Be Young and Have Fun

How to Start your DAY with enthusiasm!

(photo: Colleen Finlayson)

Your morning ritual should fit into your schedule. The idea is to build some habits that will add life to your day and years to your life.  When you get out of bed, the first three things you should do to improve your overall well-being are to stretch, breathe and smile.

Children don’t have the challenge of being happy and playful.  The average child laughs over 300 times per day, while the average adult laughs less than 20 times per day.  Which strategy do you think will add more joy to your life?

When we get older, we set limitations on our ability to be positive.  We start to take life too seriously.  We begin to design a set of regulations and rules that determine whether or not we should smile and express our joy.  Smiling and laughing become, childish, and make us look immature, or so we think.

As we age, we want to look important, wise, sophisticated, serious, intelligent, and successful.  We believe that laughter is the antithesis of those qualities, and so we limit or downright ban the fun from our lives. Stay out of this trap.

Have you laughed today?

Try making it easy to smile, easy to be positive.  You will be perceived as youthful, having it together, and confident.

See how it will change your overall performance in all areas of your life.  You might ask, “What is there to laugh about?”  How about this:   studies show it could add eight years to your life? Not a bad trade if you ask me.  It isn’t always easy to maintain a youthful and playful approach toward life.  With so much of our outside world telling us what to do and when to do it, how does one even find the time to consider the positive results of a young mindset?

In the past, traditional martial arts were very strict.  This was a strategy for building strong men and women.  However, it also leads to a very rigid and boring approach to self-growth.  This straight line philosophy only limits a person’s full potential as a martial artist.

More modern systems offer a more open and creative course of instruction.  Instead of forcing students to be quiet and constricted to a list of rigid rules and structured regulations, students are now encouraged to smile, clap, and interact with each other, offering group support and a positive atmosphere.

Naturally, you are also not limited to spending time in an environment that has a lighthearted approach to self-growth. Regardless of your needs, it is highly unlikely that you will have too much joy in your life.  So, instead of just contemplating what you do, also consider the overall feelings of joy you get from the time you invest each day.  You can certainly participate in a physically strenuous exercise and still enjoy the process.  The key is to ensure that you are indeed maintaining a playful attitude toward your life.

I find this easiest to do when you set up some of your own rules and regulations for allowing time for such happiness to flourish.  This could be done by engaging in activities that are conducive to a happy state of mind.  One of the best strategies used by many successful individuals is the act of starting off each and every day with a wide smile, a long stretch, and a breath of fresh air.  But before we do, we have to get out of bed.  This can often be a big challenge in itself.

Morning Motivational Meditation

When I wake up each morning, I take a few minutes to meditate on what is going on in my life.  I mentally review what I am really doing on this planet and after I have found a positive list of thoughts that motivate me into action, I get up and begin my day.  I very rarely will get up without this time for what I now call, “Morning Motivational Meditation.”  Not only does it help me to focus on my objectives, but it also gives me the fuel to start my day with enthusiasm.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Let’s review some of the meanings for enthusiasm:

  • Motivating control of the mind by any pursuit
  • Eagerness for an activity in which significance is shown
  • A source or cause of great anticipation
  • A feeling of exhilaration
  • Overflowing with fervent enjoyment or approval
  • A lively interest
  • A state of impassioned emotion
  • Strong excitement of feeling on behalf of a cause or a subject
  • Ardent and imaginative curiosity
  • Lively manifestation of joy or zeal

I think this is a trait too often ignored. Are you enthusiastic when you start each day?  If you begin your day with a groan, some negative self-talk, and a race to the coffee pot, you might want to reconsider your priorities and purpose, not to mention your strategy for success.

Just as breakfast is an important meal to give your body something to burn and use as fuel, starting off your mental day with a positive mind-set is key to ensuring overall happiness and longevity.  But the mental and physical meal we consume makes a difference in our ability to live long and happily prosper.

So, before you get up and begin any physical activity, remain still until you have found a positive reason to be enthusiastic about your day.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one thought, and you may need to turn a negative into a positive to find a reason to get up in the morning.

Music to your ears

I rarely use an alarm clock, as I wake up naturally and as often as possible by setting and using my own internal clock.  When I do make use of a morning device, I use something that is as far from an alarm as possible.  Why would you want to wake up to an alarm?  Do you associate anything positive to the word “alarm?”  Not likely.  So, beginning your day should not be “alarming.”

I highly suggest you throw out anything that sounds alarming, as it has got to be one of the worst strategies ever invented to begin your day.  Yes, it wakes you up, but it’s more akin to cold water in the face than a tap on the shoulder.

Instead, replace it with some music that excites, soothes, or motivates you.  I prefer Mozart, but have also used music from groups that I like and that get me energized.

Super Learning

You also might consider taking advantage of being in the alpha state as you wake up. You enter alpha state just before falling asleep and just before waking up in the morning.  Studies have shown that we learn best when our brain is in the alpha state. Consider playing self-hypnosis programs, language programs or simply any information you would like to add to your knowledge bank.

Once you are up, here are some more habits to develop that can aid in maintaining your youthfulness, joy, and longevity.

Morning Rituals

In the book, How to add ten years to your life by S.S. Curry it states:

“When over eighty years of age, the poet William Cullen Bryant said that he had added more than ten years to his life by taking a simple exercise while dressing in the morning.  Those who knew Bryant and the facts of his life never doubted the truth of this statement.” Bryant loved to exercise and one routine involved pole-vaulting over his bed.

You, too, can create your own morning set of simple exercises.  I am talking about very simple strategies that can be done in only a few minutes, but long enough to make an immediate difference in your day and an overall long-term difference in your life.  Here is a three step plan to use as soon as you get out of bed and after you have developed a high level of enthusiasm for action:

  1. Stretch
  2. Breathe
  3. Smile

You can create your own set of movements and breathing patterns, but it is best to research some programs that other people are using successfully. However, I will offer a few great strategies to get you going.


After being cramped up in a bed for up to eight hours, it is no wonder people wake up feeling sluggish.  Consider the limitations to lying down:

  • Confined in the bed
  • Limbs are contracted
  • Circulation is limited
  • Breathing is hindered
  • Vital functions are lessened

Now let’s consider the benefits of stretching:

  • Feeling of exhilaration
  • Improved posture
  • Sense of harmony
  • Improved circulation and blood flow
  • Lengthening of the muscles
  • Adjusting the body
  • Improved range of motion
  • Reduces stress, fatigue, and anxiety
  • Decreased chance of injury

Upon waking, we can often feel like the undead, lacking energy and moving at the constricted pace of a slow-moving zombie.  The key is to bring life back to our body through a series of morning habits that will eventually (over time and continued practice) bring more years to our life.  It is a positive win-win all around.

For a quick fix to this limiting state of being, I like to do stretches that extend my body as high as possible towards the sky.  When looking up and stretching (standing up on my toes), I can smile and make a fist with one hand and almost as if I am punching upwards at the ceiling or sky with one arm (alternating), saying to myself, “Yes.”

It’s scientifically proven

A tri-athlete friend of mine has created her own personal Yoga program.  You can do the same by creating a 20-minute program (add music if you want) that includes a series of Asanas (body positions) that you enjoy.

A recent study conducted by researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine and McLean Hospital suggests that practicing Yoga may increase levels of gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), an important brain chemical. Low levels of GABA, the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, are often associated with depression and anxiety disorders.  If you can fix that with some simple stretching and smiling, why wouldn’t you?

Head to Toe!

Another simple strategy, and one we use in the martial arts, is to stretch from head to toe (or toe to head). This is very easy to remember, as you simply do all the stretches that you know for each muscle beginning with your head (neck region) and working your way down to your toes.  You can do this standing and then sitting or vice versa.  If you are planning to do a rigorous exercise after any stretch, be sure to only stretch to warm up and not for flexibility.  So each stretch is only held for a short amount of time (under a minute for example).

Dynamic Stretching

Another great leg stretching exercise (one of my favorites) that also gets you moving is doing some dynamic leg swinging.  You do this with the use of a chair for balance and then swing each leg 20-50 times to the front, side and back.  Be sure to do a slight warm up if you plan to start your day with dynamic stretching.

This exercise will get your amped and ready to take on the day with a burst of energy and vitality. Studies are also showing that this type of stretching is superior to static stretches and increases muscle strength.

Breathe life into your day

I breathe strategically when I stretch, but it is also good to take some time for specific breathing exercises (I share more of these in the MBS Book 3 of Winjitsu).

In the martial arts, we use a large variety of breathing patterns, but for waking up in the morning (and depending on your schedule) you may want to stick with something simple.

One that I do is a deep breathing exercise that expands my chest fully as I breathe with my arms out wide as if to hug the world.  Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Another strategy I prefer (one that I use when teaching students complicated martial arts techniques) is to convert a series of fast paced movements into what I call, “Personal Tai-Chi” and simplify the process into a series of steps that include congruent breathing patterns.  For example, I take a deep breath, then let out air at the same pace as the movement.  This is usually done very slowly in order to keep the breathing natural and not forced.


A simple rule of thumb here is to just do it.  The act of smiling itself will be enough to provide amazing positive benefits.  So start by doing.  Then take action and find some thoughts that make you laugh.  Consider some funny memories or events that make you smile.  If you have time in the morning, you could watch a funny video or play some music that makes you feel good. Do whatever it takes, get a smile on your face each and every morning. Never start your day with a frown or a stressful thought. Keep an eye on the sky (look up) and smile while thinking about the positive parts of your life.

Universal Gratitude

Consider what you are thankful for and put effort into your morning meditation. Express your feelings to the universe, “Good morning, thank you for all that I have.”

This simple act of gratitude has a lot of benefits. You will soon notice a few of the results right away – like putting you in a better mood or a more positive state of mind. In addition, it is a great strategy for attracting what you want in your life.

“I had the blues because I had no shoes, until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet”
Harold Abbott

Simply think of what you have to be thankful for. You might need to do some comparison thinking to prove that you have a lot to be happy about.

It might be a challenge in the beginning, but the rewards will be well worth the effort. These simple changes will kick-start your day and give you the fuel to live a long and happy life.

Winjitsu Work Out

1. Begin today to change your morning routine. Design a different way of awakening (if you currently use an alarm clock), one that is more motivating and energizing than alarming.

2. Design a stretching and smiling routine that is simple enough to remember, and to be included in your morning routine immediately.

3. Begin your day with a smile.  No matter what your day holds, there is almost always something to smile about.  The worst day will include beautiful clouds, a happy child, a flower, an unexpected kindness from a stranger, or simply the gift of life.

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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