Waking up early has been one of those long-standing goals I’ve had on my New Year’s resolution list for my entire adult life. Every year, I fail. In fact, I don’t even start. But why is becoming a morning person seemingly so hard to do? With a few tricks and lifestyle switches, I finally hacked it. Here’s how I went from waking up at 7 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. — and claiming so much more morning time for myself.
“We’ve all experienced indigestion when eating too much food, but what about thoughts, emotions, or commitments?” says Pedram Shojai, a New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time. “There’s plenty of indigestion there and it keeps us in bed.”
Shojai’s words resonated with me, and I understood that to get out of my snooze-button rut, I needed to put aside “me” time before bed and find a way to manifest excitement for the day to come. I had spent years hibernating at the sound of an early alarm, ultimately talking myself into more sleep. I blamed being a tired mom. I blamed late nights. I blamed the — hashtag — “writer life.” If there was an excuse, you can bet I repeated that excuse rather than shifting my mindset to something more positive. This habitual “putting off” went on for well over a decade, and then I decided that rather than fearing the morning, I needed to learn to embrace it.
“Spend 15 minutes meditating, closing the windows, and reconciling your previous day so you’re not stuck processing old information and being backlogged into the next day,” Shojai suggests for adopting an early-morning lifestyle.
My perspective shifted when I started using bedtime to envision the following morning. In fact, these moments became something I looked forward to as I crawled under the covers. The task of setting an alarm clock no longer brought on dread because I thought about how refreshing a morning jog was going to feel. I thought about the sunrise and a quiet house, and, honestly, I got excited.
Shojai says to envision yourself running through the entire day, with a smile on your face, and succeeding at all that you do; that way, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll have that momentum already in place.
With a new wake-up time in place, I started to jog in the mornings. Using the early morning to take care of myself meant it was done and off my to-do list before my day really even got started. It no longer took up mental space and I no longer made myself feel guilty about it. Also, the energy I had after these morning workouts allowed me to be better focused throughout the day (rather than relying solely on caffeine).
“Changing our biorhythms isn’t immediate,” says Arlene B. Englander, a licensed clinical social worker. “Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week and in a month, you’ll be going to bed one hour earlier and waking up one hour earlier, as well.”
A couple of other tactics that helped me stay the course were sticky-note reminders. Having my goals stuck to the wall of my workspace rather than between the pages of a closed journal helped me remember my purpose. Also, sticky notes force you to be concise. While there isn’t a lot of room for elaboration on a 3×3 square, the sticky notes helped me visualize how the results would feel as if they were happening already.
“Identify why waking up is important,” says William Schroeder, a professional counselor in Austin, Texas. “This may sound basic, but if you don’t know why you are waking up, then you aren’t going to keep it up.”
Really digging deep and reminding myself of both the short- and long-term benefits of rising before the sun played an integral part in committing to this new lifestyle.
Being a chipper morning person still has its challenges every now and then, but I feel more in control of my life and happiness when I set aside the time to remind me of how dreams are built.
“You can’t make everything better overnight, but you can build things into your day that make you happy and worth waking up for,” Shojai says.
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