I’m usually a pretty happy person, but about a year ago - perhaps due to a lack of social connections and laughter - I experienced a few dark months. During those months, I spent most of my waking hours (and probably nights as well) consumed with negative thoughts. I woke up feeling angry in the morning, continued having negative thoughts most of the day, and went to bed in that same state of mind. Luckily, I didn’t have many opportunities to spread my negativity to others because we were in confinement. On one of those moody mornings, I played a video of a spiritual teacher that a friend had recommended listening to while getting ready for the day. Halfway through the video, he said, “Humanity is ascending into more loving and conscious states of being. You are becoming more of who you truly are, which is love.” At that moment, I caught my eyes in the mirror and stared at my unhappy face. “I’m not ascending. I’m descending further and further into the ‘hell’ in my own mind.”
My negativity was eating me alive, but, strangely, it was so addictive.
Since it had been escalating for some time (a few months by then) and had acquired a good bit of momentum, I really didn’t know if I’d be able to shift all that negativity into a more positive state of being. I knew that the longer I waited, though, the harder it would be. Still looking at my face in the mirror, I noticed the corners of my mouth pointing slightly downward. “If I continue like that, I’m going to get grumpy face wrinkles.” I made my bed and then went to the kitchen. As the coffee was brewing, I grabbed my laptop and Googled “how to be a more positive person,” and I scribbled down a few ideas that resonated with me. Later that day, after mixing and matching advice from different articles, I created what I called my “emotional hygiene routine.” It’s a series of simple habits that I committed to doing most days of the week for an entire month (and still continue to do today on most days) and that, over that month, took me out of my depressive state and made me wake up smiling in the morning again.
I’d like to share them with you.
1. Fall asleep in the “vortex.”
One idea I came across in my research on being more positive came from Abraham Hicks: “If you go to sleep in the vortex, you wake up in the vortex. If you go to sleep not in the vortex, you wake up not in the vortex.” Being in the “vortex” refers to a state of pure positive energy. The idea in that quote is pretty straightforward: go to bed thinking positive thoughts and feeling happy feelings, and you’re more likely to wake up thinking and feeling positive in the morning. I knew this had to be true. I knew it because when I went to bed thinking angry thoughts, I usually dreamed that I was unhappy and then woke up grumpy (and exhausted) in the morning. So, I decided to try something. As I closed my eyes to sleep at night, I scanned the day from the moment I woke up until the present moment when I was lying in bed, and I tried to recall all the positive things (even tiny things) that had happened that day. I could have thought about the delicious mocha latte that I drank that morning, the fact there wasn’t snow on the ground and that I was able to run outside in the afternoon, or a nice comment someone left on one of my videos. I spent a few seconds remembering a happy moment before moving on to the next one. After scanning the entire day, I would do it again, trying to find even more subtle positive things, and I did this until I fell asleep. This exercise is probably the number one thing that helped me (and still continues to help me) wake up happier in the morning.
2. Have something to look forward to on the following day.
Something else that has helped me wake up happier is having something to look forward to every day, even if I have a busy day ahead and have minimal free time available. Still to this day, every evening, I schedule at least one activity that brings me joy for the following day. It can be going for a walk with a friend, baking cookies, or watching the sunset. It can also be as simple as wearing my favorite outfit. Scheduling one activity that brings me joy for the following day gives my mind something fun to anticipate and puts me in a good mood in the evening. And again, how the day ends is a good indicator of how the following day begins.
3. Absorb uplifting ideas in the evening.
We all know that what we feed our minds affects our mood. I don’t have a TV and don’t follow the news, but my Facebook feed is often enough to get me irritated. So, I decided to stop scrolling mindlessly on Facebook (or at least do so less often) and consume positive-only content instead. For the past few months, first thing in the morning and before going to bed, I’ve been reading a few pages of an inspiring book—usually something spiritual. I just finished reading the entire Earth Life book series by Sanaya Roman, and right now, I’m reading Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer. Reading those kinds of books brings me peace. I can notice a significant difference in my mood and stress level if I just take even fifteen minutes to consume uplifting content in the morning and evening.
4. Make a gratitude list - with a twist.
After reading in the morning, I write down three to five things I’m grateful for—and why I appreciate each thing. I used to write gratitude lists of fifteen-plus items and do it very quickly—almost mindlessly—just to “get it done.” It made the practice sort of mechanical and not very effective. I’ve found that writing fewer items on my list and taking the time to dive into the reasons each thing makes me happy intensifies the feelings of gratitude and makes the exercise more profound. I try to do this daily, although I do forget sometimes. When I forget several days in a row, I can feel the difference in my general mood. Gratitude is perhaps the lowest-hanging fruit for cultivating a more positive attitude.
5. Choose your state of being as you open your eyes.
The last thing that has helped me is a piece of advice from Dr. Daniel Amen, one of the leading brain health experts. In an interview on The School of Greatness Podcast, he talked about the importance of setting a positive intention from the very start of the day to cultivate what he calls “a positivity bias.” An affirmation he uses himself and recommends using is: “Today is going to be a great day.” When we tell ourselves this in the morning, our unconscious mind then looks for things that are going right to prove that this is true. This isn’t toxic positivity—ignoring or denying the negative. It’s training our brains to see what’s positive instead of focusing on the negative by default. I’ve taken the habit of saying this affirmation (or a similar one) just after waking up and before opening my eyes in the morning. It’s a bit like choosing and declaring from the very start of the day what attitude you’ll adopt that day. It’s easy to do, and it sets the tone for the day. In the beginning, I didn’t always remember to declare my intention until later in the morning, but it didn’t take long before it became automatic. Now, just remembering to think about my intention (and then mentally saying it) makes me smile as I wake up. . . . Our lives don’t need to be perfect to wake up smiling in the morning; they just require a conscious effort to develop a positive attitude, which is what the five habits in this article have helped me accomplish. I hope they serve you well, too, if you choose to implement them.
Original article by Emilie Pelletier appears on Tiny Buddha
Photo courtesy of Drobot Dean / Adobe