That sound you hear? It is the panged groans of everyone averse to waking before the sun. That groan may have even come from you. Trust me – I get it. It took me nearly a year before waking at 5:00 a.m. during the work week started to sound like a good idea. And if I am being honest, some mornings still don’t make the cut (like when I turn off my alarm before I am really awake … kind of like Tuesday of this week). But it is on those mornings – the ones where I accidentally sleep until 6:00 or 6:15 – where I regret not waking up earlier. Not only has waking up at 5:00 a.m. trained brain to engage with more than my coffee cup before 7:00 a.m., it has helped me to be more intentional with my time in general, thereby helping me to apply minimalist principles to my day. I find that going to bed on time and allowing my creative brain to turn off (something that likes to kick in around 11:00 p.m.) has become the hardest part of the process.
Before developing the habit of waking early I would give myself the minimum amount of time necessary to get ready in the morning. Often I would feel rushed – my hair would still be wet (usually up in a braid), and lunch was something I would maybe prepare as I was running out the door. In short, mornings were stressful.
So what has changed with this new habit of intentionally waking at 5:00 a.m.? Is my life better? Or am I simply more sleep deprived?
I thought you’d never ask …
MORNING WALKS WITH MY DOG ARE LONGER – AND WE ARE BOTH HEALTHIER FOR IT.
In the past, taking my dog outside to do his business – especially in the mornings – was a quick affair. I would take him out once upon waking, and once more before I left for work. Time spent walking was minimal. Having an extra hour each day has translated into at least one morning walk that lasts between 20-25 minutes or more. In turn, he is able to log some serious sniffing time, and I find that both my mental and physical wellbeing have improved drastically.
MORNINGS ARE CREATIVE OPPORTUNITIES.
There is something to be said for the psychological impact of having quiet time before work. Giving myself 30-40 minutes at the start of my day to focus on something that I care about (like editing this article) has become an invaluable part of my routine. Rather than having my entire day centered around someone else’s schedule and goals, I give myself permission to write, to pay bills, to read, and to pray. The reality of this act – this gift – is a subtle way of telling myself, “you matter.”
As someone who has always struggled with being a doer, a people pleaser, and someone who will give, even if at my own expense, it has been invaluable learning how to set boundaries, take time to breathe, and to devote mental energy to my own projects. Even with the best intentions, it is often difficult to come home after expending both emotional and mental energy for 8 or more hours, and be motivated to do more than make dinner, walk the dog, and then decompress. Those 30-40 minutes in the morning guarantee that I have done at least something in my day that moves me closer to both my creative and individual goals.
MORNING COFFEE IS SELF-CARE.
Coffee is something I take very seriously –very seriously. To me, it is an art form, one that should be respected and cherished (cue dramatic music … and don’t judge …). In the days prior to waking up early, it wasn’t uncommon for me to swing by the drive-thru at Dunn Brothers while on my commute to work. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which my drug dealers – err … baristas – prepared my morning jolt, it was an expensive habit, one that had become a reflex rather than something that was a balanced and intentional part of my day.
Now that my mornings are more structured, I truly enjoy the process of preparing my morning coffee and drinking it as I engage in my aforementioned pursuits. In the end, finishing my coffee becomes a leisurely act, and I save over $100 a month in coffee expenses, thereby helping me reach monthly financial goals. That, my friends, is what I call winning.
While these are only three primary impacts of having an early morning routine, there are many other, smaller ways in which this routine has benefited my life. Bottom line – waking up earlier causes less stress. I am incredibly grateful for this part of my day, and I would encourage you to introduce intentionality into your mornings as well. Whether waking up an hour earlier means 6:00 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. (for you night-shift workers), give yourself more time and allow the first few hours of your day to be both meaningful and relaxing. You will thank yourself in the long run.