Hello, you sleepy-eyed beauty (If you’re a man, you can be a beauty too).
Mornings are very polarizing, I’ve found. People either love them or they hate them, and I’ve met very few people who are part of the in-between crowd. You’re either an “early bird” or a “night owl.”
Well, what if you’re a “night owl” who wants to be an “early bird?”
You’ve come to the right place, you sharp-taloned bird of prey.
I’m sorry, I’ll stop calling you weird things now.
Awhile back I wrote a post called Read This If You Hate Mornings. It offers some good vision on why we should love mornings, but I realized recently that it doesn’t really offer any practical tips on how to actually have good mornings if that doesn’t come naturally to you.
If that’s where you are, I completely understand. Last semester I had the closing shift at work about four times a week, which means my day typically ended around 3am. I missed morning time every single day unless there was some sort of emergency (and let me tell you, if you woke me up before 11 you had better hope there was some sort of emergency).
And you know what? I missed waking up early. Deeply. Sunrises are one of my greatest simple pleasures in life, and the fact that I hadn’t seen one since summer was upsetting to me.
I missed the feeling of waking up with the rest of the world. Every day it felt like everyone was already two steps ahead of me and there I was, still laying in bed.
Fast forward to this semester. I have an 8am three times a week, and life usually necessitates waking up early the other four days, too. So, how did I make the transition?
For awhile it took a lot of learning the hard way. Here are some of the things that I’ve found work for me through trial and error.
1. Go to bed early.
But did you actually read that, or did you just sort of scan it?
READ IT AGAIN.
THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I was struggling so much to wake up early, and finally I realized that it was for the most obvious reason in the world: I wasn’t willing to go to bed early. I always found some excuse to stay up late. Old habits die hard, and this one is no exception.
I’m gonna speak to the night owls out there for a second: There will always be a reason to stay up late. Of course, sometimes you should. Don’t miss out on making memories with your friends at 1am because you’re determined to wake up at 6:30 the next day just because. But those times should be the exceptions, not the rule.
If you really want to start having better mornings, you need to be willing to go to bed as early as you can…and for awhile that may not be very early, if you’ve been habitually going to bed past midnight. And that’s okay.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, but the majority of us can’t live a functional life staying up late and waking up early. Believe me, I understand the temptation to try. Something about nighttime is so peaceful and ethereal.
But you know what else is peaceful and ethereal?
Not being exhausted all the time.
I know this is the hardest step to take, so I’ve compiled some ideas to help you out with it:
- Don’t try to make the switch all at once. Let it be a gradual process; try going to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier every night.
- Set an end-of-screens timer. The light from laptop, phone, and TV screens decreases the amount of melatonin your brain makes, which keeps you from getting sleepy. Pick a time at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep to shut off your screens and set an alarm on your phone.
- Journal/plan. Maybe as something to do after your screens are gone for the night? The top two reasons I stay up late are because I’m either getting something done, or I have something on my mind. If that’s what it is for you, it might be helpful to try writing. Write a to-do list for the next day so that you don’t forget about what you want to get done, or if something is on your mind try journaling about it. It also helps to pray about it. “Give it to God and go to sleep” has become my mantra.
- Pick something calming to do before bed. Maybe it’s journaling and writing. Maybe it’s reading, or meditating, or stretching. Whatever it is for you, get into the habit of doing that before bed and your mind will begin to associate it with sleep.
Once you have some semblance of a healthy sleep schedule, we can move onto number 2.
2. Start your day off on the right foot.
We’ve all had those days when we wake up and it feels like we’ve suddenly been launched into that scene from Moana where her foot is stuck in the coral reef and she has giant waves drowning her and oh, God, what happened to her adorable pig sidekick? Is he dead?
Maybe you missed your alarm and you have to rush to work, or your family is screaming at each other, or it hits you that you had homework due today and it’s not done.
Basically, we’ve all had mornings that were just the worst.
Sometimes those factors are beyond our control, but mostly we have the ability to proactively create a positive routine and enjoy it day after day. What an incredible freedom.
Here are a few things that I believe are nonnegotiable aspects of a good morning routine.
- Time with God. The effect it will have on your day will amaze you if you don’t currently do this in the morning. Please, please, please, don’t be legalistic about it, because then it won’t be enjoyable at all and it will feel like a burden. Do it because you want to lay your burdens down, once again surrender to the King, and learn more about His Word. I know some of you really don’t have a lot of time for this in the morning, but I would still recommend praying and reading for as long as you can and then having the rest of your time with Him later in the day. I wrote more about time with God in my last post about mornings.
- Power food. Honestly, I don’t love breakfast as much as I used to, but I feel absolutely awful when I either don’t eat it or I have an unhealthy one. You’ve been fasting for at least 8 hours (if you followed tip number 1) and your stomach needs a calorie sacrifice. Try to make it something with some protein and fat so you stay full longer!
- Something enjoyable. What do you enjoy doing? Start your day off with it. It could be listening to your favorite song. It could be making your favorite breakfast or really amazing coffee. It could be (more power to you) going for a run. What is it for you?
Obviously I’m not perfect at always following all three of those, but in order to consider it a truly great morning, I think all three are necessary.
Here are some suggestions for adding to your routine. Maybe don’t try to implement them all tomorrow, but pick one or two that sound interesting to try out!
- Watch the sun rise. This literally never fails to make me feel like it’s going to be a good day. If it happens to be overcast, I found a song that to me sounds the way a sunrise looks. (It’s December by Tow’rs, for those who are interested. But listen to whatever you like!)
- Do one thing that’s been on your to-do list forever. You’ll be amazed at how productive and empowered you feel.
- Get in a workout. Make it something you actually like doing! If you hate running, try yoga or kickboxing or lifting or hiking. There are so many possibilities. Many health and fitness experts agree that doing your workout in the morning will help you get the most benefits out of it.
- Get fresh air. Morning air feels incredible! Try taking a short walk as you watch the sun rise and pray for your day. Some of my best mornings have started off that day. It’s possible I look like the neighborhood crazy lady doing this, but there are days I’ll bring a mug of coffee with me.
- Make some kind of warm drink. If you’re not a coffee drinker, herbal tea is a nice alternative. In my opinion, warm drinks are some of the most comforting things in existence.
- Give yourself a little more time. Wake up early enough that you actually have time to enjoy yourself before you need to start your busy life. Give yourself time to have peace and quiet. For me, this usually means waking up about two hours before I need to be somewhere. On days I have to be at work at 6:30, I conveniently forget about this one.
- Make a plan for the day. Some days I feel like I don’t get anything important done because I didn’t take the time to plan and prioritize. Pick 1-3 main things that you really want to get done, and then make a plan for how you’ll accomplish them.
- Give yourself 20-30 minutes to procrastinate. Obviously this one probably won’t work if you have to be somewhere early in the morning, but on the days when you have a little more time but a lot to accomplish, it can be nice to have dessert first, in a sense. Spend 20-30 minutes just watching TV, or browsing social media, or whatever else you really wish you could be doing, and then get started with the day. This one takes some self-control!
3. Make it a habit.
Building a routine requires building a habit, and building a habit requires consistency. Love yourself enough to do the above two steps for 28 days in a row, and after that it will be second nature and you’ll wonder how you ever did anything else! Life happens, and you’ll have mornings that are less-than-Hallmark-worthy, but we really do have so much control over how we start the day.
I’d love to hear about how you make your mornings great in the comments below!
Until next time,