I am not a morning person. I do not like waking up, and I do not like people when I have just woken up. However, that’s no excuse!
Last year, I had to take the bus to university every day. The French department very kindly gave me lots of 9am lectures, and so I often found myself, tired and grumpy, on a jam-packed bus at 8am. My grumpiness really affected my bus ride. I would sit (if I was lucky) and silently judge everyone on the bus; drawing out their biggest flaws, scoffing at their every action, wincing at every conversation they had. I could almost feel the hatred radiating off me. In fact, I have such a bloody expressive face and body language that I’m surprised none of my bus comrades picked up on it!
I knew that this wasn’t healthy, but I needed to reflect upon what, exactly, was the problem with being grumpy on the bus.
- Heavily judging people is never healthy. I don’t think we can avoid making snap-judgements about people, but hating people for simply breathing is definitely something to avoid. It was affecting my self-confidence, because I would compare my outfit/hairstyle/level of intelligence [insert self-esteem issue here] to those of the people on the bus.
2. I have chosen to revolve my life around radical kindness. I knew that 30 minutes of grumpiness was not conducive to living kindly. Compassion can never, ever come from a place of judgement, and so I knew that I needed to do something about this grumpiness.
3. It actually affected my friendships! One morning, I took the bus with my bestest bestest friend and I was so grumpy that, when she tried to chat to me, I snapped at her and told her that I didn’t want to talk this morning. Her friendship and the time I get to spend with her are some of the most valuable things in my life, and I couldn’t let Grumpy Bus Amy ruin that.
This process helped me to realise that it was important to delete Grumpy Bus Amy. (you’ve gotta weigh up how much effort something will be against how much value it will bring to your life. For instance, giving up tea would require a huge amount of mental and physical strength, but would bring little actual benefit to my life, because it’s not so unhealthy and it’s actually a great social drink.) So I tried to come up with a few techniques. These included:
- Looking out of the window instead of at others
- Listening to podcasts
These both failed because they were just avoiding the issue, instead of dealing with it. I was distracting myself from being grumpy, not actually being actively un-grumpy.
- Picking out peoples’ positive aspects, instead of their flaws.
- Practising increased kindness for the rest of the day, in the hope that this would make me kinder in the mornings.
Again, these didn’t work. I wasn’t changing my mindset.
How did I vanquish Grumpy Bus Amy?
With the help of the wonderful motivational speaker, Tony Robbins (because I don’t have all the solutions.)
Tony has an intense morning routine – including spending five minutes in a cryogenic tank?!!?! – but my favourite part is the ten minutes he spends writing down three things he is grateful for, and then actively expressing gratitude for those three things.
I adapted Tony’s technique, and started every morning by making a list of five things I was grateful for, and then spending ten minutes meditating.
It worked a treat.
It was awesome to be reminded of all the amazing things I have in my life, all the way from tea to my grandma (though the two are not unrelated.)
Meditation is always wonderful, and I always feel much calmer and more connected to the world even after practising it for just five minutes.
It was a great opportunity to actually tell people that I was grateful for them! For instance, I sent my friend Chloe this picture, and it immediately made her day.
Hey, it may just have been the extra ten minutes I allowed myself to wake up, but either way, Grumpy Bus Amy was banished to the land of loneliness, and Happy Bus Amy began to make an appearance.
This is how self-improvement goes: realise you have a problem (Grumpy Bus Amy), analyse if it’s worth overcoming (it was), and then work out the best way for you to overcome it (this may involve a lot of trial and error. And don’t be afraid to adapt existing strategies to suit your needs, in the way that I adapted Tony’s strategy to work for me.)
It’s important to be in touch with your own mind and body, and their processes; when you’re faced with a problem like this, just take a second to think about what strategy will actually work for you. For instance, I could have asked my friends to help me, but that wouldn’t work for me in this situation because I needed time on my own, not with more people. Equally, it was not enough for me just to plug into a podcast, because my judgemental thoughts were stronger than the offerings of Freakonomics. Essentially, everyone has their own way of improving and, in order to find that way, it’s important to think for yourself about yourself.
Over and out,