The day you're waking up to has its roots in last night. With that in mind, here are a few ways to make ensure a whole raft of better tomorrows. A couple of years back, I wrote a column on 10 ways to start your day off on a better foot. In the intervening days/weeks/months, it's (slowly) occurred to me that by making a few changes the night before, those morning routines become supercharged—and the better off your entire day usually goes. Here's what I've learned between then and now.
1. End with a good book
While I don't always have the energy for it anymore, I try to wrap up my evening with two different books: one that's inspirational (usually spiritual in nature) and one that's fanciful (a novel or a short story from a collection). The former is grounding, keeping me rooted in what's really important—i.e., not me, but what it is I can do for others. The latter is just pure fun, and (I swear!) results in more interesting dreams. Especially when it's something mildly hallucinogenic, like The Magus.
2. End with quiet
Do I have to point you to yet another article on how beneficial it is to back off of electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, or have you seen enough of them in your Facebook feed? It's kind of a no-brainer at this point. But if you insist upon watching or surfing right before bed, at least limit your exposure to things of a gentle, peaceful nature.
3. End with sitting
When I wrote this a couple of years back, I'd not yet learned this meditation technique that finally helped me break through my resistance to sitting. Since then, I've been sitting twice daily—once in the morning, and once in the evening—and have been amazed not only at what a difference it's made in my equanimity, but how easy it is. If you haven't found something that works for you, keep looking. There are many, many forms of meditation; one of them is bound to work for you if you're willing.
4. End with hydrotherapy
Hopefully, this doesn't fall under the heading of TMI, but I since I've shifted my shower schedule from morning to evening, I go to bed so much more relaxed. Oh, and the sheets stay nicer, longer (although I do still wash them weekly, I swear!). And (so far), I haven't had any negative reports from my friends and co-workers.
If you're a really restless, sweaty sleeper, this may not work for you, but it's made a world of difference to me. And on nights where I can soak in a tub for a bit, I'm usually out before I can get my reading done.
5. End with tea
Non-caffeinated, of course! Since the SCD rendered both hot milk and chamomile-type infusions off-limits for me, my go-to has been peppermint tea: it is tummy-soothing and just the tiniest bit spicy, which suits me. A sturdy second-place goes to home-brewed ginger tea: peel an inch or so of root, and slice into "coins"; place in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups filtered water; bring to a boil, then simmer for at least five minutes. If I feel a cold coming on, I'll drink this, then wrap my neck in a scarf, pop a hat on my noggin', and hit the hay. Nine times out of 10, I'm fine in the morning.
Honestly, I think the mere settling-down routinely with the same cuppa whatever helps trigger sleep, Pavlov-style. (As long as it's not booze, that it. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, plus it makes you puffy and cranky in the a.m.)
6. End with thanks
Speaking of cranky, it's frighteningly easy to cultivate a negative world-view when what you want from the world is notoriously difficult to achieve. For the past year and a half or so, I've been rounding out my day with a very brief list of things I'm grateful for—like, five of them. I don't elaborate and turn them into journal entries; I simply list, briefly, five things that have made my life a little better, like a random mutt-petting opportunity, or a compliment out of the blue. Or, when it's been an especially bleak day, the basics: a roof over my head, the health to walk in and shut the door behind me, and so on.
7. End with a pat on the back
You're doing one of the hardest things there is: pursuing your Truth in an effort to make the world a better place. Even if you're just in it for the dough and the perks (hahahaha!), what you're still doing is some tough stuff. So after you've written out your list of things you're grateful for, try writing down five things you managed to do well. Again, they don't have to be huge, award-winning things; just you, doing what's right, despite a desire to slack off or back away. Maybe it's hitting the gym instead of playing video games. Maybe it's doing work with a scene partner rather than meeting up with friends for cocktails. You know what you did. Take note, and not only will you feel better about today: you'll help create a better tomorrow.
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Book of the Month:
Anne Lamott is the broken vessel much repaired, and the more beautiful for it, filled with cracks where the light gets in. Her next-to-latest book, Help, Thanks, Wow!, is a beautiful, short book that's as charming as it is comforting. For the un- or newly-initiated, I think it is also a nice, accessible introduction to prayer. Lamott makes prayer sound fun and delicious, which really, it should be, or why do it? Of special utility was the "Thanks" essay, which has much to do with turning down the screaming voices in one's head and rightsizing oneself when one is in need of it.