I've never been a morning person. In fact, I'd go as far to say that I downright hate them.
It takes me a good hour or so after waking to actually feel awake. Caffeine is nice, but doesn't pack that punch I desire first thing in the morn -- or at least, it doesn't with me. I'll get up for work at 7 and often feel like the walking dead until about 10 o'clock. By which time, most of the morning has already passed.
Last year, I was officially diagnosed with narcolepsy. This explains a lot.
I won't bore you with the details (a post for another day, maybe). But it's only since accepting this and therefore, removing that mental block that's been holding me back, that I've discovered that mornings don't have to be the enemy.
Now, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned work for me. And if they can help me, then hopefully, they'll help you too.
1. Acknowledge that you're awake -- This is a bit of a weird one. Yes, you read that right. Acknowledge that you are awake. If you can get your head around this one, though, then I'm confident that it will change your life.
There are two words that I can use to sum up this method, and they are MIND FRAME.
Your alarm goes off. It's screaming at you. You just want to be left alone. What do you do? You hit snooze and grab another 10 minutes or so. When it goes off ten minutes later, you hit it again. 10 more minutes, you think. It won't hurt. I'll skip breakfast. But when you finally do have to rise, you're no better off than if you'd have crawled out of bed on the first alarm.
I'm not judging you. This is me. I do this dance nearly every morning! It's frustrating and makes you feel yucky. Recently, though I've started using this method to get me going faster:
Sometimes, I just don't care about anything other than sleep. On these occasions, the snooze button wins ;-) However, when I can make this work for me, I feel energised in way that I didn't I didn't even know was possible.
Put simply -- how can you move forward into the day if you're still looking backward at your bed?
2. Like the room that you wake up in -- This one will go hand in hand with any of the other methods in this post. To be honest, it's less of a stand alone method and more of an enhancer. But why do I have to like the room I sleep in, you might think? I don't sleep with my eyes open.
Well, you would be right on that account. But there's method to my madness. You see, whether you realise it or not, the mood you wake up in will set the tone for the rest of your day. And when you first wake up and look around you, what you see will have an impact on your mood.
I like my bedroom. It's pretty small and I'm not the tidiest person in the world, but I've filled it with things that make me happy. This makes my often futile attempts to wake up in the morning that bit more effective. I'm drawn towards the hi-fi to get the radio on. The books in my 'to be read' pile are stacked in the corner of the room, just waiting to be picked up and devoured. But if reminders of looming deadlines, old junk and things that just don't call out to you are what you see when you first wake, it's no surprise that your morning motivation is at an all time low.
Leaving your warm bed in the morning can feel like a big ordeal, especially in the winter. You can't remove that feeling completely. What you can do, though, is make your waking world a more appealing place to be in.
3. Move and stretch -- Some people can jump straight out of bed and start dancing. No, I'm not kidding. They'll know who they are when they read this post. If you're anything like me, though, your energy comes much, much later.
Don't panic. This method doesn't have to be hard. I'm not talking about exhausting workout routines or morning jogs here (although good for you if you can!). There are kinder ways to get the blood flowing and wake yourself up than putting yourself through that.
I'm talking about a simple move and stretch routine.
For my birthday this year, my sister got me a yoga mat. Since then, I've discovered the simple pleasures of bending and stretching, of slowly but surely working through all the kinks and waking up each part of the body, one area at a time. I'm certainly no pro. I have an old back injury and I've never been able to touch my toes. But yoga is not only good for your body, it's also good for your mind.
I've used yoga as an example here, as this is what works for me. However, if you're looking for more inspiration on finding what words for you, why not start with this gentle 5 minute wake-up workout or these 7 energising moves to jump start your day?
Pair this with your morning coffee and you'll be feeling like a human being in no time.
4. Create a waking up ritual -- I've mentioned in a previous post how creating a pre-writing ritual can be an effective way to get more writing done. In the same way, building an effective wake up ritual can work wonders for those of us who struggle to be productive in the morning.
The theory behind this method is based in routine and familiarity. Whether you've consciously thought about it or not, chances are that you have one in some form or another. I have one too and it's more or less the same as what I've had for the past few years: wake up, reach for my phone and switch WiFi on, make a cup of tea, take it back to bed to check email and social media, eating into my breakfast time, where I'll eventually have to sacrifice my own breakfast in order to make one for the bearded dragons before dashing out to work.
It's not very well thought out. In fact, it's almost purely made up of old habits. But imagine how much more effective a well thought out wake up ritual could be if created with the purpose of maximising your morning potential? My best mornings almost always start with a cup of tea, a short yoga session, a good cup of coffee and no social media!
Examine your own average morning and look for the repeated actions. Which of these work for you? Which things don't and are holding you back? Think about what makes you happy. Adding something purely for you at the start of the day can make all the difference to your morning.
5. Let some light in -- Your body has an internal clock that responds to light and dark. The sun comes up and your brain knows that it is day time. The sun goes down, the sky gets dark and your brain begins to shut down.
Okay, you might say. I do that now. I switch on the lights in the morning and switch them off again at night! What gives? Of course, I'm not talking about any old 40 watt light bulb. What we need is natural light.
When you dress in the dark, you may think that you're saving your eyes from a blinding, but in actual fact, all you're doing is depriving yourself of the natural sunlight your brain needs to adjust in the morning.
For those that don't see sunlight on a daily basis, or even just want to be proactive and give this method a good go, you can buy something called a 'natural light alarm clock' to make your life easier. This product mimics the natural rising of the sun, starting by switching on at a low light and gradually working up to a full morning glare. The idea of these ingenious little devices is that by the time you are awake, you are far more awake than if you had been screamed at by your alarm clock. Waking up this way is also said to help you get a better night's sleep, so it's win-win.
I don't think I'll ever be a morning person. I can make them that little bit more bearable, though, with a well thought out routine and a positive attitude.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these methods? Have something better that you'd care to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Author of short fiction and journals for writers.