I’m not a morning person. Not by any stretch of the imagination! For a long time I just assumed this was the way things were. I didn’t mean to be a grumpy, antisocial person for the first hour after waking up. It just was. You can’t become a morning person overnight, right?
Then I started to wonder if there was more to it. What was it about mornings that were so hard for me, but seemingly not hard for others? Why couldn’t I be the person who hopped merrily out of bed at the crack of dawn and greeted the day with a smile?
Visions of this alternate version of myself flitted appealingly through my mind and I became kind of obsessed with reading articles about ‘how to become a morning person’. The advice, although wide-ranging and useful, was basically the same. Wake up earlier, eat breakfast, do yoga, write in your diary, meditate, shower, set good intentions…and eventually you’ll have so much energy you won’t know what to do with yourself!
And still be at work before 9am? Pffft, yeah right!
The thought of achieving all of this before I set off for my forty minute morning commute was enough to make me shudder. Worse, it sounded exhausting. Still, millions of people can’t be wrong and so I set about trying to change the habits of a life time.
First step, actually waking up earlier…
The night before I planned to start trying to become a morning person, I changed the tone of my alarm for something slightly less jarring. I set it for 6.30am and fell asleep with good intentions.
Then morning rolled around, and the alarm went off.
It wasn’t pretty, let me tell you.
Sure, I clung to my good intention and got out of bed.
Sure, I actually started my day at 6.30am
But my mood that morning was foul. I sat at the edge of my bed for a solid twenty minutes and felt like crying. No exaggeration. I felt shattered, and any intentions of actually exercising were soon hurled out the window along with those positive vibes I was supposed to be channelling.
I rationalised that since this was only the first day, I couldn’t expect miraculous changes but surely I would become a morning person. The key was to stick with it. And so I stuck with it, for a couple of months. And then something did happen.
I got really ill.
The kind of achey, shivery, horrible cold that strikes when you’re run down and exhausted. I was off work for days. Sure, there were other factors involved that contributed but as I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself I knew that my body was trying to tell me something.
It was stressed, it was running on empty and it certainly needed a change.
A Change is as Good as Rest
The core advice in every article about being a morning person that I read was always to find a routine that works for you. And finally, this clicked in my brain.
The first day back to work after being ill, I decided to take things slowly. I am lucky enough to work in a job that allows for flexible hours. So I paused my plan to become a morning person and decided to push my start time to 9.30. This meant I could leave the house a little later and sleep a little longer.
Instead of 6.30, I tried waking up at 7.00. The night before I went to sleep I made some tea in a thermos cup and left it on my bedside table for the morning. I set out my clothes for the next day and also made sure my dressing gown was in easy reach.
Knowing that I had an hour and a half in the morning before I had to leave the house, I let myself ease into waking up gently. First objective, sit up in bed. Second objective, sit on the side of the bed! You get where I am going with this.
Here’s the thing though. After giving myself this half an hour to adjust to being awake I started feeling more alert. I finished getting ready and realised that I had time to read a chapter of my book and sip my thermos tea!
The result? When I did leave the house I felt relaxed and ready to tackle the day. I can’t stress how unlike my usual state of mind was. Usually I have to drag myself to the bus stop feeling angry and tired. Feeling slightly suspicious, I repeated the experiment for the rest of the week. But day after day I experienced the same results.
So what have I learned in this experiment to become a morning person?
Well, I have confirmed that I am not one for a start! Or certainly not an up-and-at it kind of morning person. And trying to change that had a negative impact on my physical and my mental health. By recognising that it’s ok to ease into the day gently I realised how important this was for me.
Since deciding to start my day like this I have discovered that my productivity has actually increased. And my mood has definitely improved. Perhaps surprisingly, I have also started to enjoy this calm morning time. So maybe, in a round-about way, I have actually become a morning person. Just not the kind I set out to become!