I woke up this morning with the sounds of a bird-watching live show my wife was following on her smartphone. Now I am not the biggest bird watcher in the world, but halfway through, as I was snoozing away, one thing caught my attention. A person had written in to the show to say that looking out for that show each morning, was literally the one thing that kept him getting out of his bed in these crazy months of drastic change to our daily lives and routines.
This got me thinking about why we wake up in the morning. What are we waking up for? Some might dismiss this as a naive question. ‘I wake up to go to work’, they might say. But this is a red herring. What are you really waking up for in the morning? What are you looking forward to do in the new day that has dawned? Waking up is a given, but waking up with a purpose is not.
I remember how as a child my heart was filling with melancholy every night I was asked to go to bed. What was I afraid of? The end of a glorious day full of play and fun? Or was I dreading the start of another day full of ‘boring’ activities such as going to school, until the evenings came and I could do what I really wanted to do? I suspect it was a combination of both.
We spend most of our lives forming habits, which over time become so ingrained, that we consider them as the ‘right’ way of doing things, rather than structures which have unconsciously developed over time as we increasingly got set in our ways. Habits are not necessarily a bad thing; by providing expectations of routine, they give us a framework to work with, which helps us combat the anxiety and fear that arise as a result of uncertainty. However, habits are also detrimental to our personal development when left unchallenged for too long. They can hamper growth and lead to a stale status quo where we go passively about our lives, instead of practising mindfulness and appreciating the moments that will eventually create the memories that evidence a good life.
What are the reasons people get out of their beds for? I think they can be roughly divided into five categories. People who have developed physical exercise routines, look forward to physical activities such as physical exercise, jogging or walking in the morning. They are often addicted to the endorphin release which accompanies regular physical exercise.
Scientists, mathematicians and other problem solvers, can’t wait to get out of their beds to engage in cognitive activities. These have often something to do with the need to solve problems or puzzles. In the excellent biography of the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos, there is a hilarious part where his long suffering mathematician friend in whose house Erdos is staying, wakes up wild eyed after a few hours sleep. Still tired and dizzy, since he spent the whole evening in the company of his obsessive guest urging him to help solve the latest mathematical paradigm he is working on, he comes down the stairs, only to be greeted by Erdos posing him a question relating to a difficult mathematical formula, thus continuing last nights conversation. Problem solvers get out of their beds in order to solve puzzles and scientific equations.
Artists and creative people on the other side, are waking up with the desire and motivation to engage in creative activities. This could be anything from playing an instrument, painting, sculpting, building a castle of cards or creating a house made out of matchsticks, as my grandfather used to do. Either way, there is an ongoing project which is currently unfinished, and they can’t wait to fill the gaps with their creative imagination.
People who engage in meditative activities marvel at the opportunity to release their minds and bodies into states of mindfulness and concentration. Everyone who has done a morning yoga session, knows how it helps to focus the mind and body and face the day. Just like with early physical exercise, a morning routine involving meditative activity and yoga paradoxically fills the practicing individual with energy and anticipation for the coming day, rather than wearing them down.
Lastly, there is a type of activity a significant part of the population engage with each morning, which I can only describe as passive activity. This can involve getting up to switch on the TV to a regular morning program without necessarily engaging with its contents. It’s merely an act of distraction and reassurance. If you are following a particular radio or TV show, you will agree that hearing the voice of your favourite actor or presenter, or even just watching them on the screen creates a sense of familiarity and pleasant routine. Other examples of such passive activities include waking up to check social media on your smart phone to see what conversations and updates you have missed overnight and, I would add, waking up just in time to get ready and go to work, because you must.
I don’t want to sound overly negative about that last type of activity, as it can be effective with people who suffer from heightened levels of anxiety. Having a certain passive morning routine helps them to set this anxiety temporarily aside, without involving personal emotions and thoughts that can lead to more negative feelings. Unfortunately, the key word here is temporarily. Such activities merely distract from anxiety and fear, rather than completely removing it. Sooner or later, they will need to be confronted with their financial reality, their own intrusive thoughts and external factors that might trigger their anxiety. The key is to have a number of positive strategies available in order to deal with their realities, rather than resorting to passive, mind numbing activities. And many of the positive coping strategies will involve some of the other types of activities above, such as meditative activities.
What are you looking forward to every morning you get out of your bed? Is it one of the activities above, or perhaps a combination of a number of them? How do you fight the need to resort to passive activities? Create a deliberate reason now to get you out of your bed for. It will help you create purpose, mindfulness and personal fulfillment.
Kostas The Coach is a Psychologist, Life and Small Business Coach and NLP Practitioner based in Llantwit Major, Wales. I help people of various backgrounds find the ideal intersection between profit, joy and values in their lives, and I assist businesses to grow sustainably while remaining aligned to their why.
If any of the topics discussed here has intrigued you, I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me on Kostasthecoach@gmail.com or contact me via telephone or SMS on 07725653870.