VITALS -- A Post Without a Pic

Lest my readership (all four of you) take this for a runaway chicken blog, I am now returning my attention to that most difficult daily task -- getting up in the morning.  As any change-seeker knows, it is one thing to understand what has to be changed and it is quite another thing entirely to know how to go about making that change.  Meggan Morehead, a brilliant psychologist and self-proclaimed morning person, leaps into that gap with her model for how to do that which you do not wish to do but know must be done, aka VITALS.  According to Meggan, VITALS is a tool that summarizes the whole of cognitive behavioral therapy in one tidy acronym.  (What is she trying to do? Put herself out of business?)

I use it. I love it. Here it is:

(as applied to getting up in the morning)

V is for Validate. When every cell in your body is screaming, "I DON'T WANNA!!!"take a second to be kind to yourself, give yourself a gentle little stroke on the back, and acknowledge the valid reasons why you do not want to do what you don't want to do. I say to myself, "Of course you don't want to get up.  It's so cozy in your bed right now.  It's hard to move from a state of low energy to a state of high energy."  The critical piece here, Meggan says, is to avoid validating the invalid.  For example, I do not say, "Of course you don't want to get up, dear. Nothing good ever happens out there, anyway.  All of your worst fears are waiting for you out there. Better just stay where you are."  Apparently, feelings crave validation and will only intensify until they get it.  Pesky things, aren't they? Anyway, try a little validation.  See if it doesn't just magically make some of that resistance dissipate.

I is for Imagine.  As in, imagine yourself doing that which you do not wish to do in a peaceful, productive and curious manner.  I particularly like the curious part.  After all, you never really know what is going to happen when you get up in the morning.  It could be pretty good, you know?  I have a powerful imagination and I am alway slightly startled at how my inner vision can be transformed into action. Some mornings this is all I need.

T is for Take Small Steps.  I open my eyes. I sit up. I put my feet on the floor. I go do the morning bathroom stuff. Et cetera. The trick is to take the smallest steps possible so that you build momentum before you really even know you are doing it.

A is for Applause.  This is really just appreciating the hard work you are doing as you do it.  My little dog helps me with this.  He has a face to which I can attribute almost any thought or emotion, so he makes an excellent foil.  While I am brushing my teeth I say to him, "I know, Tinydog. You don't have to tell me.  I'm awesome. Sometimes my awesomeness makes you speechless, doesn't it?" Sometimes for me it is less applause-like and more simple acknowledgement, "See, dog, I'm up."  (Just as an aside, I think it is great modeling for Isaac to hear me applauding myself rather than waiting for applause from someone else.)

L is Lighten the Load.  Technically this means removal of negative reinforcers.  Colloquially this means, "What bad things won't happen if I do this thing which I do not wish to do?"  If I get up earlier, I will not have to run around with an anxiety attack trying to get ready for my day, my child will not go to school peeved  because I was snippy with him (and most likely late, to boot), I won't be late for work, and I won't forget anything essential at home such as my lunch, Ipod, or right shoe.  See?

S is Sweeten the Pot.  I love S. I want to marry S and have S's babies. S is the one that I struggle most with but also the one that gives me the most hope.  If I do this thing, what good things happen to me, either automatically or through my own intervention?  The automatic things are nice, of course.  If I get up earlier, I am in a better mood and have better interactions with my little one.  Very rewarding.  When the pot is sweetened by design, though, we're getting into the realm of brilliance and creativity.  Suddenly it feels less like we are coping and more like we are adapting.  The possible sweeteners are endless.  A favorite for me is baiting my living space with fun activities that I can dive right into if I wake up early enough.  A tiny knitted octopus pattern, a new video game (yes, I have my own Nintendo DS), a charged and loaded camera all prepared for an early photo shoot with the chickens, recipe and ingredients for a new breakfast treat, an audiobook from audible dot com to listen to.  You get the idea.  Just make sure that, whatever sweetener you decide on, it is something that makes your life better and does not undermine any other goal you are trying to achieve.  For example, I would love to tempt myself out of bed with any number of delicious dessert dishes but that would violate goals 3 and 7, "Achieve target weight," and "Eat less refined sugar." Deep in my heart, I believe that S is what is really going to turn me into a morning person and a happier person. 

So, that's it.  VITALS.  You can do one, some, or all of the components.  You can do them in any order.  Just do them.  And tell me what happens.  And I'll tell Meggan. And maybe some day all of our therapists will go out of business.

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