Just to preface, mornings and I have never been friends — the groggy confusion and anger when the alarm clock rings is all too familiar to me. I’m typically late for everything because it takes me about twenty minutes of simultaneously willing myself to get out of bed and convincing myself it won’t take me as long to get ready as I know it will — and then actually getting out of bed. A couple cups of coffee and a few hours after waking up is the minimum I need to become a functioning adult, and I am readily annoyed at the people who are too chipper before 10am. No, I have definitely never been a “morning person.”
But I came to the sad realization that adulting means you kinda have to become a morning person. With a schedule that leaves me busy all day, I couldn’t help but think about how nice it would be to not only be able to function in the mornings, but to also actually wake up earlier than absolutely necessary, and maybe even take my time getting ready or do other stuff like exercise or get work done. Just imagine!
So I decided to attempt to become a self-proclaimed early riser. And guess what — it worked! Of course, there are the obvious tricks like getting to bed earlier to get your 7-8 hours of sleep the doctor recommends or chugging a cup of coffee/Red Bull (no judgment) upon awakening. While those are helpful, they weren’t enough to convince me to get up early and actually enjoy it enough to make it my new routine. Here’s how I, a late riser and sleep lover, actually became a morning person.
Think about how you could use mornings to improve your life, and set (realistic and small) goals
I quickly found out that waking up at 6:00am to go on a run was not going to motivate me to get out of bed, since running is not an activity I particularly enjoy. It’s more like I severely dread it. So when the 6:00am alarm started to annoyingly ring, the excuses of “but I can run tomorrow,” “well I did eat a salad for dinner last night,” and “experts say sleep is just as important as exercise!” convinced me to hit snooze.
So I thought about what I actually wanted to use the mornings for. Not just the idea of “being a morning person” for the sake of feeling like a health blogger or Gwyneth Paltrow, but what would actually help me live a better, healthier, and happier life. After much brainstorming, I decided I wanted to use early mornings for something that is good for my mind and body.
I always wanted to try meditation, so I made the goal to wake up every day at 6:00am, sit up in bed, listen to a mindfulness app, and try to focus on just my breathing before getting up for the day (with plenty of time to get ready and eat breakfast). After a week, I moved from sitting up in bed to sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the floor (aka what all the legit meditators do). After another week, I planned to try a 6:30am yoga class. And turns out… I loved the feeling of moving my body and getting a whole workout done so early in the day. It made me actually excited to wake up and get to the class. I started adding in other classes like spin or barre — things that I truly enjoyed and made me feel centered and energized for my day, so that I looked forward to waking up for these classes. I can now say, not only am I a morning person, but I actually prefer to exercise in the early morning. I know, I already sound like Gwyneth Paltrow, right?
Sleep with your shades open
If you are someone who is able to jump right out of bed and switch the lights on, then major props to you. But that has never been me. The longer you stay in darkness (aka my habit of laying in bed after my alarm clock already went off), the more our body is told it’s time to go to sleep, making you tired and groggy throughout the morning even once you get out of bed. Waking up naturally with the sunrise is actually what our body is supposed to do. Light coming through the window tells our body it’s time to wake up, and it made me feel refreshed and awake. If you don’t have natural light to wake you up, want to wake up earlier than the sun, or are just a tech junkie, try an alarm clock that mimics the sunrise with light.
Don’t hit snooze!
There are two kinds of people: the people who set an alarm on their iPhone, and the people who set five different ones to make sure they wake up. I’m sure you could’ve guessed that I’ve always been the latter. When I say I woke up at “6:00am,” I really meant I set an alarm for 5:59am, 6:00am, 6:02am, 6:04am, and 6:06am. But when we fall back asleep, even for a a minute or two, our body is told it’s time to go back to sleep, as it’s not completing a full sleep cycle.
Even if you think the extra few minutes of sleep is helping you, you’re more tired through the day if you hit snooze than if you got up the first time (science says so). Trick yourself to get up at the first alarm by putting your phone or alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, or using an app like Sleep Cycle that wakes you up when you’re at the lightest point of your REM cycle so you won’t feel groggy and tempted to hit snooze.
Allow yourself some pleasurable time in your wake-up routine.
Though it seems like every successful woman who has it “all” jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn ready to get sh*t done, this just isn’t realistic, nor would it be healthy for your stress. Let yourself actually have time to wake up and enjoy your morning. Once I got used to waking up early through meditation, I started putting on some music and made either warm water with lemon or coffee (depending on whether I was feeling particularly healthy and inspired or just needed the damn coffee), while scrolling through news articles or looking at Instagram accounts that inspired me. This became my ritual, whether I was going to a yoga class afterwards or using the morning to catch up on work.
You should be warned, however: I found it crucial to my morning and wellbeing that I didn’t spend these few precious and quiet moments mindlessly scrolling through social media or playing a game on my phone. Going back to my goals (“do something good for my mind and body”), I chose to read through articles or catch up on certain Instagram accounts because I felt smarter, more aware, inspired, and more creative for the rest of the day. Always do something you genuinely enjoy in the mornings, and it’s much easier to wake up at an ungodly hour, knowing you’re going to do something enjoyable.
But listen to your body and allow sleep when you need it
Even Gwyneth Paltrow has to take a break sometime. When I came to enjoy and ritualize an early morning routine, I learned a lot about what my body actually needed. I knew that on the mornings, every so often, that I had had a particularly late night, was feeling extra sick or exhausted, or my body just really needed the extra sleep, I had to listen to what my body needed, knowing I would look forward to getting back to my early morning routine the next day. After all, everything in moderation, right? Yes, even early mornings.
I hope these tips help you rise and (literally) shine! But, maybe, just avoid becoming one of those people who are so chipper in the mornings that they annoy the not-so-morning-people. We’ve all been there.