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.
In fact, 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 we did not.
The first thing to do is to recognize the value of the morning. Our mind has been busy at night, weaving together all of the linkages between our daily thoughts. It wires in all the metaphors and chronological stuff, and it leaves us in the morning having integrated the previous day.
Despite all of that nighttime work, when we awake, we are still responsible for setting our new day up to be great. Resilient, healthy people don’t leave that to chance. We design it as a part of our lives.
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’re better at it later because we have the wiring already built in our minds and we are merely using it. But at the start, we’re clumsy because the building of that wiring just takes a bit of time –for all of us. No matter what it is we adapting to.
The big tubes in our brains for electricity are only big because they’re the ones we use the most. So if we get angry a lot, then that anger impulse will be trying to increase that pathway even more.
If we want to be more peaceful we’ve got to jam fewer thoughts through that angry route and use another one –the tube for peace, tranquility and calm. Then those will grow in size and there will be less resistance to those thoughts than any other type.
Consider taking time to wake up. Try setting your alarm for a half hour before you need to get up. But know that when it turns on the next day, you have a leisurely full half hour to go through the waking process.
If we do that, that means one of the first feelings we will experience is relief, which is positive. Maybe we have to leave a note for ourselves –whatever we have to do– but we need to remind ourselves to stay in bed. Or, to sit somewhere comfortably, and just slowly wake up by thinking about nice things.
We’re best to think of things we’re grateful for. Really practice gratitude. Widen that tube. Because during the day, as events unfold, that simple act in the morning will drastically impact whether we send our energy towards creating more anger or more calm.
Brains like to repeat things. No one should beat themselves up and think that they’re worthless or a failure. No one is, but thinking so just reinforces that idea in our brain.
The only question is: are we using our incredible capabilities to create something great or something less than great that we’ve created before?
We can just keep getting mad and always blame it on the other person place or thing. But it’s us feeling the anger and that sucks. So feel love and connection instead. It’s not that hard. It’s a beautifully selfish act.
Tune your mind like a radio. If you’re listening to half-static on a station playing angry death metal (that music can be fine in the right setting). But first thing in the morning?
Whether we like it at first or not, we’d do better with a ballad or some Vivaldi, or anything uplifting. We need to actively remember that the day we’re going to have is going to be filled with great things. What we listen to should be a soundtrack for those great things.
Anticipate those great moments. Watch for good fortune. Let’s stretch our tubes and tune our minds to watch for fortunate things. We should be ready to receive a signal of peace and patience.
During the day we can divide our day into segments. We can make it a habit to check in with ourselves mentally as we switch between them. We can periodically ask ourselves: what is my emotional state and what does that tell me about my state of mind?
If we find we’re tense, or even just before a big call or meeting, we can follow the simple meditative practice outlined above. This is very similar to our sleeping rhythm and our body knows that from years of practice so it will respond.
Stay still, do the breathing and we’ll oxygenate our brains and we’ll calm our jangling nerves. If we’re paying attention we will feel our 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 we really have to do is start setting our day up the same way that most of the happy and successful ones do: by truly anticipating that it will be great, and never giving up on that idea even in the face of challenges to that belief.
If we seek good fortune in our lives we will find it. There’s no shortage of it. We simply have to watch for it. Why not start now?
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.