A useful companion to morning pages
Read on, or watch the video!
Today I want to talk to you about the evening check-in. What’s the evening check-in? Well it’s a similar but very different companion to morning pages.
At its simplest, the evening check-in is a reflection on the day. While your morning pages are uncontrolled, unstructured free-writing, the evening check-in is more considered. It’s really more like what people would think of as traditional “journaling”.
The first three sides are for my morning pages, and the fourth side is for the evening check-in. I write at the top of that page: “notes / check-in / Q”.
The notes are things that pop into my head usually at the end of writing morning pages. They’re not actually part of the morning pages, just things I might want to do or think about or consider that have arisen as a result of writing morning pages.
The check-in – that’s the main thing I do with this little bit of writing at the end of the day; we’ll talk about that a little later.
Q stands for question – and that’s one of my favourite parts of this writing. If I’m working on a project or I’ve got a big decision to make or I’m not sure about something – what to do, where to go, what to write next – I’ll ask myself about this in the form of a question, on this page, last thing at night before I go to sleep.
Then my subconscious works on it over night, and very often the answer will become apparent in my morning pages the next day. You may have heard people being advised to “sleep on it” before making an important decision; that’s where this comes from.
I’ve also discovered something new… I was watching one of Ali Abdaal’s YouTube videos, in which he was having a conversation with Professor Richard Wiseman.
During the conversation, Dr Wiseman said this.
We asked people to keep a luck diary. And this was at a time and positive psychology, which this now falls under, was around but wasn’t huge. We were doing some work into this. So the luck diary: at the end of each day you write down a sense of gratitude you have for your friends or health or career or whatever. Gratitude intervention. Or the best thing to happen in the last 24 hours, or something negative that used to happen, but no longer happens. And what that means is that you start to build up a written record. And you do have to write it: if you just think it, it doesn’t work. You start to build up a written record of how lucky you are, how fortunate you are, how good your life is, and that starts to then change people’s self perception. And that’s when you start to see these changes in behaviour, changes in perception, and ultimately changes in physical health and well-being and financial success and so on.Professor Richard Wiseman
This kindness/luck thing wasn’t something I’d heard about before but it resonated with me, especially the potential for doing this little bit of writing to have a knock-on, beneficial effect for the other people around us.
What Wiseman is saying is that through this writing we build our own positive self image, that makes us happier, which feeds into those around us. I think that’s a really important thing.
So I’ve added that to my own evening check-in routine. I’m probably going to add now “notes / check-in / Q / L – for luck – or maybe ”L / K” for luck / kindness!
So you might be thinking, why is this important? “What’s the point of this bedtime writing, Martin?” you might be saying.
With our busy lives, it’s easy to forget the positive things that have happened.
There’s something called the negativity bias. This is a survival mechanism. When we make mistakes, those things stick in the mind so we don’t make those mistakes again.
When we were living in caves, we might touch the fire or something like that, it would hurt, then our negativity bias would kick in and we’d think Well I’m not going to do that again!.
That’s stuck with us. So, for example, if you’re a writer and you publish a story or a book or something like that, you might get 10 fantastic reviews and only one bad one, but your negativity bias means that it’s the bad one you focus on most.
The evening check-in is an active decision to pull something positive from the day that you’ve just lived, make that a highlight and implant that in your mind before you go to sleep.
It’s a few minutes spent thinking about successes, achievements from the day. Maybe you just had a nice conversation with someone. Now a lot of people are working from home that’s becoming an increasingly rare thing.
It’s important with the evening check-in to be grateful for just something in the day. What are you going to be grateful for? Maybe it’s the beautiful flower that’s appeared on the canna in the garden. Or perhaps Mr Robin has visited the garden. And what about luck? That could be something as simple as the fact that when I took the dog for a walk we missed the rain.
I really like the kindness thing. It’s a moment when you were kind to someone in some way during the day. What I’ve found is that I’m now looking for moments where I can demonstrate kindness.
That might be as simple as smiling at someone, being polite or picking up a bit of litter and sticking it in a bin – something like that. These don’t have to be big things, but small things can lead to bigger things.
Just a couple of minutes at the end of each day can gradually reinforce our own positive self image, which can have a great effect on those around us as well. All thanks to the evening check-in.
The subconscious mind is a really powerful tool.
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