“But my shower time is when I plan my day!”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my clients say this to me. As a coach and mindfulness teacher, I seem to spend a LOT of time helping my clients develop better morning routines. Most of them start their day scrolling on their phone, checking emails or snoozing their alarm until the last possible moment and then rushing through their morning routine and out the door.
And many of them spend 10 minutes each morning standing under hot water and thinking about all the things they need to get done that day.
So, when I start helping them tweak their morning routines, this tends to be a bit of a sticking point.
Like my client James. He had already stopped using his phone in bed in the morning, which I helped him realise was at best a waste of time and at worst put him in a distracted mindset for the rest of the day. He was also meditating on the train on the way to work, using this time to do something useful rather than wasting it scrolling social media.
But taking a mindful shower? Why on earth, he asked, would he waste this valuable planning time just standing there like some kind of idiot? That’s when he reviewed his to-do list and worried about all those work problems!
But then I asked him a simple question. “Ok, so you are physically standing under the water and mentally already at work, right? Then you get out of the shower, dry yourself and go through the rest of your morning routine in the same way – physically present but mentally somewhere else. So…when you finally get to work and you’re sitting in front of your computer, does your attention just magically focus on your work, or does it wander off to something else?”
And of course, the answer is that it wanders off onto the next thing. Because he has TRAINED it to do exactly that!
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning, many of us are reinforcing the habit of being physically present but mentally absent, hardwiring this tendency into our brain through repetition and neuroplasticity.
So, paradoxically, if you want to have a productive day, one of the best things you can do is take a mindful shower. Well, actually, just start the day mindfully. But for most people (myself included) the shower is where we actually start to wake up. Prior to that, things tend to be a bit hazy so it’s hard to instil mindful behaviours. Which is why mindful showering is such a powerful practice.
And that is exactly why I gave it as a homework task to James. After doing it for just one week, he found that he was noticeably more focused and productive at work, less reactive and more connected with others. Last time I checked, he had maintained this simple practice, long after our coaching work had come to an end.
Of course, it’s not always that easy. Like most mindfulness practices, it is conceptually simple, but in practice can be challenging. There are those days when I am extra tired, and my mind just keeps wandering off. And there are times when I am stressed and it is hard not to ruminate endlessly about what is worrying me, as if the problem will go away if I just worry about it long enough! On these days, mindful showering becomes a practice and a discipline.
But for the most part, it’s really not all that difficult to focus on the blissful sensation of the warm water – or the Wim Hof-inspired blast of cold at the end! And it’s a wonderful, surprisingly powerful way to start your day. Give it a try and see for yourself.
[For extra points, notice that you dry yourself the exact same way every day. Oh, you didn’t know you did that? Check it out – you’ll laugh.]