When I was little, I used to freak out if I was the only one awake in my house. Being alone in the dark is scary for a kid. These days, though, I’ve come to appreciate it.
If left to my own devices, I could probably become completely nocturnal in about two days. I love staying up late, and I could sleep until noon every day if my schedule allowed. I’ve never been a morning person and find the moment my alarm goes off to be excruciating. Those of you who blink twice and spring out of bed with a cheerful, “Good morning!”, please keep your voice down while I remove the welding from my eyes.
I do, however, have a certain affinity for the dawn. Getting up for it is hellish, but five o’clock in the morning is an incredible time of day. You just have to get to it. For me, that usually means staying up all night — and then sleeping in, of course.
People always allow themselves to feel guilty about sleeping late. “I feel like I wasted my whole day!” Or, if they’re tough, they’ll say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” I never understood that line of thinking. For one, you’ll die a lot sooner if you don’t get your sleep, and two, all you have to do is stay up later. Boom. Hours regained.
I appreciate vitamin D as much as the next person, but I’ve always found nighttime to be preferable to daytime. There’s no traffic. It’s quiet. In the summer, it’s much cooler. You’re probably not rushing to get anywhere, so it’s more relaxing. You see things differently in the dark. It’s a different world. It’s a world at rest.
There’s also a special benefit. All of these qualities contribute to a sense of heightened emotion.
Have you ever noticed how emotions are way more intense at night? Whatever you’re feeling seems to increase tenfold. That’s because we are more likely to find ourselves alone with our thoughts at night. During the day, we’re all running around, doing our jobs, talking to each other, trying to get things done. It’s easy to suppress our emotions when we’re busy and have life to distract us. But at night, when the world slows down, and everyone is asleep but you, the only company you have is your mind. Your emotions become much bigger and more powerful because they’re being amplified by solitude. It’s hard to ignore them when everything else is so quiet.
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but I value this time. It’s a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. You can wrestle with feelings, contemplate the unknown, or appreciate something or someone in your life. With no one around, you can give something your full attention. You can focus all your energy into a single thought or project. I’m writing this article at two in the morning, for example. It’s hard to find such opportunity during the day.
It works both ways, of course. Being alone in the dark when you’re happy can be liberating, but when you’re sad, it can be miserable. In either case, though, we should remember to take advantage of the heightened awareness the night provides. It’s a wonderfully cathartic environment. It’s the perfect time to get to know yourself a little better. To sit still, be quiet, and just think. Your mind might teach you things you missed while running around in the sun.
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