I used to stay up late into the romantic hours of the night, alone with my thoughts and the crickets, while the rest of the world was in z-land. When the morning would come around (as it inevitably does), I’d sleep as late as possible in daily protest – until before I knew it I was late for work or school or whatever thing I needed to get done.
Once I finished school and started working the 9 to 5, it gradually became clear to me that my infatuation with the night hours, and subsequent late-for-work morning routine/panic, wasn’t going to work forever. Of course, I felt some resistance to letting go and changing my routine, but in the end faced up to the fact that I had two choices:
1) Continue my infatuation with the night hours and be chronically late for life.
2) Choose to leave them behind and give being a morning person a try.
While I eventually chose the second option, the change didn’t occur overnight. Over the years I’ve gradually made many small changes to my routine that have made it possible to enjoy the morning hours. Most importantly, I also learned something that surprised me: The creative energy I felt late at night can also occur in the morning hours after I wake up – and in fact the latter tends to be more positively focused as opposed to the angst that can arise when you’re alone late at night.
So how can it be done? The most important secret to the successful change of any routine is to take your time. Make one little change here, and another little change there, and once those things become habits, make another little change – until before you know it, you’re suddenly different than you were a few months ago.
Here are some of the habits I’ve gradually changed which have made it possible for me to fall head over heels in love with the morning hours.
1) Do the dishes before you go to bed.
How long does it take, really? 2 minutes? 3? 5? Waking up to a clean kitchen makes waking up a little bit more pleasant. Plus, arriving home from work the following day to a sink full of dirty dishes is equally unpleasant. Tip: Clean while you cook.
2) Get your morning outfit ready the night before.
Pick out your clothes, iron them, fold them nicely or hang them, and place them somewhere in plain sight. Just seeing them ready gives you a sense of calm before you fall asleep, and it’s one less thing to do when you wake up in the morning.
3) Prepare as many things as possible the night before.
Get your purse or work satchel ready to go; blend your smoothie the night before and leave it in the fridge; get your coffee ready to be brewed (or even brew it the night before and leave it in a thermos). Any little thing you can do will make it that much easier to roll – like a beached whale – out of bed in the morning.
4) Put your phone on airplane mode before you fall asleep.
Disconnecting is important, and while you sleep is the perfect time (because you’re asleep anyway, right?). Waking up in the morning knowing you’ve put the world on hold gives you a sense of freedom that you deserve to have first thing each day.
5) Set your alarm 15, 20, 30 minutes earlier than you think you actually need.
And then get up! I don’t really believe in the thing where you set the alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. I think that anytime you make the choice to do something it strengthens you – and “tricking” yourself out of bed removes that choice in a way.
6) Take that extra 15, 20, 30 minutes in the morning and be still.
Read the paper, a book; sip a coffee or tea. Just take the time, before you head out into that noisy world, to be still.
7) Chug a pint of room temperature water first thing.
The trick to getting more water into your body is to accept that water isn’t a beverage that’s meant to be enjoyed in the same way as juice or coffee or wine or whatever. Water is simply a compound element that every cell in your body requires to function, especially in the morning when you’re likely dehydrated. So just get it into your body quickly and efficiently – and drinking water at room temperature is the easiest way to do that because you can chug it back.
Tip: Leave a few pints of water on your countertop the night before so that in the morning they are room temperature and in plain sight.
8) Try CBC radio or NPR in the morning (but not TV).
This one doesn’t always work, like if you live with someone who sleeps later and might be disturbed. But if you can, flip on a (pleasant) talk radio program in the morning (one that doesn’t have commercials or brassy opinions). You don’t even have to listen to it necessarily – the quiet murmur of voice in the background can be very soothing and a nice, gentle way to start inviting the outside world into your internal at-home world.
9) If it’s doable walk or cycle to work.
Or, alternatively, walk part of the way to work. Honestly, this will make such a huge difference not only for your morning, but also for your entire day. It gives you a chance to ease into the day, to connect with the world around you in a more pleasant way, and to skip the private hell of driving to work or taking unreliable public transportation.
10) Actually make the choice to change and own it.
The thing with change is that part of us may want to change, while the other part resists that change. This causes a feeling of ambivalence, and successful people are those who don’t succumb to ambivalence, and instead push through it until they reach the other side.
None of the attempts to make change to our lifestyles will work if we don’t consciously make the choice to actively start to change – and only you can define how to do that for yourself by stepping back and looking at how you want to improve your life. And then, once you make a clear decision, stick with it. Trust that you chose a path to change that’s good for your overall life, and use that trust as a ledge you can lift yourself onto when the doubts come flooding in.
While I will always look back fondly on my passionate romance with the late-night hours, I must admit that the stability of the morning hours has brought me so much more happiness and productive solitude. Mornings have become a present I give myself each and every day – because, hey, I deserve it.