Tuesday, January 21, 2014

4 Questions To End Your Day With

Rene Burri

The block of time we spend laying in bed before falling asleep  can sometimes be spent preventing ourselves from actually sleeping.  People I know with chronic insomnia often experience it because they are unable to quiet their minds.  They anxiously psych themselves out with such vigor that they're unable to rest, ironically perpetuating the vicious cycle of exhaustion and anxiety.  

Even if you don't fall into this category, a good habit to cultivate is ending your day with some sort of reflective process.  I personally enjoy reviewing in my head what I'm grateful for.  Sometimes this happens during mediation or while writing but usually it's a voluntary process.  It's surprisingly difficult to remember to take account of what you appreciate about your life.  Days can sometimes be spent in the throes of anxiety or delusion, so to end them with some sort of position rational organizing of thoughts does wonders for the mind.  If you're looking to try this and want a place to start, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

-Who did I meet?
Living in a big city, I'm starting to realize that the most important parts of my daily life are who I know, who I choose who I spend my time with and how the people I do end up associating with drastically influence my sense of well-being (and vice-versa).  The microcosm of whatever communities you are a member of ends up reflecting your impact on the world.  Try to meet new people every day.  You may end up forgetting about most of them after a week, but certain people will stick around and change your life.  

-What problems did I solve?
These can be as minuscule as cleaning the bathroom or as monstrous as moving to a new country.  The little things you tackle in a given period of time end up becoming monumental changes over time.  If you go hour-by-hour not, for example, eating junk foods, smoking or directing negative energy towards yourself, these hours eventually become days, weeks, months, years, and before you know it your old habits are so far behind they feel like distant remnants of a former life.  Recounting problems you solved today helps you feel better about your day and make positive changes for tomorrow.

-What am I grateful for?
Acknowledging what you already have is the first step towards cultivating a mindset of 'abundance'.  The more you count your blessings, the more you'll realize that you already live pretty fully and most of your external wants are unnecessary.  Being grateful for where we're at right now allows us to live within our means and be happy with ourselves without having unrealistic expectations or grandiose goals.

-What can I change?
No one is perfect, because perfection is abstract and doesn't really exist.  We each have our own modes of operation, and chances are there are changes you can consider making today to improve your life.  Maybe you want to exercise more, eat better, read more books or spend more time with friends and family.  These are all feasible goals and can be accomplished to varying degrees through compartmentalizing and changing yourself a little bit each day.  Perfection is not the goal.  Comfortable functionality and insight are the goals.  If you want to read a book a week, start by reading 15 pages a day before bed.  Work up by 5 pages every other day until you're reading 50 pages a day.  Before you know it you'll be habitually reading 2-3 books per week without even having to force yourself.  Building positive habits for the long-term becomes less of a chore and more of a continual reward.

Do not judge yourself based on what you accomplished, simply acknowledge your day with as much positivity as you can glean.  Ideally, if you want benefits from these questions, try writing them down.  Writing allows you to organize your thoughts with more fluidity than if you just entertain them in your head.  Good night and good luck.  

Further reading:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Does it Matter?  by Alan Watts


The Daily Zen is written and maintained by a college student in new york city. Your support goes a long way. Click here to donate