Here's a crazy idea. What if you spent five minutes in the morning after you are fully awake in total silence? As you can guess, it might be a little boring. Most of us wake up and immediately reach for a smartphone or rush to the shower. We enter into a hectic ritual within seconds of waking up and never stop.
Yet, as we learn more about how the brain works, it might be a terrible idea to keep doing this. Science now knows we receive a rush of gamma waves to the right side of the brain when we pause in the morning and avoid jumping right into stress. You can learn more about how this works in Brigid Schulte's amazing book about how to manage your time in a hectic world and what happens to our brains when we rest.
The morning is an amazingly rich time period of the day, the first few moments of consciousness after a long rest. It's also when we tend to make the most mistakes because we haven't had that pause and don't get our bearings. Most of us waste this time by jumping out of bed and using adrenaline (or the bright flashing screen of an iPhone) to jar ourselves into full alert mode. We push to get moving.
I've decided to do the opposite. For the past few weeks, I've experimented with this idea of waking up fully, maybe even waiting a full hour, then spending a full five minutes in silence. (If you must know, I usually then spend the next seven minutes or so writing in a journal and I've been doing that for years.) I don't recommend journaling right away, though. It's better to use that initial time period for unrestricted open-ended thinking and preparation for the day. Schulte says our brains our wired for insights but we have to let them percolate just like the coffee.
What should you do in the silence? There's no set process. To make this work, you should set aside all gadgets all notebooks, all tablets, and all distractions. Grab a cup of coffee and some fruit or a protein bar for energy. You should be alone and far, far, far away from any coworkers. In those five minutes after you feel fully awake, follow these few simple steps to get your mind in the right place.
1. Give yourself a pep talk
I wrote about this a few months ago, and it has helped many people. It's a good idea to tell yourself a few important phrases each day, basically like acting as your own cheerleader. It works. What you tell yourself you will eventually believe about yourself. It doesn't have to be structured. Simply reminding yourself that you're good at your job or that you can embrace whatever events come your way is fine.
2. Bounce the stress
I've mentioned the bounce principle before. It's one way to deal with stress. When you have a negative thought about an upcoming event that will cause stress and you start mulling over it, bounce the idea off your radar. It's literally like playing squash with the negative thought. "Sorry, not right now. Sorry, I'm going to set that aside for now. Sorry, I'm prepping for a good day not a bad one." Bounce the idea as a way to set it aside, like swatting away a fly. It teaches you to act that way during the rest of the day.
3. Replace negative thoughts with good thoughts
During your five minutes of silence, there might be a temptation to think about some conflicts coming up or challenges at work. In the first five minutes of the day, don't just bounce the idea away. Replace them with a more positive thought. This is not some weird meditation practice. It's pure science. Your brain can't think two things at once, so replacing any negative thoughts with good ones trains you for the day.
Do these simple steps work? You be the judge. Try them yourself in your five minutes of silence and let me know if you find your day flows a bit easier.