What to do right when you wake up and while you’re lying in bed at night to get the most out of your day and get the best sleep of your life.
The two most important times of day are right when you wake up, and before you go to bed. One sets you up for the day ahead, the other reflects how you feel about each day after it has been completed.
These are also the two easiest parts of the day to ignore.
What is the first thing that you think about when you wake up in the morning? Do you think about going back to sleep? Do you think about all of the work you have to do? Do you check your cell-phone?
Similarly, what thoughts do you have floating around in your head when you fall asleep at night? Are you replaying the events of the day? Thinking about what you have to do tomorrow?
For me this was the case for as long as I can remember. From the moment I woke up I would be thinking about work and what I have to do for the day. Then, when I would go to bed at night, I would be replaying the events of the day in my mind.
This is how most of us live our day to day lives. Constantly either thinking about what we have to do next, or reflecting on what just happened. Oscillating between the future that is yet to happen and what has already passed.
I believe that if you want to implement a new habit, or eliminate an old one, you need a system in place to allow yourself to make it happen. Here’s what I did to change my ways…
Waking Up: Dream Journal
I like to keep a journal and pen next to my bed. Right when I wake up in the morning I try to remember my dreams and immediately write them down. Once I get the events, I’ll try to remember how I was feeling when I woke up.
Was it a great dream where I was having a lot of fun? Was I scared? Did I feel relaxed? Tense? I try to write down as many details as I can and hold nothing back. (This also helps if you want to cultivate lucid dreaming, but that’s for another time… 😉 )
Once I’m finished, I’ll pause and think about a moment in life that I am grateful for. I’ll try to remember a specific event that I had a lot of fun at, or something/someone that changed the trajectory of my life. I think of a place and time that will bring a smile to my face.
Then, I’ll write down one sentence that captures how I felt about that memory, and what I am grateful for.
I’m grateful for the hobbies and interests my brothers introduced me to.
I’m grateful for the vacations I went on with my family when I was a child.
I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve maintained over the years.
After that I’ll close the journal and go take a shower to start the day 😃
The thoughts that go through your head right when you wake up are what prime you for the rest of the day. Use this moment intelligently to make sure that you consciously start your day on a positive note. Treat it like making your bed, but instead of fluffing pillows you’re tidying up your mind.
Falling Asleep: Metta
There is a form of meditation known as “Metta”, or Peace Loving Kindness meditation. In the style that I learned Metta, it goes something like this…
”May I be free from anger, hatred, animosity, ill-will, and resentment. May I experience real peace, real harmony, real love. If anyone has hurt or harmed me, I forgive them. If I may have hurt or harmed anyone, I seek forgiveness. May all beings be free from anger, hatred, animosity, ill-will, and resentment. May all beings experience real peace. May all beings be happy.”
When I put my head down to the pillow at night, I like to repeat this over and over to myself a few times. I’ll often fall asleep before I finish 3–5 rounds of it.
If I don’t fall asleep immediately and I find myself lying there restlessly, I’ll use that same technique from earlier where I try to think of a moment in life that I am grateful for.
If I still can’t fall asleep after that, which is rare, I’d repeat this process over again starting with Metta.
Notice a trend here? Starting and ending the day with….gratitude. Feeling the positive effects of appreciation and love. Visualizing yourself in positive states of mind, and feeling those moments with all of your energy
I find that when I do this before falling asleep I have more pleasant dreams and wake up feeling more refreshed, which then makes it easier to do the first part of this exercise in the journal. It creates a positive feedback loop where the more I practice, the easier it becomes to maintain the habit.
I’ll also add that it’s much nicer to fall asleep thinking about what I am grateful for, rather than falling asleep with anxieties on the mind. The thoughts floating around in your head will seep their way into your dreams, for better or for worse.
Note: For some I understand that this might seem contrived or manufactured. You shouldn’t have to try so hard to be happy kind of thing. I get that. But this is just what works best for me. I know that if I don’t give my mind something like this, it runs wild on it’s own. Using these methods helped me to reprogram the way that I speak to, and have conversations with, myself.
Starting your day on a positive note has a ripple effect into the rest of your day. Finishing your day with quality thinking leaves for a better rested body and mind. These two principles work in harmony, which can eventually help you to spend a larger percentage of your day in similar states of mind.
By making a commitment to doing these two activities, you subconsciously program yourself to know that your priorities are your own happiness and well being. You send the message to yourself that you prioritize thoughts of gratitude, appreciation, and happiness over anxiety, stress, and mindless thought.
Take back your day, and more importantly, take back your life by making a decision to choose positive states of mind. To cultivate positive states of mind. To rid the mind of negativity, and spend as much time as possible in a blissful state of being, free from animosity, ill will, resentment, anger, or hatred of any kind.
May all beings be happy 😃
Thoughts? Similar experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.