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How to Improve Mental Clarity with Morning Pages

I tried it for 7 Days, and the results surprised me

Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash

I recently realized that I was operating in a state where my thoughts felt like race cars zooming around a track. My mind felt noisy and it was as if I was having regular mental collisions resulting in many headaches and bad moods.

I fell behind. So far behind that, I was almost in front…

The reality was that I was spinning. I would finish one task, and then remember another task, and then forget something else, only to remember it, later again, often at an inconvenient time. I would dread starting something, only because of how much I felt I needed to still do, and as someone who never used to struggle with procrastination… Well, it snaked its way into my behavior and when I identified it, I knew that I had to address what was happening, as opposed to pretending it didn’t exist.

What has worked in the past is planning the next day the night before for me, but since I’ve become a mom, I’ve realized that my evenings fly past, and even if I was aiming to slip in some work at night, or create time to plan, I would not always get around to it.

Something needed to change…

My method of problem-solving involves a quick mental scan where I allow myself space to try and recall what others I’ve admired have recommended. I’ve listened to many podcasts and read around 10 books this year and when I take time to think about the content I’ve enjoyed, it ends up being prompt to discover something wise or insightful. Coming up with something new requires too much mental power, so standing on the shoulders of giants allows me to soak up wisdom from the wisest and tweak it so that it fits what I need.

In this case, I recalled listening to Tim Ferris talk about an activity called Morning Pages, and then I seem to have remembered Brene Brown mentioning it too. It was as if this idea fell into my mind to explore whatever “Morning Pages” were as a solution to my problem.

I googled Morning Pages and ended up on Julia Cameron’s website. There was a short YouTube video explaining the principal, and it seemed easy enough to follow.

Basically, you dump your mind onto three pages first thing in the morning. There are no rules. You just have to write for three pages.

Also, Julia mentioned that you could even call the exercise, “Mourning Pages” as you give yourself room to dump the negativity that may be curled up in your mind.

I’ve tried journaling in the past, but I never had constraints like a page count and set time. So, I planned to wake up earlier, before anyone else was awake at home, and set a challenge of completing morning pages for a week.

I am going to share how impactful this activity was both personally, and professionally. And, it starts with…

DAY 1: Monday

I woke up rather excited to give the activity a bash, and I was a little grumpy in the morning, but when I wanted to write down my “bad vibes” I couldn’t quite get started.

Being aware of my thoughts gave me a choice as to what I wanted to think. I decided that I wasn’t in the mood to start this exercise off negatively. I also realized that my default is to be happy and I even though I had grumpy dust still in my eyes, my heart was more interested in pondering on the blessings I have in my life. So, I decided to start jotting down what I’m thankful for and then I found myself wanting to have a prompt, almost something to help me set an intention for the day, and I got a daily devotional (that had been collecting dust) and opened it. I found myself writing about what I read and I could feel a deep joy for how I was observing my day starting.

I thought through something that was bugging me and managed to process that in two sentences- which was amazing because I probably would have kept that in my subconscious, eating away at my joy for the whole day if I didn’t create the time to think about it.

What also started coming up in my writing were some dreams and goals that I hadn’t thought about due to how chaotic my life felt. But I didn’t get to explore them because after two pages I had to close shop on the exercise because life had to start. So, I took note that I needed to wake up earlier for day 2, but my day took a different turn because I felt like I started my day mentally calm and joyful which had the most positive effect on how I approached work that day.

Day 2: Tuesday

I woke up before my alarm on day two of this exercise which hasn’t happened in months.

I sat down and again started by being thankful and meditating on the writing from my devotional. I had a moment where I realized how much I was writing about myself… It actually shocked me a little how self-orientated I was, and so I decided to think of others and write prayers and good wishes for people in my life.

Not thinking about myself was so rewarding, and the gift kept on giving because as I started on the third page, I was blessed with a creative breakthrough on an idea I had as well as a clear solution for a problem I was working through. I could not wipe the smile off of my face and I was so happy, not only because of the breakthrough but also because I arrived again for day two and I felt a deep joy for making a good decision for the second day in a row.

I can’t find the words to describe how positively my day was impacted from making time to mentally unwind through writing down three pages. Also, having a breakthrough was so unexpected, and feeling a “win” so early on in the day seemed to subconsciously impact my confidence for activities that were to follow.

Day 3: Wednesday

I had an uncomfortable event happen towards the end of Day 2 that rocked me personally. I’m sharing this because we all get rattled at times, and even though the majority of Day 2 was wonderful, the end of the day was not great. My focus for the evening was on getting over my personal hurdle, which I did, but it took a while, and I didn’t get to my evening routine which involved needing to prime myself for day three.

But, I still woke up earlier to continue this Morning Pages challenge, and I was able to catch up on what I wasn’t able to get to, work-wise, the night before. I was able to sort my thoughts, take ownership of what rocked me the night before, and also take time to be grateful and send loving prayers and thoughts to others. I managed to plan my day and create a to-do list to keep what I needed to do in an organized format.

Three pages were enough space to unload and recalibrate. This surprised me.

Day 4: Thursday

I woke up really grumpy. I was aware that my evening, the night before, flew past without me having space to plan my tasks ahead for Day 4. My shoulders felt heavy with just how much I had to do.

I’m never usually as miserable in the mornings as I was on this day, but I managed to sneak in a smile as I realized I was still committed to this morning pages challenge. I never knew I needed wins so early on in the day, but pitching up was a move in the right direction.

I used almost all three pages to get on track but my biggest takeaway was that the first two days of this challenge were jam-packed with breakthroughs and space for tapping into what makes my heart happy. The vibe changes when I don’t plan the next day the night before- I end up playing catch up and miss out on breakthrough.

But, the good news is that I do seem to catch up in the space of three pages, and this helps me approach the day with a clear mind and hopeful spirit of being able to get through what lies ahead of me.

Day 5: Friday

I started the morning being aware of how strong my feelings were over the past few days. I felt so much joy in being able to have a space where I can choose to work through them, as opposed to feeling as though I was trapped by them.

Time flew, and I could only get through two pages in the time I had to write, but I approached this day knowing what I needed to accomplish and managed to use most of the time to be thankful and open my mind to wishing the best for others.

I got through Friday and felt as though the weekend started earlier than it usually does. My mind felt rested. Usually, on a Friday, I feel heavy because I’m aware of how many of my boxes I wasn’t able to check, but this Friday felt different. I didn’t overachieve by any means, but I seemed to have started my days setting myself up for success as opposed to overloading myself with unrealistic expectations.

Day 6: Saturday

I’ve often watched videos where people say they forget about a challenge that they have set out to fulfill and I’ve always been dubious about that. How can you forget what you’ve committed to and outlined as important? Needless to say, I had a slow Saturday that felt like a combination of fresh air, sunshine, and smiles. I completely didn’t even register that I was tracking this activity and completely forgot to write anything down. I was very much living in the moment- which again, is worth celebrating for me. Perhaps the activity contributed to that? Who knows…

Day 7: Sunday

I woke up aware that I had 15 minutes free before I had to step into my usual Sunday responsibilities and the choice was Morning Pages or 15 minutes of yoga. I’m very child-like in the sense that I get ants in my pants if I don’t move and I knew that I wouldn’t be moving around much the entire day so I chose yoga. At 9:45 pm I remembered the activity and did my first dosage of evening pages. It was wonderful and I had so much peace about what I wanted to bring into the next week.

Final Thoughts

Mental clarity, for me at least, is the difference between doing tasks well or making foolish mistakes.

When it comes to my work, I’m the best version of myself when I approach each task knowing what objective I’m trying to fulfill. This activity gave me space and time to arrive with whatever felt both urgent and important. I could catch up when I felt behind and what surprised me the most was where I was able to go, in terms of strategy and ideas, as well as breakthroughs.

I appreciated the constraints of needing to write in the morning and to write for three pages. It felt, at times, like the first two pages were a brain dump, and the last page was space for breakthrough or planning.

For someone who had a lot of noise in her head before this challenge, I felt as though the activity was a helpful means of decluttering which helped me bring the best version of myself to the day, and this ultimately impacted the person I am when I’m working.

I recommend this activity as a way to organize your thoughts, as well as create space to unpack whatever you may need. If you do decide to try it, I hope that it will be as helpful and surprising to you as it has been for me.

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