As part of my practice of observing my thoughts and feelings and the patterns they create, I’ve noticed an interesting thing lately: I feel more upbeat, hopeful, and just plain happier, in the early part of the day.
Part of this is just my own personal rhythm — my most energetic time of day tends to be between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. But it’s something else, too.
I start off almost every day with a walk (only in the most extreme weather do I forgo my daily walk). Depending on what I have to do that day, the walk (which I combine with getting my morning coffee) is anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes long.
My walk is all about noticing — the morning sounds of traffic and squirrels and birds, the feel of the sidewalk beneath my sandals, the super-slow beetle who somehow avoids being crushed by pedestrians as he makes his journey from one side of a cement square to the other. I also notice what’s going on within me — am I sad, joyful, serene? Are my thoughts fixated on that interaction I had yesterday that felt kind of icky? Am I grinding my teeth again? Did I get great sleep, or not quite enough?
When I return from my walk, I do a few minutes of journaling (or morning pages, as Julia Cameron calls them) and record anything I noticed on the walk, anything really taking my interest and “up” for me.
Then, I’m ready to start my day, and most of the time, not always, but frequently, I feel really good.
At 7 p.m., not so much. That 6 p.m. to bedtime window tends to be the toughest time of day for me. Why?
It’s taken me a while to get this, but I understand now.
Evening time is iPad time for me. I “reward” myself for doing my priority stuff during the day by sporadically checking my iPad throughout the evening. Some of this is fun and feels good; much of it involves checking Facebook, Twitter, and various blog articles; getting caught up in trails of links from one blog to the next; absorbing lots of “expert advice” that may or may not apply to me; listening to recordings from classes and coaches and writers and others I’ve been meaning to get to.
All of this is good, to a point. Information can be profoundly helpful at the right times. And I think we all understand the dangers of information overload and the overwhelm it can wreak.
But the problem is not the information itself.
The problem is forgetting to check inside ourselves to gauge whether or not this information a) is worth our time, b) actually supports our own values, and c) actually applies to us at all.
The crappy mood I tend to get into in the evenings — so much to the extreme of my “morning self” — has much to do with the fact that, in the mornings, I make a conscious choice to connect with myself, to check inside. My morning walk, the steady repetitive rhythm of my steps, creates a great space in which to observe myself, while also connecting me to my surroundings, and particularly, the natural world.
In the evenings, I’m letting go of that conscious choice to check inside myself, and as a result, I turn into a kind of ping-pong ball bounced around by the information I absorb online. I find myself getting agitated, confused — this “expert” says to do this, and this one over here says the opposite; this friend on Facebook is annoyed that people are posting X, while this other friend wishes people would post more of X; this writer seems to know a lot about X and has tons of followers but in fact I feel depressed every time I read one of her posts.
It’s a lot to take in — and a lot of it doesn’t matter.
In the morning, I reconnect with me. I remember to check inside. I realize what I really value and what I don’t. I’m able to make a distinction between what information is helpful and what isn’t, and how much information is too much. I remember what’s true for me.
Can I carry that morning connection I establish with myself into the evening? Can I unsubscribe from lists that don’t add to my life, even if some panicky part of me believes this information is “practical” and I “just might need it someday”? (No matter how “practical” information is, if it doesn’t feel good and right to me, it’s not practical for me.)
Tonight, I’m going to begin an evening ritual of reconnecting to myself. This doesn’t mean I won’t pick up my iPad — I have a lot of fun there. It just means my evening intention will be to notice how I’m feeling when I absorb information, and to recognize I can choose to reconnect with myself at any moment. Information can be helpful, even crucial, but only when I’ve established a solid connection with my own inner compass first.
(And by the way, some of what I connect with online definitely helps me reconnect to myself — and certainly helps me connect to others. I love many of the ways I connect online. The important thing is to notice, to check in.)
What about you? How do you remember to check in with yourself in a world where it’s increasingly easy to look outside ourselves for advice, for “the truth”? I’d love to hear, in the comments.