After my recent divorce, I traveled alone to the Northern parts of Ethiopia and I reflected on my life and thinking why things turned out the way they did. I took long walks, climbed animal and human shaped hills, visited ancient sites in Axum, Adwa, Negash, Shire, and Mekelle. I spent the rest of my time researching topics that summon my preconceived notions I have about the world. I wanted to do this for a long time, but my careless and carefree lifestyle was a hurdle. As a backstory, I used to be a heavy drinker and didn’t care much about anything, except my own comfort. I used to spend most of my time planning and tricking myself into designing my comfort zone. It was a simple philosophy, i didn’t know about stoicism back then, but it was sort of stoic in a crazy way.
I started reading books, mostly history and mythology books which I always wanted to do. I was at peace with myself and wandering alone never felt better to be honest. What brought me to this stage in my life is a simple routine I came up with and I would like to share it with you. I hope it helps you just as it has helped me.
I started noticing immediately after I woke up, bulk thoughts get hold of my brain and I start planning the day and decide how I will react to potential confrontations with the environment and its inhabitants. If you remember to focus intensely on your thoughts immediately after you wake up, my prediction is you will observe the same thing. I checked how i wake up in the morning daily just to confirm if it happens everyday, to my surprise, it did. every single morning after I wake up, I found out that the monkey brain goes to work exactly where it left off last night. by that i mean the thought that keeps your mind the busiest than the rest of your thoughts during the day, will resume as you open your eyes and look around in the first few seconds after you wake up, that thought by some magic resumes, the same anxiety, worry, fear from last night. I saw this happen again and again in my own life. ( let me know in the comments below, if you experienced it too ) It’s like when it sees you wake up and it is plastered on the bed like a dough, it immediately notices that you are awake and it throws itself into your psyche at the speed of light, metaphorically speaking. It is like when a ghost is waking up in the movies leaving the body and the physical body is lying in bed, the only difference here is that it is vice versa and the body’s merge, nothing is leaving. Your body wakes up and the thoughts from yesterday, let us assume it is a clone of you for the sake of argument, it also wakes up and merges with your body and you find yourself starting your day from where your left off. If you are attentive, you will definitely recognize it, as the worry, fear and anxiety builds up in your brain. Some people will question, why am I still thinking about this? And they stop it before it takes over, they wake up, go to the toilet to take a dump or brush their teeth, which is a temporary solution. It all happens within a few seconds, but those few seconds determine to a large degree how your day will unfold. If you hang on to the thought for more than a minute and start planning how to tackle it. It means it got you and you could experience a micro panic attack and hastily decide how you will take action to prevent the thing that is bothering you to disappear, it is a huge mistake to entertain the thought.
Unconsciously, you have given the green light for the thoughts to determine your day. By planning to take action on something that you have no idea will even materialize based solely on the analysis of your monkey brain, you are giving the thoughts more time than they deserve, and I realized that this is normal to everyone, it’s what our brain does. if you go to sleep thinking and analyzing about a situation that was bothering you the whole day, you will wake up in the same state. So how do you control your monkey brain affecting how you wake up in the morning? In my thought experiment, I found out that I could trick my brain. I do that by jumping out of bed immediately after I wake up before my monkey brain does its usual routine of overwhelming me with data, sucking my nerve endings into thinking about the day and what will I do about this problem and about that meeting and so on. It feels like its job is to get me ready for the day by putting me in a state of micro panic ( micro panic is not visible to other people ). But by going straight for the push ups, I successfully delay it. of course, it is not going to leave me alone, It might rear its head after I take a shower, but I still won’t entertain it, I will let it pass just like you let every thought slide while meditating and keep focusing on the present. it will keep trying, that is what it’s programmed to do. for anyone who watches me jump out of bed, it might look like something scared me, but believe me, this hack has really changed my life.
Your window to escape the entrapment is only a few seconds, or else the thoughts will get to you, that is its nature. After immediately jumping out of bed and drinking a cup of water, 30 push-ups, I immediately take a cold ( the colder the better ) shower, still not thinking about anything other than my routines. and I meditate for 1 hour after finishing with the micro workout ( it took me 3 years, I started with 15 minutes, then got to 30 min, then 45, finally i was able to meditate for 1 hour ) and eat my breakfast and go to work. Then it is finally time to tackle the nagging thought from my monkey brain, and it doesn’t disappoint, it appears am done with my routine. but i am ready and my short reply will be, “let’s go to work and see what happens”. sprinting out of bed, the cold shower and meditation have boosted my confidence and I have begun to have more trust in the outcome of all the situations that might arise during the day. I believed that everything is going to be okay, and if not, I will accept the outcome, which is completely different from my reaction to upsetting circumstances, if i didn’t do my daily routine. I was surprised to see the difference between the 2 waking up routines. Immediately jumping out of bed (bonus, make your bed) makes you at peace the whole day irrelevant of what happens during the day. The feeling is like those days you are feeling happy and invigorated for no particular reason, you go out into the world, and the sun is shining, just the right amount of sunshine, the breeze on your face is also the right amount of breeze, you had a lovely breakfast, and you say to yourself, I don’t know why, but I feel great today. It happens once in a blue moon for anyone of us. jumping out of bed could make you feel that way everyday. but obviously, once you start making it your habit, the excitement will decrease as is for anything. But the feeling of peace and not fearing the outcome of some immediate future almost disappears. My analysis is the combination of sprinting out of bed, drinking a cup of water, doing a minor workout, taking a cold shower and meditating for 1 hour ( you could do it for 15 or 30 minutes, it is still the same effect ) are the catalysts for the change in your state of mind, especially the first one and the last two. And once you are out in the world dealing with people in a peaceful state of mind. something will trigger you out of nowhere, that is what happens in the real world. someone is going to say or do something that is going to test you and force a negative reaction out of you. when those circumstances arise, there is another trick, whatever it is, Just calm down and delay your response by thinking about the response, your monkey mind has already has a response prepared, but of course, you are not going to listen to it. So delay your response intentionally and live in the present. of course, you know you have to constantly remind yourself to live in the present, that is a cardinal rule. but before that, you have to control yourself so as not to give the response you were set up to give by your monkey mind or by someone.
Once you start training and reminding yourself constantly to be in the “present”, which is not hard as most people think it is, it is just to focus on the present, wherever you are. if your mind starts wandering, just play dumb with yourself and start staring at something or talk to someone, or do anything that is in the present. When I am alone, I do that, sometimes i stare at the ceiling and analyze the texture or its color intentionally, or read number plates of the cars that are passing by if I am driving, these are all techniques to muscle myself into the present. I have no interest or never had an interest on car plates, but it is a technique I came up with to switch into the present moment. You could come up with your own techniques, whatever works for you best, apply it. All you need is 30 seconds to 1 minute, and your mind will resume living in the present once you successfully distract it from wandering and analyzing the past or future. It will be on auto pilot for a few moments, but naturally it will relapse into anxiety and fear which will trigger a nagging thought that will make you worry, don’t be surprised by it, it is the nature of the neurons. just reply silently to yourself, your reply shouldn’t be, i don’t want to hear it, i don’t care, or shut up. You are talking to yourself, so it won’t work. in fact you will be playing right into what your brain wants you to do. You start worrying which triggers a micro panic. You have to give it your attention, and deal with it and live through it, put it down gently and let is pass, you have to treat your monkey mind like a child. if you are nice in explaining to yourself, (monkey brain) why you won’t be worrying about a situation, your monkey brain will quiet down, you will be amazed by the result. the trick is not to cling to the thought and start obsessing over what to do, because if you panic, your monkey brain will panic, if you are calm and composed, it will be calm and composed and it will pass, that is the nature of thoughts, just hang in there. You can’t cop-out or procrastinate, living in the present means accepting whatever comes your way, be it negative or positive circumstances. it is imperative that you don’t let it take you on a ride and suddenly find yourself worried about a situation that might unfold or not.
Just head straight to fixing the problem or highlighting the problem. Confront calmly any problem without planning to confront them, only if they arise. like saying, i am going to say this when I see her, or i am going to do this, if he asks me about the report? This are all tricks from your monkey brain. If they arise, you tackle them, that should be your motto, but till then, it is not your problem. You could do this because of the cold shower and meditation, that is your secret weapon. But if someone insists and intentionally works to trigger you and spoil your day, you bring out the delayed response, It really works.
So now you are back home, hopefully not triggered. there were ups and downs but you dealt with all of it in a calm and reserved way, you have won. You have your dinner and it is time to go to bed. (Before midnight is the good time to sleep) All of the things I talked about won’t work without a good 7-8 hours of sleep. if you have a smart watch, record your sleep, it will motivate you. I didn’t list it, because it is obvious and fundamental. You could fuck up your whole day or worse the whole week if you don’t get a good 7-8 hours sleep. And when you are finally in bed, read a book, or go over your performance of the day, and hash out your minor mistakes and decide to improve on them, make a mental note or a written note on how to tackle them when you are tested the next day, which will happen, of course. Going to bed in that state of mind will make your mornings less stressful and the whole routine repeats itself. The grand routine doesn’t change, till you feel you have achieved what you set out to do. maybe after a few months, you could upgrade your routine or make some changes to tailor it to your unique behaviour. The crucial point is, you have to know what you want and be ruthlessly honest about it to yourself. So to go over it again, sprint out of bed, drink a cup of water, 30 pushups ( the more the better ), cold shower, one hour meditation or 15 minutes, go to work, dont get triggered, you know the trick, living in the present, delayed response, come home, eat dinner, read a book or contemplate about the day and your progress, and go to sleep. And repeat the whole process again in the morning. Once you see the results, you will be amazed by the difference in the way you talk to people and how they respond to you, you will be smiling more, your mind is clearer and you have time to think creatively about other things that you might fancy. I am writing this post, not to promote a product, or a book, or anything. It really helped me and I wanted to share it with other people hoping it will help them too.
And if you tried it and it’s working for you, please leave a comment below..