How to Become a Morning Person
We all want more energy in the morning. We all want to be like those people we see on TV who walk out their door each morning, briefcase in hand, chin up, smiling, just delighted to start the day. We all want more motivation, to feel happier, and to feel good each morning.
The truth is, however, that for a lot of us, mornings can be the most difficult part of the day. We are groggy, we want to sleep longer, it’s cold outside. Ugh.
Being a morning person is something that we all think we are either born as or not. But the truth is, how to become a morning person is something that can be taught. I wasn’t a morning person years ago. I became one after testing and developing a number of easy to form and enjoyable habits each morning. I have distilled them down to the best working techniques and put them into this short guide.
Here’s your guide on how to (finally) become that morning person you always wanted to be.
Night Time is the Right Time
Laying the Groundwork
Before we get into the specifics of the morning, we need to address the evenings. Because the first step to engineering kick-ass mornings starts not in the morning, but rather the night before.
Having a great morning means you need some “me time” each morning — a set period of time where you tell the world to wait while you take care of yourself first, before you attend to it. And if you have a job or class to run to first thing in the morning, it means you will need to wake up just a tad bit earlier.
I can hear the excuses now.
“But I need my sleep!”
I have two different responses to that.
1) Go to sleep earlier
2) Go to sleep at the same time as now and stop complaining
Seriously, stop it. You don’t need that extra 20 minutes of sleep. Being a bit uncomfortable from change will lead to personal growth.
By waking up 20-30 minutes earlier each day and following a solid morning routine, you will be able to take control of the day before it takes control of you.
Also, we all think that we need about 8 hours of sleep each day. While that is the typical average given by health professionals worldwide, it’s not set in stone for everyone. You may function better daily on 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep. Or even 6.5 hours.
Sleeping a full 8 hours, believe it or not, may actually be making you feel groggier each morning, or more tired during the day. You wont know unless you experiment in earnest with different sleep times. Try getting less sleep on purpose for a week (be sure to track the hours) and log how you feel after a week or so.
Develop good “bediquette”
That’s bed+ettiquete, get it?
Electronic devices make strange bedfellows — so don’t ever take your laptop, phone, or tablet into your bed with you. You need to prepare yourself for sleep when it’s time to sleep. Your bed should be a sacred place, made for two things and two things only, for sleeping and… well, something else more fun than sleeping.
The bed is not for:
- Watching tv or movies
- Talking on the phone or texting
- Browsing the internet
If you want to do these things before bed, sit at a desk, on a couch, at a table. But not in your bed. Ever.
Not in the morning, not at noon, not at night. Never in the bed.
Got it? Good.
Ok, on to the morning.
When you first wake up in the morning, when you are still laying in bed, the first thing you should do is get in the habit of forcing a smile. You can read all about the benefits of forcing smiles, including reducing anxiety, boosting your immune system, and looking younger, here. Smiling is going to make you feel better instantly each morning. Get in the habit of putting one on instantly as soon as your alarm goes off.
How do you remember to smile first thing in the morning? Put a note on your bedside table, or anywhere you look first when you wake up, and write, “Smile! 60 Seconds!” on it.
Then, each morning, put on the biggest smile you can make, reaching your cheeks to the sky, engaging your eyes, and breathing in deeply at the same time. It’s not easy at first! Especially if it’s dark and cold and you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. But keep at it. It gets easier the more you do it.
Bring back and hold the smile as often as you can remember throughout the morning as you walk around and get ready for the day.
Make your bed
Making your bed first thing in the morning (not before you get in it at night!), if you don’t do it already, is a habit you need to start. It will bring cleanliness and order to your bedroom, your head, and to your life.
It’s a small step that, if you are not used to, you may not like at first, or find pointless. But getting into the habit of making your bed very well (I’m talking hotel style, folding over the head of the blanket and sheet, tucking all sides under the mattress, fluffing up your pillow) is something that may seem to take a while at first, but with practice you will get better and faster at doing it.
If you walk into your bedroom and see a beautifully made bed, you may be more likely to respect the rest of your room: picking up that magazine off the floor that’s been there for a few weeks, or throwing that t-shirt in the hamper finally. Developing little positive habits like this lead to big positive change in your life.
And don’t forget to smile while making it!
Me time (well, You time)
Next you need a specific Me morning ritual. That is something specific you do each morning that you previously didn’t do because you felt you didn’t have the time every morning.
This part is fun, thinking about what you want to indulge in each morning. Ideally it should be something healthy.
For example, I make a concoction of warm water, fresh squeezed lemon, and cayenne pepper every morning. It’s an alkalizing and cleansing drink. It’s a great way to start the day.
Though depending on the season, sometimes I will switch to drinking tea and sitting outside watching the day begin if it’s nice outside.
Your morning ritual should be something you love and/or something very healthy. Here are some that I suggest:
- Make a smoothie
- Make a fresh pressed juice
- Make fresh cut ginger tea
- Make a gourmet cup of coffee in a French press
Bottom line, make it something that before you would’ve thought “I’d love to do this but I don’t have time” (remember, you should have more time now that you are waking up 20-30 minutes earlier). It should be something that you actually look forward to each morning. It makes a big difference when you wake up looking forward to something.
Get into an Attitude of Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is one of the easiest and scientifically proven ways to improve your outlook on life. And one of the easiest and effective ways to express gratitude is through writing.
In fact, in a study done at the University of California, it was revealed that when people wrote daily about things they are grateful for, they became more optimistic in life and and actually felt better about their lives. And compared to subjects who were asked to write down sources of aggravation daily, the people who were writing things they were grateful for actually exercised more and had less trips to physicians.
I learned a technique from Noah Kagan of okdork.com to write down three things each morning that I am grateful for. I have since adopted this wonderful process to my morning routine.
I simply keep a notepad and pen on my desk (or in my bag if I’m traveling), and each day I write the date and 3 things I’m grateful for, starting with “I’m so grateful for/that…”
My gratitude from today
Somedays you may just be grateful for a cup of tea, or your socks, and some days you may feel more grandiose. Either way, just write what you feel. The benefit of developing this habit cannot be overstated.
Quiet the mind to prepare for the day
Learning to quiet your mind, learning to focus your mind, learning non-attachment is something that every person can benefit from, and in my mind is one of the most important skills for us to develop as humans.
By infusing your day with just a little (or a lot of) mindfulness, you will experience benefits in all aspects of your life, even if you don’t become an enlightened monk (at least right away ).
Your mind is like a puppy that needs training. It starts out untrained and needs to be controlled with a leash and brought back to the center, to the owner, when walking. Imagine a puppy that is never trained to walk properly with the owner, eventually it grows so big it is even harder to control later on.
It’s better to train the puppy early, so that later on it will walk by your side without any problems.
Now you might think that your mind is just fine. That is doesn’t wander ever, that you are in control. Well let me ask you this: Have you ever been upset at the outcome of something? Say, you didn’t get a job you wanted? Or a guy or girl didn’t respond the way you had anticipated? Or you dropped your sandwich right after you purchased it?
If so, you probably were upset, sometimes longer than other times. Quieting and training the mind, among other things, teaches you to remain even-keeled, no matter what life throws at you, which is very helpful, because as soon as you walk out the door in the morning, things don’t always go as planned. You may miss the train, you may spill something on your shirt, someone may honk at you or cut you off.
Practicing presence and mindfulness will prevent negative emotions from arising in you in these (or worse) situations, and you will be able to deal with anything that comes at you in a much calmer, more clear-headed manner. Your friends and colleagues will notice a difference in you, and so will you.
Now you don’t have to retreat to the mountains and live off of brown rice and green tea in order to gain control of your mind. The best way to start is by taking just a few minutes each morning and watching your breath.
So how to start? Very simply:
- Sit down on the floor
- Sit cross legged in what is called the half lotus or full lotus position, with your back straight, and shoulders back (you could potentially sit in any position, but sitting in the half or full lotus will lead to less shifting and fidgeting in the long run compared to sitting any other way — it is designed for sitting for extended periods of time without needing to shift). At first, you may feel the need to move your legs, but after doing it enough times, you can sit without issue.
- Use a timer at first; set a timer on your computer or phone for 5 minutes.
- Breath deeply into your diaphragm/stomach area.
- Some days you can leave your eyes open, just resting them downcast, other days experiment with your eyes closed. It’s good to get used to both.
- Follow the feeling of you breath as it comes in and goes out. Focus only on the breath. If your mind wanders, as it naturally will at first (remember the puppy?), just gently come back to your breath.
Eventually you will be able to follow your breath for the full 5 minutes.
Do this for 5 minutes each morning. You can slowly add a minute each week as you feel you are making progress.
So when will you begin to notice a benefit to this?
Meditation is like running
If you start running tomorrow (and haven’t exercised in a long time), it will be tough. You will be out of breath and you wont be able to make it very far.
Though if you run every day, you will soon notice that you will have better endurance, better lung capacity, and running wont feel so difficult, in fact it will begin to feel good.
The same goes for meditation, at first it will be difficult, you will fidget, your mind will wander, and you may get frustrated at not being able to sit still and keep your mind still. But with enough practice, over time, all of these problems will fade.
You also wont see the benefits of running right away either. You wont lose weight right away and you wont see any real change in your body for a while. But, with continued running, your body will soon begin to lose weight and you will see the results.
Again, the same goes for meditation. We all hear about how people who meditate think more clearly, have improved mental focus, are calmer, etc. Well these benefits, just like those of the runner, don’t happen on the first day. You need to continue to practice and the results will show.
Starting each day with 5-10 minutes of following your breath is a way to prepare yourself mentally for the day and sharpen your mind at the same time.
Eventually you can do another session in the evening, but for now, focus on the morning and start small.
Dance Party/Morning Song
Make a list of songs that get you feeling good, then download them.
While you are getting dressed in the morning, brushing your teeth, or preparing breakfast, play one of those songs, loudly.
I say one of those songs because when you play music, it’s not easy to be 100% present and focus on the music. Music can be a distraction. If you end up playing music all morning, your mind will not be clear.
Pick one song for the morning, play it while you make breakfast, or when you get out of the shower, or while you brush your teeth. If you have a roommate who might not appreciate your loud music each morning, then put on headphones.
Have yourself a mini dance party as you make breakfast or get dressed. Then, after the song is over. Don’t listen to more music, just continue getting ready for the day.
My current morning songs that I rotate each morning are:
- How Do U Want It – 2Pac
- The Sign – Ace of Base
I know, they are totally different songs (what can I say, I have eclectic, if not weird, taste). But it’s whatever gets you going, makes you move, makes you smile. I’ve got a huge list that I can choose from, and it’s important to have many you can rotate, that way your songs will stay fresh longer and you wont burn out on them as easily.
Time to face the day
The morning can be a tough time for many. It’s a time where we are ripped from our oh so precious slumber and have to get up and face the day.
But it doesn’t have to be the toughest part of the day. It can be transformed in to the most beautiful, inspiring, and motivational part of the day.
Other things you can add to your morning is place images that inspire you around you. I, for example, rotate photos of beaches in Thailand and parts of China on my phone. They inspires me to work towards my goals each time I see these photos.
One of my current iPhone motivation photos, taken in China
You can also place positive quotes on sticky notes around your room.
You can also send a positive message via text to a friend each morning. That always feels good.
Or how about splurge and buy yourself an expensive face or body moisturizer and apply it each morning while you listen to your morning song. Then, each morning will become like a mini spa morning before you start your day!
Also, keep a big smile on your face as often as you can, especially as you walk out the door. Make it a habit to smile at the first person you see each morning, whoever it may be.
All of these things can be added to your morning as well. But starting with the basics mentioned above is where you need to start in order to transform mornings from something you need to get through, into something that you look forward to.
With much love,
Ethan and Lana
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Photo credit: ecstaticist / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA