Over the past few months I’ve introduced a handful of small, happy habits that have served to center my focus and calm my mind. As a result, my productivity, creativity, and sense of peacefulness have skyrocketed. These habits can be introduced incrementally and in small steps in order to cement them into your routine, or altered in ways to suit your lifestyle and goals.
My morning routine used to be chaotic. I’d hit the snooze button right until the moment I’d need to leap out of bed, race around my apartment like a maniac, and rush to the subway with mere seconds to spare before the G train scooped me up to deliver me to work. Scattered and hurried, it’s no wonder I often felt as though there simply wasn’t enough time in my day for creativity, absurdity, or fun. The idea of introducing an additional task to my morning routine seemed preposterous.
In searching for help in reawakening my inner creative, I began reading Julie Cameron’s celebrated book The Artist’s Way. One of the first recommendations Cameron offers is to begin journaling. Described as “morning pages,” she suggests that the reader start their day by handwriting three pages in a stream-of-consciousness style. They are not designed to be art, or even “writing”, but simply a way, as the author puts it, “to get to the other side.”
“Although occasionally colorful, the morning pages are often negative, frequently fragmented, often self-pitying, repetitive, stilted or babyish, angry or bland- and even silly sounding. Good!
All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, the funny knock in the car, the weird look in your lover’s eye- this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.”
This wasn’t the first I’d heard of this concept. Prior to reading this book I’d heard a psychologist describe this tactic as a “brain dump”, read about doing something similar but in a task-related list format, and listened to Tim Ferris describe the process as “quieting the monkey brain.” Yet it took Cameron’s insistence that this was “the primary tool for creative recovery” to spark my interest enough to begin the exercise.
The process itself takes around thirty minutes. Since I already was struggling with waking up early enough to transform myself into a person that was barely acceptable in civilized society, I knew I had to start smaller. I committed to waking up just ten minutes earlier every day for the first week, or, time enough to complete one morning page. Over the weeks to come, I was able to expand to two morning pages, and I now am able to comfortably write three full pages several days per week. Should I only have time to do the one, I don’t berate myself. After all, building new habits takes time.
This small inclusion at the start of my day has allowed me to go into the world calmer and with a feeling of accomplishment. Being able to “dump” all anxious thoughts, stresses, worries, etc, onto a page, judgment-free and edit-free, has allowed me to operate with a clearer mind and lighter heart.
But what if you don’t have time, you might ask. To that I say: Wake up earlier. If you’re the type of person that’s always rushing around in the morning, consider what adding a practice like the morning pages could do for the rest of your day and for the rest of your life in general. By instilling a sense of calm early and at the beginning your day, you set yourself up for success, and you set the rest of your patterns up for success.
Waking up even ten minutes earlier may allow you to feel better than you’ve felt in years. Give it a shot. The only thing you have to lose is your anxiety.