The benefits of starting the day with the sun are many, and reflected in several well-known sayings:
- The early bird gets the worm
- Make hay while the sun shines
- You snooze, you lose
While most of us at one time or another make a decision or resolution to join those productive early birds, it’s far too easy to be defeated the very first morning by an irresistible desire to hit the snooze button “just one more time.”
It’s true that the lure of a cozy bed is hard to resist, but the majority of us lead lives that require morning readiness— the boss expects you to be bright-eyed and alert at that 7:00 AM meeting, your kids need to be fed, clothed and dropped off at school before the warning bell, you really, really want to make it to that break-of-dawn CrossFit class. Still, getting up early can be a lot more difficult than simply deciding to do it. We all have a circadian rhythm—our body’s built-in timer that regulates our sleep cycle, body temperature and other life functions. If you are one of the small percentage of people whose circadian rhythm is firmly set on “night owl,” you will be hard-pressed to make a change. The majority of people, however, are somewhere in the middle: not hardcore night owls, but not natural early birds, either. If you’re in that group, then with a bit of willpower, you CAN train yourself to be a morning person.
Take it Slow
Don’t discount the power of a baby step. Take enough of them, and you’ve run an entire marathon. One of the most common mistakes made by would-be early birds is trying to get there in one night. If you’ve been happily going to sleep at midnight and getting up at eight, it’s unrealistic to think you can climb into bed at ten and get up at six without any sort of bridge between the two. Start by pushing your bedtime and wakeup time forward by 15 minutes. After a few nights, push them forward another quarter of an hour. Keep it up until you are at your desired morning wakeup time. Don’t get discouraged if the first few nights you struggle to fall asleep and are tired in the morning… remember, it takes baby steps to reset your body’s internal clock.
See the Light
When morning sunlight hits your eyes—and thus your brain—it triggers a changeover in hormones. Melatonin, which helps you sleep, decreases; while serotonin, which helps you maintain a good mood and alertness, increases. One of the most pain-free ways to wake up earlier is to sleep with your bedroom blinds or curtains open to the sun. If privacy doesn’t permit this, try a light box or lamp that simulates the naturally increasing light of sunrise. And either way, once you’re out of bed, your first steps should be towards the light. Bath your face in sunshine through the window, or even better, step outside and let the rays hit your whole body. You’ll feel an immediate increase in wakefulness and improvement in mood.
While it’s undeniable that a sunny mood makes it much easier to wake up with the sun, you aren’t likely to change your entire personality. Don’t worry, though—you don’t need to become one of those people who are so irritatingly cheerful in the morning, you want to bonk them with your coffee cup. Still, an improvement in your morning mood is definitely doable. Start the night before with a few minutes spent tallying up the good things about your day—and yes, even the roughest day has a bright spot, which might be as small as a good cup of coffee or a funny message from a friend. Next, consider your plans for the following day—not in a negative, “Oh God, I don’t want to do it,” sort of way, but instead, a cheerful rundown of what’s on the agenda and what benefits those things will provide.
Then, in the morning before getting out of bed, remind yourself of why you are getting up early and what you hope to accomplish in the coming day. While it might sound corny, it helps to phrase your thoughts as what you GET to do that day, rather than what you HAVE to do.
While it might take you a few days – or even a couple of weeks—to master these three small changes, if you stick with it, you’ll eventually find that your mornings are looking a whole lot brighter.