I’ve recently started living with a roommate (first time in 7 years).
He’s made me realize how hard it is for most people to get up early.
A literature review of the Google phrase “how to get up early” yields tips provided by everyone from CBS and Lifehacker to Wired and Tiny Buddha.
They all have variations of the same tips: gimmicky alarm clocks, self-training, stretch & light, habits. . . so much old news.
In my experience, what actually works is completely different.
I’ll just tell you what has worked for me personally.
I rise naturally without an alarm clock between 430 and 500AM, and I can tell you that getting up early has contributed hugely to my success in life.
(If you look at the biographies of most insanely successful men and women, you’ll notice a common denominator: few of them slept until 11AM as a regular habit.)
For me, it starts with the following routine each night before bed:
- Turn off all electronic screens 30 minutes before bed
- Sit down to meditate 20 minutes before bed
- Light one candle in the room (room is otherwise very dark) before meditation
- Allow the events of the days, and all my thoughts, feelings and emotions to wash out of me. I forgive myself for every mistake, and dedicate any merit I gained that day through right action, deed or speech to those who are currently suffering more than me. This helps me drain out any residual frustration or anger from the day, and “put it to bed”, tying it off in with a karmic bow.
- If you want more to do in meditation, visualize the following day, and set your intentions for positivity: that you will be of service to everyone you interact with, that you will have calm and compassion throughout the day, that you will remain equanimous, and that you will gain an even greater share of merit to dedicate others at the conclusion of the following day. You will aim to do just a little better each day.
- End meditation. Blow out candle, symbolizing ending the day
- Climb into bed.
I usually drift off within what feels like 5-10 minutes. I give myself plenty of time to have an unhurried “unwind” to the day, so I’m not rushing to get into bed, feeling behind schedule. This will lead to feeling rushed the next day.
If you balance your sleep debt, your mind will automatically awaken you at the right time. I first learned this when I began waking up 1-2 minutes prior to my alarm going off, indicating to me that I no longer needed the electronic reminder.
Knowing that I have 2-3 hours before I have to be anywhere gives me great feeling. It allows me the leeway to choose when and how I will exercise, meditate, pray, and eat to give the day a good start.
And I do believe those are the three essential ingredients of a good start to the day: nutritious food, contemplative time, and movement of the body.
Nutritious food provides you with self-love and self-nourishment, and helps lift your mood and prepare you for the work of the day;
Contemplative time allows you to set a strong motivation for the day, collect your thoughts, review your schedule mentally, and set a firm intent to do your best, whatever may come.
Physical movement allows your mind and body to integrate, warm up, sync up, and releases healthy hormones, while also reducing stress and helping your brain physically grow and sharpen up for the increased demands of the day.
You can also substitute or combine a morning contemplative time with time spent reading a wisdom text or feeding your mind inspirational & hopeful words, images, & sounds.
If you’ll notice, by starting and ending each day with these rituals, we are completely changing the tone of what transpires in between them. No matter what happens to you that day, where you are moved to, or what interrupts your regularly-scheduled life, you know you will have those two bookends: a moment to sum up & release what happened that day, and a moment to re-set your mind and body at the start of the very next day.
Success and happiness in our lives is not 99% physical and 1% mental, as most of us imagine; instead, it is 99% mental and only 1% physical.
When you re-orient your life with that realization, everything goes better — including how you get up in the morning, how you go to bed at night, and what happens in between.
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Also published on Medium.