The morning is, without question, the most wonderful time of day. It is the time when—after a long, dark night—our land turns to greet the sun and we’re blessed with warmth and light as it peeks over the horizon. Whatever uncertainty lay in the night’s gloom is instantly banished in the hope of a new day.
Are you convinced?
For most of my life, I wasn’t either.
The Sun and your Circadian Rhythm
The sun is a life-giver; beautiful; sacred. It is also only as beautiful and sacred as our ability to perceive it. In the morning, the sun is there. It may be hidden behind clouds, but clouds are passing. The sun is still there; go out and greet it! Your body will react in very interesting ways.
Your circadian rhythm (from the Latin circa, around, and diem, day) is the physical, mental, and emotional cycle your body routinely goes through every 24 hours. This rhythm is intimately tied to our environments, and the sun is a major stimulus regulating our bodily functions. Being awake to greet the sun every morning helps harmonize our bodies with our environments, regulating our circadian rhythms so we feel awake and focused during the day, and sleepy at night.
If you’re like most people, life keeps you quite busy. The only time we find for ourselves are either the moments before work in the morning, or late at night before bed. These are the times when we don’t have “plans”, but are free to pursue whatever we need at that moment: a shower, a good book, quality time with a loved one… anything. This is “me” time. We have both the morning and the evening for me time, so, what makes the morning so special?
Our energy levels vary greatly over the course of the day. This extremely scientific graph will illustrate:
The average person wakes up with a decent amount of energy, and energy levels increase until about noon, at which point it plateaus and then slowly dips. There’s often a spike sometime around 6pm, but generally, the time before noon has the most potential for productivity because it’s in sync with our body’s circadian rhythms. Using the morning for me time—giving this time to yourself—is the greatest gift to yourself because not only are you dedicating the more energetic time to nurturing yourself and doing what’s best for you… you’re also literally putting yourself first. Your needs come before your job, your house… even your friends and family.
With a good morning routine, you’ll be able to start the day happy and centered. By taking your me time first, you’re ensuring that your own needs are met before trying to meet the needs and demands of others. I’m a strong believer of learning to love yourself first, because it teaches you how to love others without needing them to love you back. You can’t love others if you don’t have any love to give, right? Use your me time to love yourself, giving yourself whatever it is you need.
Morning Game Plan
With some shifts in behaviour—that can be implemented today—you’ll be able to quickly awaken your energy levels each morning. I could tell you to go to bed earlier, but personally, I find it more effective to skip the prep and just wake up earlier the first time. Although this will be rough the first couple of mornings, your evening rhythms will naturally begin to shift to an earlier bedtime.
After months of practicing being a morning person, here is the routine I find most effective for waking up quickly and enjoying a productive, positive, and peaceful morning:
- Wake up early (between 5:00–6:00am). If you’re using an alarm, remember to wake up as soon as it rings. Do not snooze.
- Begin your day with a 20-min meditation, sitting cross-legged on the bed. Sitting will ensure you don’t fall asleep, and give you the chance to think about your day or just clear your thoughts. This was the key to enjoying mornings for me; early morning quiet is very conducive to feeling calm and planning the day well. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to remember your dreams more easily.
- After meditating, do some light stretches/exercise. This is not to break a sweat, just to get the blood flowing. My workout of choice is “The 5 Tibetans”—also known as the fountain of youth routine—because it’s quick and targets all major muscle groups.
- Here comes the hard part. After stretching, hop into a cold shower. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months, and it’s already completely upped my morning game. Keep it lukewarm until your body’s all wet, then switch to cold and enjoy for about 3 minutes. Start with your head—that seems to be most tolerant to cold water—and the rest of the body will follow more easily. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply; this sends the message to your body that you’re safe and should get used to the new environment. Keep your muscles as relaxed as possible, and enjoy the ride!
- Healthy, protein-rich breakfast: Tea, eggs, toast, almonds, banana… the works.
Normally, my partner will be waking up just as I hop into the cold shower, so when I’m done 3–4 minutes later we’ll prepare breakfast together and chit-chat the rest of the morning. I feel fantastic at this point, and already have a clear idea of my plans for the day.
Consider this: you are the only person that you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with. You should treat yourself with as much love and respect as you can muster. These simple healthy and productive habits will enhance your relationship with yourself, which is the most important relationship you’ve got. Love yourself; spoil yourself. The morning sets the tone for the rest of your day; so spend it treating yourself right. You deserve it.
These morning practices have transformed me from “late riser” to “morning person” and help me approach each day focused, healthy, and excited. Tomorrow morning, I hope you’ll give it a try. Feel free to adjust this to your specific needs, and add/remove items as necessary. I’d love to hear about your routine in the comments; the idea is to help each of us bring more of ourselves to life each day.
Good luck, and good morning!
- Earl Nightingale, Lead the Field
- Christopher S. Kilham, The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy, and Personal Power
- @andrarchy, Cold Showers: Why/How to Take Them