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Dr. Amanda Mulfinger is the Owner and President of Cabot Psychological Services in Edina, Minnesota. She studied psychology at Harvard University prior to receiving her master's degree and PhD from Auburn University.
Back to the ill design of my study. I really should have separated out the walk from the meditation, but I didn’t. Point is, I felt better. I’ve continued the walks every single day for three months. Meditation is a little more hit-or-miss, but I do believe they both contribute to my general wellbeing. And for 20 minutes a day, it feels like a worthwhile investment.
So, just get morning light, right? Well, particularly for those of us in the northern lands, this can be a challenge. Winter comes early, stays late, and the sun often rises sometime after we arrive in the office. Two thoughts on that. 1) They make SAD lights for people with seasonal depression. It’s likely that anyone in the upper Midwest could benefit from artificial natural light throughout the winter. You may be able to talk to your physician for a prescription. 2) Even without the light, movement in the morning also seems to have a refreshing effect. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll report back sometime in the middle of the 2016 Deep Freeze that we call winter.
After a week or so, I was noticing myself less irritable when I was cut off in traffic or when I stubbed my toe on something that shouldn’t have been where I was walking. Generally speaking, my body was holding less tension than usual. Hoping I wasn’t imagining the change, I checked in with my husband, who wholeheartedly agreed. He may have just enjoyed having a responsive breakfast companion, but I’ll take it.
I am not a morning person. Neither am I particularly a night owl, but I promise, you don’t want to be around me first thing in the morning. I’ve always been this way, and in my 30s I’ve worked to accept that this may be “just the way I am.”
Recently, I read an interesting book which, among
other things, advocated for the presence of natural
light in the morning, for ANYONE. Intuitively, this
made sense to me, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.
Simultaneously, a therapist friend and I made a pact
to commit to meditating for five minutes a day, for
one week. Thus, a poorly-designed, un-controlled
experiment was born.
Beginning in the early days of spring (which were not
bright, sunny and warm, I assure you), I began taking a 15-minute walk every morning, followed by five minutes of meditation. The walk was relatively easy; the meditation was a trial of mental focus. A lot of “OK, just focus on your breath, there it is… I’m meditating, that’s good, hopefully this will make me healthier… wait, back to the breath… inhale, exhale… picture old-fashioned air billows, like near a fireplace… I love real fires in fireplaces… gas fireplaces are nice too, and easier… shoot, back to my breath…” You get the idea.
The walk, however, was surprisingly enjoyable. Once I hauled myself out of bed, got my shoes on, and got to the end of the block, I could almost literally feel the blood loosening my joints. My legs were stretching out, that usual morning stiffness began easing. I found myself picking up the pace and looking around at people’s gardens, finding things to appreciate about being out, alone, in the morning. The best, and most surprising part, was when I got back to the house and found myself engaged in pleasant conversation with my husband over breakfast. This may sound minor to you, but (primarily because of me) silence usually prevails at our house in the morning. It’s just easier (again, for me).