Another way to support this feeling of novelty is to aim for acceptance. "Our brain is a fault-finding machine," Sood says. "My goal is that, for the first 10 minutes at home, I try to improve nobody."
This practice isn't limited to family. Try creating a fresh perspective of just about anyone you see in your everyday life, such as co-workers and neighbors, to pull you into focus mode. Sood explains how, after back-to-back-to-back appointments, some doctors run the risk of seeing their patients as problems. When Sood, a doctor of internal medicine, begins feeling this way, he looks at patients in a new light to give them undivided attention. He tries to think, "There's a part of the universe that deeply loves this person and cares for him," he says. "If I carry this feeling with me, I will find this person novel and meaningful."
Gratitude exercises. What are your first thoughts as you awake? Maybe: What am I going to wear today? When is my first meeting? Where's my coffee? Even as we're still yawning and stumbling out of bed, we often dive head-first into default mode. "I invite people to delay that by two minutes," Sood says. Take two minutes when you first awake to find focus.
Try this exercise right now, as Sood walks us through it: Close your eyes. (Well, maybe read through this first, and then close them.) With your eyes shut, imagine you're waking up this morning, as you picture the layout of your room. Now think of the first person for whom you're grateful. "Bring that person's face in front of your eyes," Sood says, "and focus on one part of their face that you really like." Now send them what Sood calls a "silent gratitude," or "just a note of thankfulness that this person is in your life." Do this for a second, third, fourth and fifth person – perhaps someone who has died. Picture him or her happy; try to imagine the color of their eyes. Sood, who is also the director of research and practice at the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, says people often cry when they try this exercise. One man came to tears upon realizing he didn't remember the color of his teenage child's eyes, signaling that he's perhaps spent a lot of their time together in default mode.
These silent gratitudes work for early mornings, as well as between appointments, waiting in the checkout line or during one of Sood's go-tos: stopped at red lights. "I've connected with all kinds of wonderful people in my life – my high school teacher, my grandmother who is no more … you start feeling like you're not missing out on life."