I used to sigh every time I read about someone attributing their success in life to waking up early and following a sacred set of morning rituals. My boyfriend and I both enjoy being night owls, so our default is to wake up as late as possible every morning and start the day slowly. With lots of coffee.
But we challenged ourselves a few months ago to see if we could rise and shine at least an hour earlier than usual, kick-starting each day with a "Holy Hour," inspired by author Robin Sharma. His morning prescription is 20 minutes of exercise followed by 20 minutes of learning, and 20 minutes of journaling about goals and gratitude. Oh, and this is supposed to start at 5am, so you have plenty of time to get everything done before having a good breakfast and beginning your workday.
Ahem. We still don't know what 5 am looks like, or if it even really exists. But we do get up with the sunrise most days now, and generally follow Sharma's routine. We like to mix it up, though, with different exercises to keep it fun and invigorating. Here are my favorite tricks to make getting up earlier worthwhile:
1. Have a dance party.
Create a playlist with five songs that make you want to shake your groove thing, and really go for it. Move your hips as much as possible to get a good core workout, and use the entire floor space you have at your disposal. Studies show that dancing can even improve heart health, and it's a fantastic way to beat stress.
2. Take it outside, with your camera.
I absolutely love getting up in time to see the sunrise now, because the morning sun gives me gorgeous light to work with. I often post my best morning walk shots on Instagram [https://instagram.com/jazdemarcos/].
3. Play memory games.
One day on our morning walk, my boyfriend suggested we spend one minute studying one of the grandiose heritage homes in our neighborhood, and then spend five minutes drawing it from memory when we got home. We've done this a few times now, and it's amazing to see how different our recollections are.
4. Try different ways of learning each day.
Reading a nonfiction book for 20 minutes is our default, but we've also used our morning education time-slot for taking online courses, watching lectures, and teaching each other about new concepts we've learned from books we're reading.
5. Play with words.
Straight-up journaling is a great practice to maintain but it doesn't come naturally to a lot of people, including me. Right now we're going through Pat Pattison's Songwriting Without Boundaries, which provides daily writing challenges and guides you to craft metaphors and use your senses to make you a better writer and storyteller in general. Doing it with a friend (over Skype, if you don't live with a morning pal) adds another dimension, because you can read your work out loud afterward and inspire each other to reach new levels of creative expression.
This might not sound like fun, and it doesn't fit neatly into a "20-20-20" hourlong routine, but we added it anyway because there are just too many benefits to starting your day off with meditation. If you don't already have a practice, start slowly and have lots of patience with yourself. Set a timer for five minutes or less to begin with, and gradually add more time as you build your meditation muscles. There are loads of guided meditations you can listen to which are enormously helpful if your monkey mind goes bananas the second you sit down (as mine always does).
Developing new habits takes a while. You're likely to fall out of your desired routine now and then because you're human, and because there will be unforeseen twists and turns that occasionally derail you. No matter: don't berate yourself or consign yourself to failure. Simply smile and soldier on: recommit yourself to your new morning habits as often as you need to. Eventually it starts to feel weird when you miss a day, and you'll get yourself back on track easily.
Do you have an unusual routine that gets you in gear every morning? Share it below and inspire the rest of us!