Your first thoughts in the morning can really make a difference to how the rest of your day will be.
As soon as you wake in the morning the most ancient parts of your brain start to direct you towards specific outcomes to bring you pleasure, comfort and security.
Have you noticed that animals slowly stretch and yawn upon waking? The stretching eliminates any physical tension within their body and the yawning helps their brain become totally focused and alert.
So, before getting out of bed each morning take an extra few moments to stretch, yawn and bring your mind into focus before starting your daily routines.
As you bring your awareness to how you are feeling when you wake, begin to take a mental and physical inventory of your body: do you feel calm or anxious? Still tired or refreshed? Then begin to direct your awareness to more pleasurable sensations i.e. How your body feels nice and warm and how relaxed your muscles are, how appreciative you are for your comfortable bed and the sounds of birds singing outside etc.
When you do this the pleasure and joy that you feel within your body stimulates the motivation centres in your brain, making you ready to take action for the day. The next step is to visualise what you would like to accomplish throughout the day and imagine yourself completing them effortlessly and easily overcoming any obstacles that may arise. By doing this your brain becomes more adept at turning your intentions into reality.
When you give yourself this extra time before getting out of bed in the morning, you will give yourself the opportunity to become fully aware of your body and your mental state, helping your brain to function better throughout the rest of the day and be able to accomplish more of your goals in a less stressed way.
Don’t Jump Out of Bed – take it slow, set your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier and be mindful of getting ready for the day. Enjoy your breakfast rather than gulping it down – not only will your body appreciate it, but your mind will stimulate and generate a greater self-love and compassion for yourself and you will build a greater emotional resilience that will carry forward into every part of your day and life.
As you go through your day you may sometimes find it challenging to remain positive in your thinking and this can be upsetting.
I would like to share with you why this happens so that you can begin to have an awareness of what is happening and that it is not really your fault. This will then enable you to begin noticing and start practising changing your thought patterns more easily.
Your brain is made up of two halves and within the whole of your brain, located toward the back, is a small area that has been there for millions of years – this is known as the ancient brain or reptilian brain.
Your right hand side frontal lobe/cortex is there to protect you from harm. In the past it was very valuable in protecting you from avoiding conflict from dinosaurs, tigers, snakes, floods, scorching heat, etc., and would have saved your life many times over; its role was/is to help you survive! It also needed to have a good memory to be able to continually recognise when danger was present.
The left hand side frontal lobe/cortex is where you feel safe, relaxed, happy and content. In the past our needs were a lot less and we were happy with a safe place to sleep and food in our belly.
Fast forward into the present century and we are no longer using our brains in the same way; we have evolved so much and have created many other marvellous ways to look after ourselves. We have become even more creative etc. yet, we still have that part in our brain that is ancient. Now it is the negative thinking that is created in the right hand side frontal lobe/cortex and the brain continues to innocently believe that it still doing a good job of protecting you.
The brain is naturally hard-wired to hold on to the negative experiences much longer than anything positive that has happened to us – as the negative is the way the brain protects you and this is why they are more easily encoded into your long term memory.
Positive thoughts and being happy often don’t leave a trace and can easily be forgotten and the reason is; that they are not a threat to your survival.
In this day and age it is the right hand side frontal lobe/cortex that constantly generates worries about things that could go wrong as you work towards achieving your goals – known as the “pessimist” side of the brain.
Simultaneously, your left hand side frontal lobe/cortex is constantly generating solutions to any imaginable problem. This is the “optimistic voice” that keeps you going!
So, now you understand a little more how about your brain works – you can take the pressure off yourself and start to retrain the negative thinking into a more constructive way of thinking.
When you catch yourself having negative thoughts – ask yourself if they have any true value for what is happening around you right now or whether they are just arising from habit. Let your brain know that although you are aware that is trying to be of service to you, this way of thinking is actually holding you back from surviving and thriving in your life.
Ask it to find a better way of protecting you and let it know that it is still needed and appreciated in a real life dangerous situation as that is what its true role is and then bring your awareness over to the left hand side of your brain and intentionally remember something good that has happened to you in the past. This will shift your energy making you feel much better within a few seconds.
When going about your chores for the day add in plenty of small rewards, make time for some quiet moments and breathe deeply, meditate and relax.
When a negative thought unnecessarily arises deliberately think of some positive thoughts which include being grateful and appreciative of your life. This way you are actually interrupting the negative thoughts bringing your being into a more content state.
Don’t chase happiness, instead do a variety of different activities that make you feel happy and remember to create goals that give you a reward on completing them, this way the brain will stay motivated and will release dopamine to help you achieve it as it will be anticipating the future pleasure to come.
Find ways that make your life simpler as nothing feeds a negative mind more than life’s complications and choose to stop being the victim of your negative thoughts by choosing to no longer believe in them. When you allow yourself to have self-defeating negative thoughts they can overtake your mind, then they will succeed in taking away your peace and joy, and lead to a lot of disappointment and even depression.
As your right hand side frontal lobe/cortex begins to calm down, it will feel safer and more secure with its new beliefs and new simpler surroundings and this in turn will alter your feelings bringing you lots of positive energy, helping you to be happier, feel more peaceful and content.
Strengthen the left hand side of your frontal lobe/cortex by having fun, social interactions and enjoying pleasurable activities with those you love and learn or teach a subject that fills you with passion and keep celebrating all of your accomplishments regularly as you continue your life’s journey.
A quick tip:
When you are feeling stressed and it is preventing you from doing and being your best – take a nap!
This may not sound like the best idea to you if you have a problem that needs to be solved. But, actually, it is one of the best options that you can do as when you are stressed your right hand side frontal lobe/cortex is working overtime and will assume you are in danger and this means that you are in “flight or fight” mode.
Your body becomes saturated with dopamine, cortisol and norepinephrine – all known stress hormones – which can have a number of different effects on your body including contracting and tightening your muscles, thickening and clotting your blood which if you took an external injury would help you survive the injury.
It also takes blood away from your immune and digestion systems and increases the brain function so you can focus intently on the threat, (this is why long term stress is one of the major contributors to illness) which as we discussed earlier is no longer to the extremes of our ancestors in the past when they were trying to escape a predatory animal or something as dangerous to survive.
Now it confuses a problem in the office or what to cook for dinner as life threatening!
What we need to be doing is strengthening the left hand side frontal lobe/cortex to solve the problem with creativity!
So, when you take a nap you become relaxed and even before you actually fall asleep, often the solution or a new idea/concept will arrive or the answer will be clear upon waking as the left hand side frontal lobe/cortex has been given the opportunity to be heard as the right hand side frontal lobe/cortex has been put to rest.
Always remember that the next time you’re faced with a problem that’s causing you stress, that it will be difficult to find the solution. If a nap is not an option for you then find another way to relax, take a breather and only come back to the problem when you feel calm!