6:30 a.m. hits hard
But it doesn’t have to. I’m not going to tell you I’m one of those bright-eyed-and-smily morning people who have yoga’d by 5am and read three chapters of a Dickens novel, with spare time to whip up eggs benedict and call momma Lowry. In the words of Brene Brown, “A, that’s not me, and B, I don’t even hang out with people like that.” I’m feeling pretty great if I’m walking out the door in some kind of functional consciousness and wearing pants.
Even when I’m super disciplined and find myself pajama’d and between my covers by 10pm, I will lay there until I’ve struck an idea: a new guitar song to learn, or that new Netflix episode, or some overnight oats recipe I saw on Pinterest. And once again, I’m bouncing between the fridge and my bedroom until 2am. For me, awake is always better than asleep and, barring my overworked graduate years, the idea of putting life on hold for seven hours of rest sounds spiritless. So when that damn alarm clock goes off for a fourth time, it’s a painful wrestle between my stubborn sleepy self and my will to be a real adult. It usually ends with me running late out the door in a kind of disheveled panic. But I have resolved to change my ways, partly in an effort to live more intentionally but mostly because I fear for my blood pressure.
I have introduced eight new practices into my routine, waking up an hour early. And guess what? It’s been amazing. That extra time in the morning — being up to before the rest of the apartment wakes — feels like a gift to myself. This time has my nonnegotiable golden hour because it involves movement and mental stimulation and a few minutes of unhurried ‘me’ time. Maybe this will help you, as it has me, have a less stressful, more present start — whether you have a few hours or just a New York minute.
HOW TO LOVE MORNING AGAIN
PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE
Three things I love to wake up to: a clean room, a prepared outfit, and a stocked fridge. I know, it’s the last thing you want to do late at night, but when you have avoided the last-minute rush to find that blouse in the laundry room, you’ll save so much unnecessary hassle. I believe that clean, organized spaces clear mental clutter and allow for inspiration and clarity. So take just 10 minutes and do a nightly clean up: TV remotes, clothes, cups, and books. Pop the dishes in the washer and quickly choose an outfit. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow morning.
Ditch the tech. We’re not at all surprised to hear that light from a screen can interrupt the circadian rhythm — your body clock that dictates the time it takes to reach the deep sleep cycle and how long you stay in that phase — because we’ve likely experienced it for ourselves. When I started this new sleep routine, I set a daily alarm 30 minutes before my sleep time. In those 30 minutes, I go screenless. No mobile phone and no TV. It totally worked for me. I started reading or talking to roommates or stretching instead. I’m plowing through my latest book buys, and my mind winds down like clockwork so I quickly drift off to sleep. I also use an app that tracks my sleeping habits. I place it on my nightstand and it monitors my motion, analyzing when I toss and turn to wake me up at the best possible time of the morning.
WAKE UP RIGHT
Few things pull me out of the comforter cocoon better than a smile-worthy song. Psychologist David Greenberg says the secret to getting out of bed is a song that builds slowly so you wake up gradually. It should have a strong beat and positive lyrics. Also, change it up routinely so you don’t get immune to it. My songs of choice as of late? Check out my Morning Rhythms playlist. Also, Spotify created a morning playlist in partnership with Dr. Greenberg.
As for that blasted snooze button, don’t overuse it. Yes, it’s your saving grace after a late night, your easy way to catch some extra zzz’s before you need to get up. But by snoozing, you start the day in a mass panic with an empty stomach, instead of time to gradually wake up and prepare yourself. I also turn on my essential oil diffuser right away, switching up the blends depending upon the season. Lavendar and lemons, anyone?
Also, make the bed. Admiral William McRaven, author of Make Your Bed talks about how something as simple as making your bed gives you a sense of accomplishment. Doing the little things right in the a.m. motivates you to complete more complicated tasks throughout the day.
FIRST ENERGY BOOST
So it turns out your middle school gym teacher was right. Water is really good for your body. We all know this, but let’s review the specifics: Hydration has a major effect on energy levels and brain function. Studies are showing that even mild dehydration can impair many aspects of the brain function. Water has also been known to help prevent and treat headaches. When it comes your soins de beaute, water improves skin complexion and promotes weight loss. It also gets your system going in the morning, preventing cramps and increasing energy. Since I started learning about this elixir of life, I have committed to drinking a humongous glass of water each morning. In the winter, a cup of tea is always in order.
A word on vitamins: this honestly feels like an indulgence more than anything because these gummies taste better than Welch’s Fruit Snacks. I take Olly’s multi-vitamin supplements for women, along with Vitamin D in the winter (because just the idea of eating sunshine is worth it). There’s also the occasional sleep supplement the night before. There’s back and forth on the benefits of vitamins and I don’t profess to be an expert on the science behind this, but I will say that since I followed my dermatologist’s order to take a daily multi-vitamin and eatable sunshine, I’ve felt more energized and my face has completely cleared up.
They say that many of the most successful people in the world begin their day practicing mindfulness. This is new to my routine, and not something I previously considered worth waking up early for, but trying this has changed my mindset in ways I couldn’t have imagined. As women, our thoughts can race constantly, teetering between manic and full on stressed. Consciously being in control of my thoughts has been an amazing way to start the day. I’m happier, more productive, see things with clarity, and can handle anything that is thrown at me. I’m also better able to fill the cups of the people in my life when mine is full.
In socks and a robe, I sit cross legged on my window ledge. I first think of the things I’m grateful for that day, from friends to opportunities to weather to that cute bikini top I found online. I then visualize all the things that I look forward to that day, and how I will handle them. I also visualize longer-term things I desire like getting a puppy, nailing that dance routine, or traveling to Indonesia. I’m in an amazing headspace by that point. I then redirect my thoughts to my mind and body, pushing out anything that induces stress. I’m shooting for complete clarity. I’ve worked up to 10 minutes and it’s the best use of that small time increment in my day. Starting the day with gratitude and visualizing your desire for successes will help you begin each day with enthusiasm.
MOVE YOUR BODY
I’m new to morning workouts, and I’m still riding that beginner’s high that I’m hoping settles into routine. I’ve found that squeezing in a workout gives me that amazing endorphin high that lingers throughout the day. Since January, I’ve rotated between running, yoga, dance, pilates, and kickboxing. Switch it up because anything that gets your blood flowing and your heart pumping counts. After even twenty minutes of movement, your metabolism kickstarts to burn more calories during the day. And of course, it’s a great way to clear your mind and sleep better at night.
If you don’t have time to leave the house, even only five minutes of morning exercise has proven to increase your productivity and mental state. You can simply roll out your mat at home and throw on a zen playlist or grab your coffee and go for a walk outside.
If you’d prefer not to move at all, do a headstand for two minutes. Who knew that just two minutes upside down can increase your blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen supply to the brain? Sure, you’ll fall at first, but once you become comfortable with the pose, you will find it relaxing. It also boosts immunity and tones your abdomen and legs. Win win.
You know the old adage — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Now I’m the last person to preach this, since I have had breakfast maybe 1/3 of the days in my life. But when I do, I feel amazing. I think it’s psychological — if I have a nice breakfast to look forward to after the gym and before I start into work, it lifts my mood completely. But there’s also verified proof to this too. The anabolic window is a 30-minute period after exercise when your body is best receptive to nutrients and hungry for protein. Your a.m. meal fuels your body when its in its best state of metabolism. So get a full serving of vegetables and fruits for that burst of energy. You’re more likely to go into your day feeling strong and capable.
Another trick I found is to vary your breakfasts throughout the week and that’s where the stocked fridge comes into play. There’s nothing worse than having the same monotonous breakfast every morning, so buy a selection of options at the beginning of each week. My top morning eats are mango coconut chia pudding, acai bowls, eggs and avocado, or my favorite banana, almond butter, coconut smoothie with whey protein powder.
GET YOUR DAILY DIGEST
If I’ve left my apartment without knowing what’s happening in the world, I feel a bit off, and making time for this in the morning helps wake my mind up. That said, my relationship with the news has changed over the years. Sometimes I feel that my responsibility to be an informed citizen and my sanity (and soul) are at odds. As far as mainstream media headlines go, this year has felt like a whirlwind. National and international events have hit a kind of intensity that is either ironic or tragic. How do we keep up without falling into despondency?
My daily digest is a variety of political news, lifestyle blogs and books. Shaking it up allows me to strike that balance. I start with newsletters: The Skimm, The New York Times (loving their Smarter Living column). I casually stay up to date on the markets and global news. I also like to get a dose of other blogger’s writing. I have my favorites (Jo, Frassy, Naomi), and then put a dent in the stack of books that is growing exponentially. Podcasts have also become a favorite as of late (this and this). Also, did you know you can get Siri to read the news of the day to you? Google it.
Write down your to-do’s so you don’t forget anything important. Be realistic and specific, marking your top priorities. You’ll be more productive and have some padding for unexpected time crunchers. I use Google Calendar, which allows me to color code, schedule time blocks, create reminders, and enter locations. It is available on all of my devices, and I can share it with my friends. There is also a task list that I use to add my non-event goals. Seeing everything in front of you will incentivize you to stay on task. Plus, who doesn’t love marking the finished items on their to-do-list?
Should you do exactly what I do? Of course not. But, I hope this will encourage you to examine your morning routine and shift out of default into being more intentional. So wake up, girl. Show your face to the morning. Move, hydrate, eat, read and plan. Then throw on that dress that makes you feel like a million bucks, snag those cheeky sunglasses and go out into the world. No hiding today, child. Get out there and crush it.
Photographer: Sarah Wight