Not a morning person? Neither were we, until we discovered these five simple ways to kick-start the day and put us in a happy, productive mood. From mental priming to nutrition (and not an espresso in sight), here are our top tips for starting the day right.April 28, 2022 5:43 pm July 09, 2018 5:08 pm
Just one more tap of the ‘snooze’ button…
We all have a friend who sends us a selfie of their 6am run, or proudly tells us about how they completed the week’s meal prep before work this morning. Who are these super-humans, and where are they getting their energy from?
It turns out that some of us are simply naturally disposed to be ‘morning people’. They feel awake, alert and energised in the morning. Meanwhile, the rest of us struggle to crowbar ourselves out from under the duvet.
A study of 90,000 people found that morning people have some interesting characteristics. 48% of women considered themselves a morning person, as opposed to 40% of men. But it’s people over the age of sixty who are the most likely to be up with the sun. 63% of those over the age of 60, to be exact.
However, less than a quarter of people under 30 are morning people.(1)
Why is this? Well, many scientists believe it has to do with your natural circadian rhythm. This is the natural process that makes you feel awake during the day and sleepy at night, and it evolved with us eons ago.
The circadian rhythm
This internal clock roughly maps our waking activities to daylight, and our sleeping activities to the nighttime. And that has lots of benefits for us.
Your body needs to perform an enormous number of biological and physiological tasks just to keep functioning normally. Some of those, like eating, are better suited to the waking hours. On the other hand, activities like clearing away waste products and repairing damaged cells are perfect for periods of rest.
It also makes perfect sense that your body wouldn’t be efficient if it left its most energy-consuming processes ‘turned on’ when they aren’t needed. So, sleep is a time to ‘power down’, turning off energy-gobbling processes like digestion and muscle contraction.
Your circadian rhythm also keeps you in tune with other periods of time. Women are particularly attuned to the passage of months thanks to the menstrual cycle. We’re also in tune with the seasons; people tend to get up earlier during the summer’s lighter mornings.(2) On the other hand, we all understand, to some extent, the struggle of getting out of bed on a cold, dark winter’s morning.
So, is it the case that morning people are simply programmed that way? Is there no hope for the rest of us?
Reasons to get up in the morning
Fortunately, that’s definitely not the case. In fact, there are lots of reasons why you should consider becoming a morning person.
Morning people sleep better, experience less insomnia, night sweats and sleep-walking than night owls. They also have a lower BMI score, and are less likely to experience depression – although the researchers didn’t find a definitive link between sleep patterns and these two factors.(1)
Morning people are more optimistic and conscientious, and one study on University of Texas students found that they had a higher grade point average!(3)
So it seems that truly, if you want to win at life, it’s time to stop pressing the ‘snooze’ button. But how do you shake the habit of a lifetime?
How to become a morning person
To become a morning person, you have to fight two separate battles. Firstly, you need to wedge yourself out of bed, and secondly, you need to feel good about it.
To tackle the first problem, you need to make some adjustments to your natural circadian rhythm. While it sounds like something that is engrained and can’t be changed, that’s simply not the case.
A major signal that our bodies use to determine whether we should be asleep or not is the amount of light we sense.
You can shift your circadian pattern by adjusting the amount of light around you at different times of day. An easy way to do this is to make sure you get plenty of light in the morning by throwing open your curtains first thing. When it gets to nighttime, dim the lights and avoid bright, artificial light.
Electronic devices are a real problem in this area, because while you might dim the lights around your house, you’re probably still using your phone or computer in the evening. Devices like this emit blue light, which your body associates with daytime. Your circadian rhythm is confused by the presence of this blue light, and finds it harder to let you sleep as a result.(3)
Experiment with banning your devices after dark, or adjusting the light from them to a warmer colour. Plenty of devices have a feature which allows you to do this, and it decreases the amount of blue light your eyes absorb.
Making other changes to improve sleep
Shifting your sleep pattern backwards, so you go to bed earlier and wake up later, is made significantly easier if you follow a couple of other lifestyle changes.
Firstly, don’t drink caffeine after 2pm. It can take hours for the caffeine from your coffee to leave your system, and if you drink it late in the afternoon it’s likely to still be in your system at bedtime.
Secondly, try and keep to a routine. After a while, your body will start expecting for you to wake up at a certain time of day and you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed. However, if you disrupt that pattern with late nights and weekend lie-ins, it’s less likely to stick.
While it might be painful giving up those lazy Saturday mornings at first, it’ll soon stop mattering when you wake up every day feeling fresh.
So, onto problem two: how to feel good about waking up early. Here are our five top tips for starting the day in a good mood.
1. Priming: Setting the mood for the day.
Have you ever turned up for work in an irritable mood, only to have a colleague say, “you must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning”?
While certainly not the most helpful or welcome of comments, there is a kernel of truth to it. The way we feel in the morning sets our mood for the entire day. So, how do you take control of that fact and make sure you spend the day in a good mood?
This is where priming can help.
Priming is the idea that you can influence your own future behaviour by exposing yourself to a positive influence in the present. It’s used a lot in practices like yoga and meditation to help you enter a positive mindset. And, luckily, it’s really easy.
Firstly, you need to take a few minutes to breathe consciously. Be present in the moment and try to focus on only the breath moving in and out of your lungs. If your mind wanders, don’t worry – it’s natural. Simply bring yourself gently back to your breathing if you notice it happening.
Next, bring your attention to positive thoughts. For many people, it’s easy to access those feelings of kindness and optimism by thinking of things we’re grateful for, and goals we want to achieve in the future. Hold those thoughts in your mind, perhaps visualising a time you felt really grateful, or what it would feel like to smash one particular goal.
Taking the time to focus on gratitude and your goals will override any morning irritability and set you up for a great day ahead.
Like yoga and meditation, priming is a practice, and you will become better at it if you do it regularly. So, clear a little time every morning to prime and watch as any feelings of stress and irritation melt away.
2. Reading: Morning exercise for the brain.
Reading is a brilliant way to wake up the brain in the morning, especially if your job or daily routines are mentally demanding.
Doing some light reading in the morning lets you wake your mind up slowly and allows you to begin the day with a running start. By the time you begin your work or study day, your brain will be warmed up and ready to take in new information, while everyone else around you is still trying to wake up. This will allow you to get a head-start on your daily workload, making the end of the day a little more relaxing.
"Win the morning ... win the day"
3. Exercise: Kickstart the engine.
Much like reading does for the brain, a little exercise wakes up the body ready for the day ahead. What’s more, it has benefits for your mood thanks to endorphins released while you exercise.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend hours working out every day to feel any benefit. In fact, a quick 10 to 15-minute workout carries a great deal of benefits. A quick blast of exercise kick-starts your metabolism, energises your body and makes you feel as though you’ve achieved something before the day has even really started.