Singers warm up their vocal chords. Athletes warm up and stretch their muscles. We’ll lift weights to get bigger, we’ll study for exams but for some reason we don’t feel that our mental health needs any tending. And yet when we see others and wish we were as stable and strong as they are, the only difference may be that they set their day up to succeed and you did not.
The first thing to do is to recognize the value of the morning. Your mind has been busy at night, weaving together all of the linkages between your daily thoughts. It wires in all the metaphors and chronological stuff and leaves us in the morning having integrated the previous day, but we’ve done nothing to set this new day up to be great. Don’t leave it to chance. Design it as a part of your life.
To use some of those metaphors I’ve wired in over the years: think of the brain like a muscle. New things it’ll be bad at, things it knows well it can almost do without you needing to be conscious about it. This is why things like driving seem so much easier after we’ve done it for a while. We have the wiring already built in our minds and we are merely using it. It’s the building that just takes a bit of time–for all of us.
Keeping up with the metaphor, the big tubes for electricity are the ones you use the most. So if you get angry a lot that anger impulse will be trying to slam dunk the basketball of mental energy through hoop that you could fit a car through. If you want to be more peaceful you’ve got to jam less stuff down that tube and use the one at the other end of the court instead–the tube for peace and tranquility and calm.
Set your alarm for a half hour before you get up, but know that when it turns on the next day that you have a leisurely full half hour to go through the waking process. Leave a note for yourself–whatever you have to do–but stay in bed or sit somewhere comfortable and just slowly wake up by thinking about your favourite things; things you’re grateful for. Really practice your gratitude. Widen that tube. Because during the day, as events unfold, that simple act in the morning will drastically impact whether you send your energy towards anger or calm.
Your brain likes to repeat things. Do not beat yourself up and think that you are worthless or a failure. No one is. The only question is: are we using our incredible capabilities to create something great or something we’ve created before? Because we can just keep getting mad and always blame it on the other person place or thing. Plus it’s us feeling the anger and that sucks. So feel love and connection instead. It’s not that hard.
Tune your mind like a radio. If you’re listening to half-static on a station playing angry death metal–hey that music can be fine in the right setting, but first thing in the morning whether you like it or not, you’d do better with a ballad or some Vivaldi. Actively “remember” that the day you’re going to have is going to be filled with great things. Expect them. Stretch your tubes. Tune your mind to watch for fortunate things. Get it ready to receive a signal of peace and patience.
During the day divide your day into segments. Make it a habit to check in with yourself mentally between them. Ask yourself periodically: what is my emotional state and what does that tell me about my state of mind? If you find you’re tense, or just before a big call or meeting follow this simple practice: Stand still in a comfortable pose and simply breathe 3-5 times using a 3 count inhale, a 7 count hold, and an 8 count exhale. This is very similar to your sleeping rhythm and your body knows that from years of practice so it will respond. Just stay still, do the breathing. You’ll oxygenate your brain and you’ll calm your jangling nerves. You’ll feel your chemistry change.
Feeling good will lead to good things. It’s funny, people want to go to the gym and start some new big thing just so they can feel better than they do, when it’s the other way around. If they feel better they’ll naturally want to do more with life. All they really have to do is start setting their day up the same way that most of the happy and successful ones do: by truly expecting it to be great and never giving up on that idea even in the face of challenges to that belief.
If you seek good fortune in your life you will find it. There’s no shortage of it. You simply have to watch for it. Why not start now?
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.