It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.
Are morning people born or made? In my case it was definitely made. In my early 20s, I rarely went to bed before midnight, and I’d almost always sleep in late. I usually didn’t start hitting my stride each day until late afternoon.
But after a while I couldn’t ignore the high correlation between success and rising early, even in my own life. On those rare occasions where I did get up early, I noticed that my productivity was almost always higher, not just in the morning but all throughout the day. And I also noticed a significant feeling of well-being. So being the proactive goal-achiever I was, I set out to become a habitual early riser. I promptly set my alarm clock for 5AM…
… and the next morning, I got up just before noon.Advertising
I tried again many more times, each time not getting very far with it. I figured I must have been born without the early riser gene. Whenever my alarm went off, my first thought was always to stop that blasted noise and go back to sleep. I tabled this habit for a number of years, but eventually I came across some sleep research that showed me that I was going about this problem the wrong way. Once I applied those ideas, I was able to become an early riser consistently.
It’s hard to become an early riser using the wrong strategy. But with the right strategy, it’s relatively easy.
The most common wrong strategy is this: You assume that if you’re going to get up earlier, you’d better go to bed earlier.
So you figure out how much sleep you’re getting now, and then just shift everything back a few hours. If you now sleep from midnight to 8am, you figure you’ll go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am instead. Sounds very reasonable, but it will usually fail.Advertising
It seems there are two main schools of thought about sleep patterns. One is that you should go to bed and get up at the same times every day. It’s like having an alarm clock on both ends — you try to sleep the same hours each night. This seems practical for living in modern society. We need predictability in our schedules. And we need to ensure adequate rest.
The second school says you should listen to your body’s needs and go to bed when you’re tired and get up when you naturally wake up.
This approach is rooted in biology. Our bodies should know how much rest we need, so we should listen to them.
Through trial and error, I found out for myself that both of these schools are suboptimal sleep patterns. Both of them are wrong if you care about productivity. Here’s why:
If you sleep set hours, you’ll sometimes go to bed when you aren’t sleepy enough. If it’s taking you more than five minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough. You’re wasting time lying in bed awake and not being asleep. Another problem is that you’re assuming you need the same number of hours of sleep every night, which is a false assumption. Your sleep needs vary from day to day.Advertising
If you sleep based on what your body tells you, you’ll probably be sleeping more than you need — in many cases a lot more, like 10-15 hours more per week (the equivalent of a full waking day). A lot of people who sleep this way get 8+ hours of sleep per night, which is usually too much. Also, your mornings may be less predictable if you’re getting up at different times. And because our natural rhythms are sometimes out of tune with the 24-hour clock, you may find that your sleep times begin to drift.
The optimal solution for me has been to combine both approaches.
It’s very simple, and many early risers do this without even thinking about it, but it was a mental breakthrough for me nonetheless. The solution was to go to bed when I’m sleepy (and only when I’m sleepy) and get up with an alarm clock at a fixed time (7 days per week). So I always get up at the same time (in my case 5am), but I go to bed at different times every night.
I go to bed when I’m too sleepy to stay up. My sleepiness test is that if I couldn’t read a book for more than a page or two without drifting off, I’m ready for bed. Most of the time when I go to bed, I’m asleep within three minutes. I lie down, get comfortable, and immediately I’m drifting off. Sometimes I go to bed at 9:30pm; other times I stay up until midnight. Most of the time I go to bed between 10-11pm. If I’m not sleepy, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Reading is an excellent activity to do during this time, since it becomes obvious when I’m too sleepy to read.
When my alarm goes off every morning, I turn it off, stretch for a couple seconds, and sit up. I don’t think about it. I’ve learned that the longer it takes me to get up, the more likely I am to try to sleep in. So I don’t allow myself to have conversations in my head about the benefits of sleeping in once the alarm goes off. Even if I want to sleep in, I always get up right away.Advertising
After a few days of using this approach, I found that my sleep patterns settled into a natural rhythm. If I got too little sleep one night, I’d automatically be sleepier earlier and get more sleep the next night. And if I had lots of energy and wasn’t tired, I’d sleep less. My body learned when to knock me out because it knew I would always get up at the same time and that my wake-up time wasn’t negotiable.
A side effect was that on average, I slept about 90 minutes less per night, but I actually felt more well-rested. I was sleeping almost the entire time I was in bed.
I read that most insomniacs are people who go to bed when they aren’t sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy and find yourself unable to fall asleep quickly, get up and stay awake for a while. Resist sleep until your body begins to release the hormones that rob you of consciousness. If you simply go to bed when you’re sleepy and then get up at a fixed time, you’ll cure your insomnia. The first night you’ll stay up late, but you’ll fall asleep right away. You may be tired that first day from getting up too early and getting only a few hours of sleep the whole night, but you’ll slog through the day and will want to go to bed earlier that second night. After a few days, you’ll settle into a pattern of going to bed at roughly the same time and falling asleep right away.
So if you want to become an early riser (or just exert more control over your sleep patterns), then try this: Go to bed only when you’re too sleepy to stay up, and get up at a fixed time every morning.
How to Become an Early Riser | Steve Pavlina
How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind
Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.
Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.
I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.
You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?
Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.
When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.
I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!
Table of Contents
Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?
Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.
Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:
1. The Inner Critic
This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:
- Other people’s words; many times your parents.
- Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
- Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
- The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.
He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.
Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?
2. The Worrier
This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”
He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.
Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.
3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker
He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.
He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.
He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.
4. The Sleep Depriver
This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.
His motivation can be:
- As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
- Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
- Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
- As listed above for the inner critic and worrier
How can you control these squatters?
How to Master Your Mind
You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.
Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.
There are two ways to control your thoughts:
- Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
- Technique B – Eliminate them altogether
This second option is what is known as peace of mind!
The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.
Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.
For the Inner Critic
When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.
You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”
For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”
You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:
“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”
If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:
- He riles up the Worrier.
- The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
- He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
- He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
- He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!
Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.
Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.
For the Worrier
Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.
Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.
You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
- Shallow breathing or breathlessness
- Muscles tense
Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.
If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:
Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):
“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”
Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.
If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.
Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!
Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.
If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.
“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.
Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:
“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”
Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.
For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor
Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.
The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
- Shallow breathing or breathlessness
- Muscles tension
I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.
Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.
Breathe in through your nose:
- Feel the air entering your nostrils.
- Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
- Focus on your belly rising.
Breathe out through your nose:
- Feel your lungs emptying.
- Focus on your belly falling.
- Feel the air exiting your nostrils.
Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.
Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.
One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.
Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!
For the Sleep Depriver
(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)
I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.
Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.
- I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
- Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.
When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.
From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.
For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.
If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!
You can also use this technique any time you want to:
- Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
- Shut down your thinking.
- Calm your feelings.
- Simply focus on the present moment.
Becoming the Master of Your Mind
Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.
You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.
Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com