Monday, 28 April 2014

Wake up Happy


You're probably familiar with the phenomenon: you're laying motionless in bed deep asleep. Unexpectedly your morning alarm clock sounds (surely it can't be time to wake up already) and then the sluice gate opens: All the meetings, reviews, errands and responsibilities of the day flood your conscious mind and break your bubble of sleep. Your body is still at rest and your eyes are trying to open, but the mind is already awake devising tactics, plans of action and all manner of mitigating measures to negotiate the day ahead.

During the transition from sleep to wakefulness, your psyche is in no mood to contemplate the realities of the day: it wants to recoil, continue sleeping and avoid any challenges and demands that lay ahead. (That's why you press the 'Snooze' button and consider calling in sick at work.) Yet you still think of them and you know you have to wake up. With such a mixture of  thoughts and conflicting emotions, waking up feels awful. Your mind is laden with what's to come for the entire day and you haven't even reached the bathroom as yet. Talk about a rude awakening.

This is surely not a good way to greet a new day. Sometimes you may have a demanding schedule ahead of you, but often you can also find yourself with a pretty good schedule, yet waking up still feels dreadful. This is because feeling worry, anticipation and mild anxiety when breaking out of sleep is a formed habit. Once you're dressed and fully awake your mood is more objective and balanced; it's just getting past those unpleasant few minutes after your alarm clock rings that you need to see off.

Prepare for the Next Day Today

A good night's sleep and a pleasant awakening start well before night falls. Unsolved or unmitigated issues have a way of constantly re-surfacing in your mind, so by compartmentalizing these issues and having even a rough plan in place you can lay them to rest until the next day.

Most of what you anticipate or dread in the morning tends to revolve around work. You want to be at the point where the only time you think about work is when you're at the office -- no sooner or later. Before leaving work to go home then, have a short list prepared itemizing what needs to be done the next day. For each item on the list, have a brief idea or course of action in mind to extinguish that item. Think about all of this before going home. You don't need to have a complete solution mapped, but doing this exercise instructs your mind to get to work. This whole practice will take no more than ten minutes.

Thereafter leave work with sense of knowing that your mind is unconsciously working in the background to produce favorable solutions for tomorrow, and proceed to place your attention on more leisurely and mundane topics like dinner or your evening run. In fact, refuse to indulge anything serious. When you have quantified, rationalized and mitigated an issue it is far less likely to intrude your psyche at unwelcome times, like when waking up.

Move

Make sure you start moving and stretching gently as soon as your eyes open in the morning, before you start thinking too much. This way you are immediately pre-occupying your half-conscious brain with something gently physical, and in so doing you help to divert it from thinking about 'heavy' topics.

You need to develop the ability to re-focus your attention as soon as you start to anticipate and dread what the day has in store...especially when you're feeling groggy in the morning. It's hard to control what you think about when you are still half asleep, but it can be done with some gentle physical provocation. Don't allow yourself to sit up and think about the day ahead -- there will be plenty of time to think later on. 

Develop a Simple Morning Routine

Once you are out of bed, an excellent way to sidetrack the mind is with a simple morning ritual. Some pray, while others go for a walk in their yard. When your morning ritual becomes the first thing you do every day, it prevents you from thinking about other burdensome topics. So after stretching and perhaps walking around a bit, your attention will then be placed on your rituals rather than the five reports you need to submit by the end of the day. 

Once you have activated the muscles, performed your rituals and inhaled some fresh oxygen, you're fully conscious and would have averted the dreadful "just woke up" feeling.

Remember it's a Unique Day

Anticipation is based on past situations and experiences. But past situations and experiences have little to no bearing on the day ahead of you, and trying to predict what will happen is pointless. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Worrying about it more won't prevent it or help you to negotiate it better.

Through consistent application of the above practices, such a transition can be phased into your mornings. The thought processes you follow when you awaken is a habit, and the feelings you have are largely based on perception. Both feelings and perception can be adjusted. Instead carrying painful connotations then, waking up can become an energizing transition to full consciousness.

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