the most depressing of the year. Who has the gall to tell you to be depressed, and that it's ok because we all are? Isn't it sad how society and cheap media practically revel in depressive news rather than trying everything they can to lift our spirits?
To the many millions of people who are not willing to wake themselves up to this negative pattern of existence (excuse the pun there), Spring will just pass them by and will never signify something precious, but rather, just another season to tick by.
Every new morning can be filled with joy, hope and opportunity.
Are you with me?
Are you a sleeping Princess, or do you wake up like a bear with a sore head?
I'd like to let you in on a little secret.....
I realised how you can become more successful, enjoy your days more and yes, be completely over-the-top excited for every Monday morning - by doing something you already do! Guess what...
It's not how you started your year that will set you up for success in 2017 and beyond, but it's how you start your morning. Every, single, day.
We've all heard that the first four minutes of an encounter matter the most. Or, to re-phrase "if you look after your mind and force it to be positive until 10am then the rest of the day will look after itself". I agree with these wholeheartedly, but there's something rather contrived about this to me. I want to enjoy my life, not force and shoehorn it into a cliché.
It is always a good thing to try, but even better to be.
How to you make 2017 your best year yet.
With elegance! Deciding to choose an elegant morning will create an elegant year, and an elegant life thereafter. "So how do I begin"? I hear you ask. Well, that's the point of this blog, I'm glad you've stuck with it....
(My beautiful friend Juliette "does mornings" like no other. She is our elegant muse for this article.)
Wake up at the same time every day.
Yes, even if it's a weekend! Elegant women are not lazy, and they certainly don't like to waste the best part of the day. If you need more sleep, go to bed earlier. You may have a quiet morning staying in your pyjamas if you choose to, laying or reading quietly if you wish (this is a lie in, not a sleep in). Waking at the same time every day sets a routine for your body that it will quickly get used to - and somewhat miraculously it makes Monday mornings easier to deal with!
In fact, Monday's aren't really the issue - the erratic wake up times are what sets you up for a fall!
Try it out, set your alarm earlier than usual by an hour and take the morning easy(er). There is nothing more stressful than starting your day in a rush. The quietness of the morning and the pleasure of hearing dawn break is such a glorious thing, you really are missing out.
Start your day with ease and intention.
If you wake up fraught, due to a late alarm or some other worry then it's akin to getting out on the wrong side of the bed. When you wake up, before you've even opened an eyelid you need to do some mental grooming first. Your very first thought should be;
"This is going to be a good day, I'm going to achieve what I set my mind to and enjoy what blessings come my way. I am grateful for the good people and good things in my life".
Doing this sets an intention. You tell yourself you are ready to achieve something (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may be), and you decide that you will look out for the blessings in your day and be thankful for them.
Never worry about what happened yesterday - you have the chance to change the issue today.
That said, worrying about tomorrow is time surely wasted, just concentrate on today. The tomorrow you concern yourself with may never come! Especially if you intend to achieve and be positive today.
Choose love! Choose to be right here, in the moment.
Stretch. Your body needs to ease into movement.
You've been lying down all night, perhaps even moving in and out of awkward sleeping positions and your muscles may have seized. It's no use hopping out of bed in a dash and pulling something. Stretch!
- Begin by elongating every limb as much as you can, like a cat, stretching long while laying down.
- Then rise up slowly to a seated position in bed. Stretch your arms, then perhaps your neck but very gently.
- Turn slowly and let your feet meet the ground and really feel that connection with the floor.
- Slowly rise up to a standing position, stretch your arms right up to the ceiling and come up on your tip toes - try and touch that ceiling - then come back onto your feet and steadily lower your entire top half of your body over the bottom, essentially folding yourself in half (this really gets the blood moving towards the head) then slowly rise back up. Obviously, if you have any medical conditions seek advice first on whether this is safe for you.
Now go to the bathroom and well, go!
Your body has been flushing out toxins all night, it's no use hanging onto them any longer. One, or two, it needs to go!
Now brush your teeth. I don't care if you usually do it after breakfast. Your mouth is a hot-bed of bacteria right now. They thrive in warm, moist environments (like your mouth) and the last thing you want to be doing is ingesting those back in to your body. Poor oral health and the germs within have been linked to heart disease. Do not even take a sip of water before brushing your teeth!
Open a window and let the birdsong in.
The stale stagnant air in your room will need refreshing and an open window will do just that. No matter how cold, open a window if only for a minute or two. It will invigorate you and fill your room and living spaces with fresh oxygen. Smell the air outside - you'll get a sense of the day. Is it fresh and frosty? Is there a storm rolling in? Is it humid? The world around you talks to you and guides you in many ways - pay attention to it. Fresh air is good for your body and your mood. Are the birds singing to you too? Bonus!
Drink a fresh glass of water. You are going to be moving quite a bit now in order to get ready so your body needs hydration. You haven't had a drink for over eight hours and you are probably quite dehydrated.
Your hair might not need washing but your body will. Just as you have been flushing out toxins internally, your largest organ, the skin has been doing a lot of hard graft too. Wash off the sweat and bacteria accumulated overnight. Depending on your skin you might want to avoid anything too abrasive but I personally find a nice body brush or loofah used in the shower is a nice way to perk myself up in the morning and gets the circulation going.
While in the shower, use the time to "wake up" your mind too. Think not of what is going to stress you out during the course of the day, but instead use this as your private time. A time when you can choose to only think about what you are grateful for, happy memories, exciting things you wish to achieve. Smile! Wake your face up and set your mind on the right things. It is your choice of how your day goes and how you will react to it. Only you are responsible for making it a happy one.
Dress like a lady.
How we get dressed on a daily basis has less to do with other people and more about what we think about ourselves on any given day. If you choose to dress sloppily, without care, consideration or proper etiquette then you cannot face a day full of opportunity and at ease with yourself.
Those yoga pants? They'll make you too self-conscious to accept that last minute lunch invitation to a nice restaurant. Don't even get me started on dropping the kids to school in your pyjamas. Refer back to the beginning if you find yourself in that situation.
I care not for the modern opinion that it is the person beneath our clothing that counts more than the clothes. How you present yourself reflects what is going on inside you. Your outer shell does reflect your spirit and your sense of worth, propriety and etiquette.
Of course, we all have days where we relax the rules a little, but don't let the desire to feel "comfortable" ruin your chances of feeling comfortable in all situations life throws at you. Don't allow your life to become a blur of pj's, slippers, fleece and jersey. You deserve better opportunities than what "those" outfits will bring your way.
This doesn't mean you need to dress up like a supermodel on a runway, or in designer outfits that cost thousands in order to impress people. But if you want to make a fabulous effort then no one will complain!
Just remember, that this is not about showing off, but it is about feeling good, being presentable, respectable (to yourself and others) and to clothe yourself in dignity and something that will mean you can function properly. A simple pair of nicely fitted jeans or trousers, with a light sweater or blouse and clean, neat pumps are all a woman really needs to face anything the day might throw at her. Dress for function, form and femininity - not high fashion or frumpiness. Mary Berry does this with great aplomb. Don't believe me? Google her style - she is always dressed simply, always appropriate, feminine and neatly turned out.
Ask yourself who you want to be today. Dress for your tasks, but always in something that will make you feel nice and presentable in an outfit that can take you anywhere.
Nourish your body.
Note I didn't say "eat breakfast". This is less about eating for the sake of it and more about fuelling and nourishing your body with something that will help it through until lunch time.
Before you eat a thing, make sure you have a glass of water to get your digestive system something to operate with - water lubricates the system and helps everything run smoothly.
Breakfast and its content will be up to you, the less sugary and artificial it is the better. Always try and include a piece of fruit.
A personal favourite of mine is raw oats, almond milk, raspberries and organic honey. It is healthy, natural and lasts me until lunchtime. Perhaps jam on toast with a cup of tea is more your thing - fine, just don't operate on empty and make sure you are eating the best jam. Little luxuries go a long way.
Obtaining elegance means you choose to prioritise and consider people and what is best for them above all things. You learn to choose experience, comfort and joy above material possessions, the pace of the world and greed. This should extend inwardly as well as outwardly. You cannot care for others if you don't first care for yourself. Nourish in order to flourish.
Reject the world, for now.
How you spend your morning up will set the tone for your entire day. An elegant way to begin your day is by avoiding all technology and external influences - simply concentrate on the moment and the routine of your morning.
Buy a pretty alarm clock rather than relying on your mobile devices to wake you. Ban them from the bedroom altogether! Make your bedroom a haven and a no-screen zone.
Wake up with a selection of your favourite music, or a really stirring classical aria that reaches into your soul. Play this through the house and fill your personal spaces with something wonderful rather than the voices of depressing news readers. If you prefer to read, choose something inspiration and up-lifting. Or, just enjoy the quiet. You may not get much more of it for the next 12 hours or so.
Believe it or not, the news and your social media feed and everything everyone has to "say" (interesting, true - or not) will still be there a few hours later. Steal these precious few hours for yourself and those closest to you.
Greet the world like a lady.
When you step out of the door to go to school, work or on the school run, greet people! Say good morning. Smile. I don't care where you are in the world and if it "isn't the done thing". There are place in the world that it is, and this is only because people take it upon themselves to be polite and acknowledge those around them. Make your neighbourhood a happier place to be.
Politeness, like grace and etiquette is a choice you make and a countenance every lady should take up for herself.
Who's day might you make brighter with your smile and your greeting? Who might you make feel a little less lonely in this big old world?
Even if you aren't going anywhere, greet whoever you might meet. Be it a milkman or a butler with a great big smile! Especially if he brings you eggs...
Responsible for other people in the morning too?
Not everyone has the luxury of looking after just themselves in the morning. I have a husband and a small child who are also getting ready alongside me and the easiest way to manage everyone's morning is to create and maintain a morning routine.
To make things easier on yourself, these things may help.
- Get up earlier! I get up half an hour earlier than I really need to. I hate rushing in the morning and the "sacrifice" of an earlier bedtime seems trivial. If you are getting enough sleep then complaints about an earlier start are moot.
- Lay out clothes the night before. I do this for my son. My husband and I have a minimalist day-to-day wardrobe which means choice and the fret of "what to wear" is eliminated. I have also simplified my make up routine and know that after I shower, I only need ten minutes to be ready.
- Prepare any lunches in advance, ideally the day before. Packed foods can be prepped a week in advance. Those apples, raisins, cereal bars, water bottles etc will keep stored in a lunch bag for the next 5 days. All you need to do is make a fresh sandwich or add in a yoghurt the night before!
- Make breakfast predictable. If it is healthy, nutritious and simple to prepare then there is nothing wrong with eating the same thing for breakfast. We have oats every morning Monday to Friday. It means we can cut out the guess work and I can prepare it quickly on my own. (Which mean no extra bodies getting in my way in the kitchen).
- No TV rule. Admittedly we sometimes break this one but if we do watch something it is likely to be Frasier. A little comedy and a giggle in the morning is good for the soul. The news however is banned! On the drive to school my son and I listen to Classic FM or Radio 4. The music and topic of conversation expand the mind and for my son, his vocabulary. He will often ask what words mean - so we are learning! Mindless pop songs rarely offer the opportunity. Unless of course he asks what twerking is...
Choose to surround yourself with beauty.
Don't forget to only surround yourself with intentional earth-friendly, beautiful things that bring you joy! This intention should trickle right down to your toothbrush! In Ladies Like Us we detail good sleep habits and how to create a bedroom that is a calming and tranquil haven any lady worth her pearls would be proud to call her own. You of all people deserve it darling!
Graceful, elegant, in control and kind. Not rushed, harassed, brash and closed minded. What lady would you rather wake up and feel like tomorrow?
Elegance is a mindset darling!