We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle
Are you a morning person? Would you like to be, but lose the battle each morning with the alarm clock? You may be able to blame it on your parents: Research demonstrates that our genetics and circadian rhythms influence whether or not we’re likely to jump out of bed before sunrise with a smile.
However, regardless of your “type,” there are compelling reasons to set an early alarm. Morning people have been shown to be more proactive, more conscientious and even more successful. Couple this with the fact that waking early allows you to capture moments in self-reflection and productivity, and it’s quite the motivation to get waking before sunrise.
With four kids to care for and a mountain of tasks to tackle all day, my early mornings in solitude are sacred. I can fit in a morning workout or a yoga practice before my world awakes, setting the tone for a productive and energetic day. Living in Hong Kong, where you have to fight for personal space, I crave people-less moments — and 5am is when I steal them.
You don’t have to wake at 5am to get reap the benefits of being an early riser, but what could you achieve if you were to set your alarm a little earlier?
Here are nine morning rituals that may consider adopting to start your day off right. If you get them all done before the rest of your peers even roll out of bed, imagine what else you can accomplish?
Pour yourself a cup of hot water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Not only is it a soothing and refreshing drink first thing, it also alkalises your system, which is good for your health. I’ve been guilty in the past for reaching for my double espresso as soon as I wake on an empty stomach; nowadays I opt for water first then coffee second — there are too many pleasures I’ve given up in my pursuit of optimal health and coffee just ain’t one of them. And hey, a cup of coffee a day has been shown to be good for you.
The early hours of the day, particularly before sunrise, lend themselves to deep reflection. Your mind is clear, sharp and open. While drinking my hot water or pausing on the mat, I always take a few moments to reflect and connect to the bigger picture. Think about what you dreamt about the night before, what you wish for and the direction towards which your life is moving. Are you on track? Perhaps spend some time writing or journaling in your early hours.
3. Give thanks
In Judaism, the first prayer on waking each day is “Modeh Ani,” which translates to “I give thanks.” What are you grateful for? As part of your morning contemplation, meditate over elements of your life that you appreciate. Stating what you’re grateful for out loud has a more powerful effect on your ability to internalize your words. Indeed, being grateful has been scientifically proven to increase our happiness.
4. Work out
Working out first thing is a sure way to not run out of time in your day for a good and healthy sweat. Exercising in the morning has the added benefit of making better health choices throughout your day and remaining consistent with your routine for the long run. Pressed for time? Try this morning stretch routine I created — it should only take you seven minutes and you will start the day feeling refreshed and alive.
5. Get outdoors
Urban modern living has boxed most of us into buildings and cubicles. There’s no better way to start your day than to get outside. Why not take your workout outdoors, or just get out for a brisk walk and with some happy tunes? Getting some fresh air may also train your circadian rhythm to be more of a morning person.
6. Prioritize your day
Remember that if you do not control your day, your day will control you! Every morning set aside a few moments to prioritize your objectives for the day ahead and tweak your calendar if needed. Ask yourself: What must you do? What should you do? And what can wait until tomorrow? Asking these powerful questions allows you to focus and prioritize your desires. I often review my daily schedule and realize that I need to fit in more quality time with my kids and more time dedicated to priorities rather than urgencies. Can you relate?
7. Train yourself off email
Want to know the most wonderful thing about waking up at 5am? Chances are nobody else you know wakes up that insanely early. This means you can start your day by choosing how you’re going to respond to all the stimuli and emails you receive throughout the day. I used to shut my alarm off in the morning and, while I was at it, would have a quick glance at my inbox. Really bad idea. Now I prioritize all the actions above (and below) instead. Remember: responding to what the world is asking from you instead of choosing the projects you will focus on sets a ripple effect of responsiveness like a cat and mouse chase all day.
8. Eat a good breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal. Not only does it “break the fast” from sleeping, your morning meal guides your choices for the rest of the day. Foods high in carbohydrates and sugars — like cereals, toast and muffins — create a spike in blood sugar levels that inevitably lead to an energy crash by mid-morning. Make sure you add protein to your breakfast and ideal try sneaking in some vegetables — you can never eat enough vegetables. My favorite breakfast is a green juice, sautéed spinach and a sunny side up egg. Strapped for time? Make my vegetable frittata in advance if you’d rather not spend your time cooking your daily breakfast.
9. Hug someone
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily cycle of life and forget about love. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, isn’t it? Hugs get your endorphins pumping, decrease cortisol levels and may even set you up for a happier and stress-free day!