Getting up early… we all know it’s a good habit to cultivate. But it’s not always easy! I’ve had a love/hate relationship with mornings since I was a child, but these days I find life just flows better when I follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
I get up early everything else is more likely to fall into place. Getting out of bed at the intended time makes me feel I’ve already achieved something. As a result, my morning practice feels like the natural next step, after which breakfast is more likely to be both nutritious and genuinely appreciated. The earlier I get up, the longer it usually is before I check my phone, which means that even if I’m not seeing clients I’m more likely to spend the rest of the morning productively, rather than suddenly realising I’ve spent half an hour scrolling through Facebook while leaning on the kitchen counter!
So my head knows exactly why it’s a good idea to get up early. The trouble is, it’s not always easy to convince my body of the benefits of leaving my cosy and warm bed! I have a Lumie sunrise alarm clock which I love, as it wakes me up gradually over about 30 minutes so by the time the alarm sounds I’m ready for it. But it doesn’t solve the fact that I still don’t want to get out of bed.
A couple of years ago I read Mel Robbins’ book, The 5 Second Rule (if you don’t already know it, I highly recommend it). Sure enough, when I tried it, it worked. “5-4-3-2-1 GET UP!” and I did. I also know that it would still work now. The trouble is, it’s precisely because I know it will work that I can’t bring myself to use it. Because using the 5 second rule will mean getting out of bed. And I really don’t want to get out of bed!
Recently it had got particularly bad. I’d slipped into a habit of turning the alarm off every single day, and often staying in bed for another hour before actually getting up. “I’m hibernating” I’d say to myself. “It’ll be fine when the mornings are lighter” (even in the south of the UK the sun doesn’t rise until after 7.30am at this time of year).
And if that’s what I was truly choosing to do, that would have been fine. But it wasn’t. Because I was starting every day with a sense of disappointment in myself, which in turn was starting to lead to a “why bother?” attitude to anything else that involved a bit of effort.
And then I read another book. In fact I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s already changed my life.
The Worst is Over is not a book about motivation or self-improvement. Subtitled What to say when every moment counts it is a book on “verbal first aid” written by two hypnotherapists, Judith Acosta and Judith Simon Prager. It is, quite simply, a book that everyone should read. It provides clear, concise instructions enabling anyone to harness the power of words to facilitate not only comfort but also healing in a medical emergency. Seriously whether you are a therapist, a first-responder or an ordinary member of the public, READ THIS BOOK!
But back to my story. The book provides many examples of phrasing and sentence structure that serve as powerful suggestions to the sub-conscious mind. Many of them were already familiar to me from my own hypnotherapy training. But there was one that was not, at least not in the clear, simple way that the two Judiths explain it.
As the book explains: “the word because can have magical properties … you can tie it together with a healing proposition, even if it is not really connected … Tie it to a past truth and it works even better … We all recognise the ‘because clause’ from childhood. Our mothers used it in response to our continuously asking ‘Why?’ (even if they sometimes replied ‘because I say so’).”
It is this association that makes it so powerful when someone is in a highly suggestible, trance-like state (and, as the book explains, the state of shock experienced by someone in the immediate aftermath of an accident is just such a state). So an injured person hearing “Because the ambulance is on its way, you can begin to feel more comfortable right now” is highly likely to respond to that suggestion and actively activate their own healing process. (You see? I told you you need to read this book!).
Something about this really struck a chord with me.
I know that we all go in and out of that trance-like state throughout our daily lives – for example as we are dropping off to sleep or just as we wake up. So I decided to do an experiment. As I lay in bed on Monday morning, aware that the gradually increasing light levels meant that my self-ordained getting-up-time was approaching I tuned into my mental self-talk. I realised that my default in this situation was a constant flip-flop between “I should get up” and “I want to stay in bed”. (Along with the occasional “I should use the 5-second rule to get up”!) What if I tried something else?
“Because my alarm has gone off, I am getting up.”
Whenever I caught myself thinking something unhelpful, I replaced it with that phrase. Otherwise I just luxuriated in the feeling of being warm and cosy in bed and not yet having to move.
Then my alarm went off.
And I got out of bed.
The weirdest thing was, it felt as if my BODY was getting out of bed while my mind was watching it, going “What the…?!”
But I was out of bed at the appointed time. So I got on with my day.
The next morning I tried it again. And the same thing happened.
And the next.
I’ve now got up at 6.45am five days in a row. And each time my mind is still gobsmacked as it ‘watches’ my body get up. Because make no mistake, my mind still doesn’t want to get up. But my body is being programmed to do so as surely as the alarm has been programmed to sound at a specific time. “Because my alarm has gone off, I am getting up.” Basically, I have become Pavlov’s dog!
This feels like a revelation – and a revolution!
So now I’m starting to wonder where else I could apply the power of ‘because…’ in my daily life. I know it’s particularly effective first thing in the morning because I can program myself whilst in that half-asleep, trance-like state. I believe it would be effective if done as you fall asleep too, if you don’t usually wake up before your alarm – do let me know if you try it that way!
If you practice meditation, yoga nidra or self-hypnosis you could certainly use it. Or if you have a regular practice that takes you ‘into the zone’ (running, swimming, painting…) that might be a good time to try it too.
What aspect of your life might respond to this approach?
And when in your day might you be in the right head-space to program yourself?
I’d love to know and, if you try it out for yourself, please come back and share your experience!