You wouldn't show up to a job or an audition without getting your head in the right place. So why are you treating the building blocks of your career that way? As an actor, far too many things are out of your control: Whether or not you hear about the job. Or get the audition. Or book the job. Or end up on the (metaphorical) cutting-room floor.
So I am a fierce advocate for controlling what you can. The way you treat yourself (and others), while not a direct route to health/jobs/happiness, most certainly has an effect on it. And one of the most important things to control is how you start your day. Yes, you can rescue a horrible day from the dumps. But it's much harder than starting things off on the right foot to begin with.
Rather than starting your day checking Facebook on the Internet or your email on your iPhone, here are 10 things you can do to kick off your day in a healthier way.
1. Start with a good book
There is no better way to educate yourself than to read. Read more, learn more, be more: it's pretty simple. But making the time to read books can be difficult. Which is why I was thrilled to stumble upon a dead-simple method for reading 52 books in a year: break them up into 40 pages per day! That year, I read 78 books. This year, because of a massive project that threw my entire life off the rails, I'm at a paltry 50 so far. No matter. I will still end up smarter than the person who reads no books. Where to start? Funny you should ask...
2. Start off with quiet
A good friend of mine had a no-radio rule for the morning. She claimed that she was "janglier" when she listened to morning radio, whether it was music, news, or talk. If you're used to jumping up and turning on the TV or other personal electronic device, you may be amazed at how odd it feels to awaken to silence. It can even be a little anxiety-provoking initially. But once you get over the panic of quiet, you'll wonder how you ever stood all that noise first thing in the day.
3. Start with noise
On the other hand, there is something lovely—even healing—about certain sounds. My friend Fabeku plays with his singing bowls. I have friends who chant, claiming "something-something vibrations frequency." I know that lots of times, singing sets me right again. There are people who claim that baroque music is very stimulating creatively—if you've been in a rut, maybe that's a thing to try. But watch out for anything that involves someone trying to sell you something. Almost never a good way to start the day.
4. Start with sitting
I am no meditator. I have dabbled, poorly, but thus far, have been unable to find a way to make it stick. So this is the one thing I've tried and failed at which I'm recommending based on hearsay. But the hearsay comes from numerous sources: meditation is one of those things, apparently, which is best done first thing in the day. Better access to the ether, or just the good part of your brain.
5. Start with movement
When I was running, the simplest way to ensure I did it every day was to do it first, before everything. Ditto walking. Frankly, I've gotten so bad about exercising lately, I'm probably going to try this again soon, while my pants still fit.
6. Start with making your bed
Because once you're up and that bed is made, it's a lot less tempting to get back in it. On the other hand, you could always...
7. Start with staying in bed
I think you know what I'm talking about here. A very pleasant way to start the day!
8. Start with tea
Two thoughts here: first, even if you're a hard-core caffeinator, it can be good to ramp up slowly. I do enjoy one cup of strong coffee in the morning. But I also like the way a weak cup of tea warms me up and gets me used to the idea of alien substances in my body.
Second, there is something simple but very self-nurturing about making something nice for yourself to ingest. Sort of a holy act for the temple that is you. My current-favorite morning ritual involves putting on the kettle, making my bed, then bringing a cuppa back to it, to read. (Okay, most recently, I've been bringing the tea to the computer to read email. But that was a temporary habit born of doing a Big Thing; time to get back to my old habits now!)
9. Start with writing
If you've read The Artist's Way, you know all about this. Again, there's something magical you get to tap into if you get in touch with your deepest self first thing, and that's what Morning Pages are designed to do. They're like meditation for people who hate meditating. Ahem.
10. Start with ONE thing for you
Like most actors, I have worked survival jobs that weren't much fun. (In fact, even before I had any idea I'd be an actor, I did it.) Even now, doing things I love as my work, there are difficult stretches to get through.
There is something very powerful about me putting my stake in the day by choosing to one thing only for me before I start in on the myriad items I've agreed to do for others. Pick one thing for you, and it's likely that the good feelings will follow you throughout the day.