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How the First 60 Minutes of My Day Save Me From Depression

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I struggle with clinical depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD). I have dealt with a lot of mental trauma in my life, more than I would ever wish on even my worst enemy. I have a loving wife, three beautiful kids and even with all of that, I have had moments where lying in bed was far more comfortable than anything else I knew. I would sleep, sometimes for 12 to 14 hours a day, because my dreams were seemingly more interesting than real life.

Some days would drag on for what seemed like months and some days would be over so fast I felt like I barely had time to breathe. My life was passing before my very eyes and I slowly realized if I did not do something about it, it would end a lot sooner than everyone around me would want.

It took far too long for me to figure out something critical was missing from my life. There was something that eluded me, and it was only recently I realized what it was.

I lacked structure in my life.

I started reading. And reading. I pored over websites, furiously looking for anything that could help me. I read up on the success of morning rituals. I read about what worked for some people and what didn’t work for others. It took a lot of trial and error before I found that “sweet spot,” the magic formula that truly saved my life.

I found if I dedicated 60 minutes of my day, the first 60, to self-improvement and self-awareness, the remainder of my day was so much easier to deal with.

My sleep patterns improved. My nutrition improved. Life was worth living and the structure that was lacking in my life was there and giving every day purpose. Do I still have rough patches? Absolutely. The good news is having this 60-minute package to fall back on makes those rough patches a lot shorter than they used to be. A lot shorter.

So… what is this magical formula, you ask? First, a disclaimer. What works for me, may or may not work for you, but chances are, if you do not already have a morning ritual in place, implementing one would be an incredible step in a positive direction.

When I wake up in the morning (usually at the same time every day thanks to my alarm), I take five minutes to make my bed. And when I say to make my bed, I mean I pay attention to the folds and creases of the sheets and blanket. The pillows are placed just right. By doing this, it ensures I have achieved greatness with at least one thing during my day. The rest of the day could fall to pieces, but I have at least made my bed with precision and thought.

The next 20 minutes are spent doing what I like to call a “micro-workout.” I run through a basic warm-up and cool-down session that includes a good amount of stretching. I know later in the day I usually have a walk or hike planned, but again, if I do not get to go for that walk, I have done my micro-workout and it always makes me feel refreshed.

That refreshed feeling is important, as the next 15 minutes are set aside to review my plans for the day and any notes I made for myself during the previous day. This is a critical step for me as it lays out my entire day for me. I know with three kids, ages 8 to 15, having my day, as well as theirs, planned out keeps things in order. I also look over the notes from the previous day as there may be something I missed in my plan that needs my attention.

Sidenote: I know to some of you, this may seem almost rudimentary and childish. A man is his late-40s should not need to make his bed for a feeling of accomplishment. That being said, I can guarantee someone reading this right now is going through the same pain and mental anguish I have. A simple structure like this can be, and has been for me, life-changing.

The last 20 minutes of the first hour of my day is split into two parts. They are equally important and coincide with each other in a way that brings this hour to a close on a very high note.

The first 10 minutes are spent in quiet meditation. I sometimes have music playing in the background, but more often than not, it is usually spent in silence. This allows me to focus on the last 10 minutes of the hour in which I go over what I call my “gratitude” checklist. I spent the majority of my life not being thankful for anything as I felt things in life were owed to me. I gave so little and expected so much in return. I could barely see what I did have in front of me was all I needed and I was so ungrateful for it. No more. I have discovered the power of gratitude is tremendous and that is why I end this hour thinking about all the things in my life I am truly grateful for.

I cannot imagine where I would be right now if I had not seen the lack of structure in my life and how it was essentially destroying me, one painstaking day at a time. I now see the purpose of my life. Yes, there will be bad days. Yes, there will be terrible days. By having these 60 minutes set aside each morning, I can be sure the bad days and the terrible days do not become the bad weeks and terrible months.

I never would have thought it, but yes… 60 minutes saved my life.

Getty image by PrettyVectors

Originally published: May 1, 2020
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