“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” — Thomas Edison
Excerpted article was written by Benjamin P. Hardy
10 minutes before going to sleep:
It’s common practice for many of the world’s most successful people to intentionally direct the workings of their subconscious mind while they’re sleeping.
Take a few moments before you go to bed to meditate on and write down the things you’re trying to accomplish.
Ask yourself loads of questions related to that thing. In Edison’s words, make some “requests.” Write those questions and thoughts down on paper. The more specific the questions, the clearer your answers will be.
While you’re sleeping, your subconscious mind will get to work on those things.
10 minutes after waking up:
Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections. Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain.
In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, explains his morning routine to tap into the subconscious breakthroughs and connections experienced while he was sleeping.
Unlike 80 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 44 who check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, Waitzkin goes to a quiet place, does some meditation and grabs his journal.
In his journal, he thought-dumps for several minutes. Thus, rather than focusing on input like most people who check their notifications, Waitzkin’s focus is on output. This is how he taps into his higher realms of clarity, learning and creativity—what he calls, “crystallized intelligence.”
If you’re not an experienced journal writer, the idea of thought-dumping might be hard to implement. In my experience, it’s good to loosely direct your thought-dumping toward your goals.
Consider the requests you made of your subconscious just before going to bed. You asked yourself loads of questions. You thought about and wrote down the things you’re trying to accomplish.
Now first thing in the morning, when your creative brain is most attuned after its subconscious workout, start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.
I often get ideas for articles I’m going to write while doing these thought-dumps. I get ideas about how I can be a better husband and father to my three foster children. I get clarity about the goals I believe I should be pursuing. I get insight about people I need to connect with, or how I can improve my current relationships.
To be sure, you’ll need to practice this skill. It might take several attempts before you become proficient. But with consistency, you can become fluent and automatic at achieving creative and intuitive bursts.
2. Journaling accelerates your ability to manifest your goals.
As part of your morning creative burst, use your journal to review and hone your daily to-do list. Review and hone your life vision and big-picture goals.
As you read and rewrite your goals daily, they’ll become forged into your subconscious mind. Eventually, your dreams and vision will consume your inner world and quickly become your physical reality.
3. Journaling creates a springboard for daily recovery.
People struggle drastically to detach from work. More now than ever, we fail to live presently. Our loved ones are lucky to experience a small percentage of our attention while they’re with us.
But utilizing your journal can curb this mismanagement. At the end of your workday, reopen your journal and review your to-do list from that day. If your morning journal session was excellent, you’ll have likely gotten everything done you intended to do. Private victories always precede public victories.
Journal sessions are your post-work reflection time. Account to yourself what you got done that day and what needs to be moved to tomorrow. Write the things you learned and experienced.
Lastly, direct your subconscious by writing about things you want to focus on tomorrow. As you put work behind you for the evening, your subconscious will be preparing a feast for you to consume during your next morning’s creative and planning session.
This end-of-day journal session doesn’t need to be as long as the morning session. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, recommends writing far less than you want to—only a few sentences or paragraphs at most. This will help you avoid burnout.
A primary objective of this session is to mentally turn off work mode. Just as in physical training, you need to rest and recover between workdays to get stronger.
Use this session to completely unplug and detach from work. This is your time to recover and be present with your loved ones—because there is more to life than work. The higher quality your recovery, the more potent and powerful your creative sessions will be.
4. Journaling generates clarity and congruence.
This keystone habit has so much power. By journaling in the morning and evening, you’ll quickly see what is incongruent in your life.
You’ll clearly see what needs to be removed and what should be included in your life. Journaling is a beautiful and powerful facilitator of self-discovery. My own journaling is how I’ve come to form my sense of identity and path in life.
Not only will you have more clarity about your path in life, but journaling improves your ability to make small and large decisions along the way.
On the pages of your journal will be the future world you are creating for yourself. You are the author of your life’s story. You deserve to be happy. You have the power to create whatever life you want. As the designer of your world, get as detailed as you desire.
5. Journaling clears your emotions.
Several research studies found that writing in your journal reduces stress. These benefits include:
- Reducing scatter in your life
- Increased focus
- Greater stability
- Deeper level of learning, order, action and release
- Holding thoughts still so they can be changed and integrated
- Releasing pent-up thoughts and emotions
- Bridging inner thinking with outer events
- Detaching and letting go of the past
- Allowing you to re-experience the past with today’s adult mind
When you are in an intensely emotional mood, journaling can help you more fully experience and understand those emotions.
After you’ve vented on the pages of your journal, you’ll quickly find a release. Objectivity will return and you’ll be able to move forward.
Without a journal, intense emotional experiences can be crippling for hours, days and even years. But an honest and inspired journal session can be the best form of therapy—quickly returning you better and smarter than you were before.
6. Journaling ingrains your learning.
Humans are bad at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never reread what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.
Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged than when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from unimportant information. Writing creates spatial regions between important and unimportant pieces of information, which allows your memory to target and engrain the important stuff you want to remember.
Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insight while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.
Even if you start a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting your mind toward gratitude.
When you start writing what you’re grateful for, new chambers of thought open in the palace of your mind. You’ll often need to put your pen down and take a few breaths. You’ll be captivated not only by the amazing things in your life, but by the awe and brilliance of life in general.
As part of your morning and post-work journaling sessions, be sure to include some gratitude in your writing. It will change your life orientation from scarcity to abundance. The world will increasingly “become your oyster.”
Gratitude journaling is a scientifically proven way to overcome several psychological challenges. The benefits are seemingly endless. Here are just a few:
8. Journaling unfolds the writer in you.
I became a writer through journaling. While I was on a mission-trip, I wrote in my journal for one to two hours per day. I got lost in flow and fell in love with the writing process.
If you want to become a writer one day, start by journaling. Journaling can help you:
- Develop strong writing habits.
- Help you discover your voice.
- Clear your mind and crystalizes your ideas.
- Get closer to the 10,000 hours Malcom Gladwell says are required to become world-class at what you do.
- Produce gems you could use in your other writing.
9. Journaling records your life history.
I started journaling in 2008 after reading an article about the importance of journal writing. In the article, the author described how much journaling had changed her life. She said after all these years, she now has 38 recorded volumes of personal and family history.
After finishing that article, I have never stopped writing in my journal. In my family room on a bookshelf are 20-plus journals filled with my thoughts and experiences. I’m certain they will be cherished by my ancestors as I’ve cherished the writing of my loved ones who have passed on.
This post originally appeared on BenjaminHardy.com.