Adrienne: We all know the difference between a ‘good day’ and a ‘bad day.’ But are there ways to turn more bad ones into good ones? Today, our Wellness Columnist Scott McPherson is here to talk to us about mornings… and how using them in the right way, can help keep our day on track. Hi Scott.
Scott: Hi Adrienne.
Adrienne: Why are mornings a good time to act?
Scott: Anything we do in the morning can impact our entire day. But the real advantage is that we were just asleep. And sleep does a great job of sweeping up the previous day’s thoughts. It means our minds start off each day fresh, and quiet, and new. But, we each have morning process. And the reason so many of our days are the same, is because that process the same.
Adrienne: What do you mean by ‘morning process?’
Scott: As weird as it sounds, it’s when we gather in our identity. Without realizing it, most of us start off our thought narratives as soon as we wake up. And because they’re unconscious habits, we keep noticing the same things every day. Which is why we’re pretty consistent as people from day to day. Those early thoughts help form what other people see as our ‘personality.’ They create the perspective that we start viewing life from.
Adrienne: So it’s almost like a playlist on our phone that we repeat each morning?
Scott: Yeah, that’s a great analogy. Each idea is like a song. And every morning we habitually load the same ones into our memory. And the stuff we load is like soundtrack music, for the movie of our life. So we don’t really hear it so much as music. We feel it; more as an emotional tone over whatever else is happening.
Adrienne: Can those morning thoughts colour the rest of our day?
Scott: Yeah. If we habitually choose sad songs, or angry songs, or songs about our own suffering, then those ideas will colour everything else we look at. For example: Let’s say you observe a person waiting at the same bus stop we’re at. And they never look up from their phone to say hi or anything. If we started off our morning with a soundtrack that was something like, “I’m so sad because I’m single,” then, rather than just seeing someone on their phone, we can end up interpreting that as them ignoring us. We can feel like they’re just “another person with no interest in me”. Then, from there, we can cycle into thoughts about how we’re worthless, and how no one will ever want us. Before we know it, that one little event, can have us feeling like our whole future is doomed.
Adrienne: So what is it we can do differently in our mornings, to make a difference?
Scott: Well, I know from the people I’ve worked with that a huge number of them used to wake up every day and their very first thought was, ‘Ugh. Morning.’ So there’s a good example of how people, right off the bat, can be thinking, ‘my life sucks.‘ Then, all we have to do is look out the window and see rain, and then the soundtrack of our thinking colours that image. So, rather than thinking, ‘oh, it’ll smell nice and fresh outside,‘ our negative morning thoughts can turn that into ‘Great, it’s only 7am and already the day’s ruined.‘ So the first thing we have to do is to start getting conscious about what we actually start thinking about when we first wake up. It’s a bit challenging for the first 30 days or so, so a lot of people will leave themselves some kind of sign, or note to themselves to remind themselves to be conscious about what soundtrack they load.But once it’s become a habit, people will start to wake up and be intentional pretty quickly.
Adrienne: Those original, habitual thoughts… do they come from our childhoods, or our previous experiences? What put those original ‘songs’ onto that first, unconscious playlist?
Scott: Genetics count for a portion of our personalities, but no one knows exactly how much. But either way, a huge proportion of our disposition is created by trained thinking. Like– if we grow up in house with two parents who hate winter, then they can easily teach us to think hateful thoughts about winter too. So, in the end the kid won’t really hate winter. They’ll be reacting to the emotional chemistry that gets created by their thoughts about winter. That’s why I like the soundtrack analogy. Back when I taught film-making, I used to show students the same scene, once with a happy soundtrack, once with a sad one. They always thought it was two completely different scripts. That’s how much of a difference this kind of subconscious thinking can make. It can literally flip a moment’s meaning by 180 degrees.
Adrienne: So does that mean we want to use our mornings to– load upbeat, uplifting songs?
Scott: Generally yeah. If we’re doing it more consciously, we can load whatever we feel we’ll need. If I remember right, when we talked about new year’s resolutions earlier this year, yours was about being more grateful. Starting off our day with grateful thoughts is an excellent way to tune our perspective. But, some mornings we might want to steel ourselves with some ‘calm resolve.’ Or maybe we want to think about things that help us feel strong for our morning workout. We don’t need to wait for the gym to start tuning ourselves. We can even use actual music if we want to. On my Relax and Succeed facebook page, this morning’s facebook post was Michael Buble singing that old Nina Simone song, “I’m Feeling Good.” That song can pump a person up. But even without music, whatever we think about in the morning– it will impact the rest of our day.
Adrienne: So it’s really just a matter of us waking up with more intention and positive thoughts?
Scott: Yes. It’s crazy when we stop to think about it. But most people just wake up and start thinking– ‘whatever.’ The fact that most people don’t even know what they think about each morning is a clear sign that we don’t realize how important it is. But each individual thought is like a thread. And before we know it, we can weave them together until the real us is completely obscured by our thinking. We can spend the entire day living the life our thoughts will let us live, rather than living whatever life we would consciously choose. That can mean that, after something like a major betrayal, we can wake up each morning and start thinking about all of the times people broke our trust. And those ideas can prevent us from meeting really nice person, later in the day. Yet at the same time, if we’d woken up and said to ourselves, ‘the world is filled with terrific people. Today I’m going to keep my eye out for them,‘ then we might have found the love of our life. One idea leads us to spend our lives bitter and alone. And the other idea has us sharing love with some quality person. Like I said before, the subconscious thinking that soundtracks our day can completely change our life. But if we can just get that first half hour of thoughts to be primarily positive, upbeat and open, then that will massively increase the likelihood that our day will follow suit.
Adrienne: Very interesting stuff, Scott. Thanks. I’ll have to try that.
Scott: Then here’s to a great morning.
Adrienne: Scott McPherson is our Wellness Columnist. He teaches mindfulness here in Edmonton, and he can be found on Twitter, facebook and online at relaxandsucceed.com.
Every couple of weeks I have the pleasure of joining Adrienne Pan, the co-host of Radio Active on CBC Radio One. You can listen via AM740, FM93.9 (in Edmonton), through the CBC Listen app, or via the web on Radio One at CBC.ca. Today we’ll be on at 5:20pm.
Once the show has aired, if there is an audio version available I will add a link to it here. A listing of all of the columns is here. For those without audio versions, I will attach a transcript of the column to the bottom of this post after its airing.
There’s a big difference between having a good day and a bad day. But what’s less known, is what we can do with our mornings that can see more of those bad days turned into good ones.
Consider checking us out. If you’ve never heard the CBC Radio Active show before, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. They have a great team.
Take care everyone.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.