Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anatomy of a Good Morning: Write Away?

When I read this article on The Art of Manliness about morning and evening routines it struck me like lightening how immensely important I understand these are. I always knew it on some level, but never as fully until I read this, that how I conduct my starts and finishes to the day, particularly the morning, has a tremendous impact on how I will psychologically treat the rest of the day. In other words, things like my mornings will set the theme of how I live that day. As you might know, one of my most important new year's resolutions is to emotionally heal from my bad past, and I think altering my morning and evening routine may play a huge role in bringing about this.

A considerable problem in my life right now is that I indulge too much in taking morning walks. One of my worst emotional habits, I'll confess, is doing obsessive thinking about the negative things that have affected me, and during those walks when I'm not trying to hone my attention on anything is when the negative thinking is at its worst. The walk will start out innocently enough, but at some point I will find something relevant to a negative issue I had been affected by and then go fully into that subject, and obsess about it in circles until I actually finish my walk. But, worse yet, that type of thinking oftentimes tempts me to prolong my walk, sometimes by an hour or more, and continue doing that thinking even when I get home, sometimes to the point where I'm too distracted to be productive at anything else. Even worse yet is that this type of thinking can persist for the rest of the day, agitating me even at work, and make me ashamed that the day was mostly wasted. I often get up at eight-thirty AM or so, but with the walking my day almost doesn't start until eleven or noon, and with the negative thinking in place almost the whole day is wasted given how my concentration is sent off course.

On the other hand, when I have days in which I start being productive immediately, such as by doing my math and vocabulary exercises almost right upon waking, I have wonderfully productive days. Being productive right from the start like that seems to set me in a mode in which all I desire is to leap from one productive/constructive endeavor to the next, and maintain the momentum all day long. The negative obsessive thinking is almost entirely absent in these days, if not totally so. Even better is that all this productivity before my night shifts will inevitably leak into my mentality during work, so I continue being super productive while at my job, and finish the day satisfied with what I've done and eager to start the next. These days are enjoyable, productive, almost devoid of distractions (such as mindlessly web surfing), and emotionally fulfilling. In the brief periods in which I have practice routines such as this I experienced an almost surreal turnaround in my emotional nature, in which I was more content, less affected by the negative, and so desirous of meaningful action that idleness made me experience extreme discomfort. To make major changes to my character this year, therefore, I think I really need to emphasize coming up with a good routine. I'm not so sure yet about an evening routine, but I do see the infinite importance of a morning routine given how it demonstratively affects the way I think and the choices I make for the rest of the day.

Now the question is exactly what type of routine I should establish. I can't simply start being productive and expect all to go fine, because with some brief introspection I have realized that the choice of action I choose does render different effects.

For instance, I go to the gym once a week to do my Body by Science workouts. I always try to do them as early in the morning as possible. Oftentimes I try to get ready and out to the gym as close to my wake up time as possible, and get home in the afternoon after I've done my grocery shopping and such, as I always tie chores like that to my gym outings. However, despite the fact I'm being productive right out of the gate, this type of practice doesn't seem to help the rest of my day, as I can still be tempted to idleness and lazy mental habits since most of those activities are practically mindless. (My thinking for my chores and workout was done at home on paper; when I get there to do them, all that's left is to do.) Allowing my mind the freedom, so to speak, to wander during those periods still leaves me mentally sloppy for the rest of the day, so mentally it's almost as bad as taking those wasteful walks.

But on days in which I do something that requires my concentration, such as math and vocabulary exercises, my mind feel primed in a way that I feel better disposed to keep my concentration upon every endeavor beyond that, so my thinking is much more directed and constructive towards what I'm doing, and those free moments in which I may think about whatever I want I continue being constructive and am not tempted to those negative habits, and my free thinking tends to be of higher quality and more physically pleasurable as well. In short, the key to a good morning routine seems to be to do something mentally constructive in the morning, something that requires consistent concentration during its activity. The math and vocabulary exercises, while at the same time being nearly painless, can almost be said to discipline my mind and set forth a very productive intellect for the rest of the day.

After doing some thinking I have come to the conclusion that I need to do something creative or original with my mind. (On that latter, by "original" I mean I must do my own thinking and original mental processes, such as by solving problems or creating something, rather than working to solely integrate something, such as by mere reading.) Yesterday, to test what kind of mental routines I could utilize, I tried reading for a half-hour, which also ties into my new year's resolution of making reading my primary enjoyment. It failed dismally, as my mornings are when I tend to be my most creative and original, so I really have a hard time taking something in which I'm so prone to my own personal thoughts at the time. In other words, I want to engage in output, not input. Despite no pressing issue vying for my attention, I was distracted the whole time I attempted to read since I simply wanted to think on my own. When I have exhausted my own personal creative resources is when I seem best to survey the works of others, as days in which I've had the most tiring studying sessions are also the days in which I enjoyed finishing the evening with some reading or an educational program, strangely almost like a bubble bath for the mind. As such, I think I ought to dedicate my mornings to creativity and originality, and save activities such as reading to before bedtime, which I'm most receptive to them.

So what to try? Well, I often promised over and over again to try and become a more consistent writer for you . . . so why don't I try writing a blog post each morning? My writing habits are lax enough to allow for that output, and it may be the best time possible for me to do it, though I would have to conduct an experiment first. I'll have a creative outlet for my thinking, and you'll have more to read: everyone wins. It's worth a shot.

There's also the possibility of those cognitive exercises mentioned above, those math and vocabulary exercises, but I've been having problems with them that's making me hesitant, which I will elaborate in my next article. (How about tomorrow morning?)

All that's left to cover here is, again, an evening routine. Honestly, I don't see much importance in it, though maybe I'll reread the above article and be otherwise convinced. For me, it seems that the mornings are the sole and primary trend setter for the day, whereas an evening can be wasted without consequence upon the next day. We'll see. Maybe for now I ought to try squeezing in a half-hour of reading before going to sleep, to help establish that reading habit I'm trying to get into, and further advance my intellect. So far I keep giving flimsy answers because I'm not committed to anything yet in my thinking, since I'm still, well, thinking about it.

And continue thinking about it I shall. See you tomorrow morning.

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