Rise and shine: How to love the mornings

In Thoughtful’s first (and only!) listicle, I share my 10 top tips for falling in love with the morning.

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who make the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light–

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

Why I Wake Early, Mary Oliver

I’m not a natural morning person. I like a lie in, love being curled up under the covers, and find few things more blissful than a post-brunch nap. But lately, I’m getting out of bed earlier, and actually enjoying it.

You could chalk it up to the buzz of a new year—but getting up before the sun is my pet peeve, and the winter sun in London is a lazy bugger. You could put it down to getting ‘old’—but I’m the same age I was over the holidays when, given half a chance, I slept until mid-morning. After trying dozens of things over the years to make the mornings more tolerable, I’ve just stumbled on the right mix.

The world is filled with tips on how to sleep better, but comparatively little advice on how to wake up better. So here it is—Thoughtful’s first (and only!) listicle—10 top tips to fall in love with the morning.

1. Early to bed, early to rise

Health experts say the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep every night. After about seven hours I often stir awake without an alarm, feeling refreshed enough to at least open my eyes. But—for some reason—only if I’m asleep before midnight.

Figure out how many hours of sleep it takes to make you feel human in the morning, and get to bed early enough that you’re going to get the quantity and quality of sleep you need.

2. Don’t be alarmed

What better way to start the day angry at the world than to be jarred awake by a shrill alarm. No no, that just won’t do. Thankfully, there are plenty of better options nowadays. I use the Rise app as an alarm, and wake up to sound of chirping birds. Don’t like having your phone in the bedroom? Good for you—go old skool: use an iPod dock to wake up to your favourite tune or set a clock radio to your favourite station. If you do use your phone as an alarm, don’t—I repeat, do not—check your emails, news or socials until you’ve completed all the other steps below.

3. Count your blessings

I used to start a mental to-do list as soon as I regained consciousness. But this creates unnecessary stress—better to properly jot down a list of tasks later.

Instead, before you get out of bed, take just a moment to smile and thank the universe / God / your own life force that you’re alive. Waking up is a good thing! It means you didn’t die over night. Aside from death, everything else has a solution.

4. Wiggle it, just a little bit

Now that your mind is awake, take a few seconds to wake up your body. Wiggle your toes. Then wiggle your fingers. Maybe have a little stretch. Now get out of bed.

5. Start your engine

Twenty years ago, my first yoga teacher advised me to brush my teeth first thing in the morning. That’s because the mouth is at one end of the digestive system, and the digestive system is like the body’s engine. The bristles of the toothbrush and the mint in the toothpaste stimulate the nerves at the beginning of the digestive tract to warm up the engine. And to rid you of awful morning breath.

6. Get some fresh air

Maybe, like me, you have to let the dog out. Maybe you still pick up a newspaper from the front porch. Maybe you want to check the outdoor temperature so you know what to wear.

Give yourself a reason to briefly stick your head out the door or window and breathe in some fresh air. At the very least, open the curtains wide. It reminds you there are other people out there waking up too, and that makes it easier to get the day started.

7. Move it

Studies show that morning is the best time for exercise. Personally, I can’t bear the thought of dragging myself to the gym at dawn. But going for a run two or three mornings a week makes me feel healthy and energised. Other days, my body craves yoga and meditation to relax and reset.

Whatever activity you fancy, making some time for it in the morning will leave you with a sense of achievement, rather than dread that you have to come back to it (or be disappointed when you don’t) later.

8. Play some funky music

The secret ingredient of any good morning is music. Sometimes I listen to hip hop on my headphones while I run. Sometimes jazz on a bluetooth speaker while I shower. Sometimes classical on the radio while I make the bed. Sometimes I cue up my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist while I…

9. Enjoy a hot beverage

I’m not a coffee drinker—I don’t love the idea of letting a cup of liquid determine my mood each day. Still, I can appreciate the joys of having something warm to drink in the morning. Lately I’ll pour boiling water over some slices of fresh ginger. If I’m feeling under the weather, I add lemon and honey.

Whatever you choose to drink, make preparing it a solemn ritual rather than a mindless chore—use your favourite mug, put the ingredients together just how you like it, be present in the moment.

10. Breakfast like a champion

You know it’s the most important meal of the day, right? Don’t skip it. Sit down and enjoy it.

Results may vary, but for the past two weeks I’ve been out of bed well before dawn (which, granted, is 8:00am this time of year) ready to start the day. Hate the mornings? Give it a try. We don’t need to write odes to the morning like Mary Oliver, but at least we can have a more civilised relationship with it.


Follow Daianna on Instagram at @daianna.thoughtstarter

Photo credit: Olga Filonenko