Seize the Morning
What I learned from waking up early for a week
Waking up early is something I used to do naturally. I used to even enjoy it. Then I had twins. Life as a mother means sleep becomes one of the world’s most precious commodities. I’d happily swap a wodge of cash for an uninterrupted lie in these days. Just sleeping until my own body wakes me instead of my children poking their fingers in my eyes, would be wonderful.
But I have to admit that ‘morning fresh feeling’ and waking up with a bounce in my step (instead of stumbling around with grainy eyes that feel like they’ve been filled with sand), was something I missed. Some of the world’s highest achievers swear by starting the day at 5am and every time I read about their habits, I became a little more curious.
I spend so much of my time working, or seeing to the house and kids that there’s very little left over to focus on me. I was craving a regular opportunity for some quality me-time – so perhaps mornings could hold the answer?
I challenged myself to join ranks with Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anna Wintour and get up early every day for a week. Here’s what I learned.
The first hurdle
The first challenge I had was properly convincing myself to do it. I often say I’ll do something and never get round to it, so actually setting my alarm was a big first step. It felt counter intuitive to get up early when all I can think about in bed is sleeping more, but after my husband told me that I’d never manage it, I suddenly felt very determined!
Getting up early isn’t as stressful if you just embrace it
The only reason I’ve gotten up early in recent years is to catch a flight. At least in these scenarios there’s an instant payoff – a holiday! Setting the alarm for a drizzly Monday morning felt really uninspiring at first. However, I found that if I talked myself into it the night before – making sure I went to bed a bit earlier – that I could hop out of bed with a lot more willpower. I turned off the negotiation button in my head so I couldn’t convince myself to hit snooze, and got myself into the habit of getting up as soon as the alarm went off. Although, it definitely helped that I kept my alarm on the other side of the room and had to reach it before it woke my children...
My confidence boosted
It might sound a little froo-froo, but getting up early allowed me to focus on myself and get my head down on some of the to-dos that had been hanging around on my list for months. It made me feel profoundly more in control of my life. In the early morning hours, with the house quiet and the birdsong outside the window, I felt grateful for making a positive decision to focus on me. Allowing myself to do that and seeing what I could achieve in just one week of early mornings meant I felt pretty darn good about myself by the end of it.
Motivation is everything
Getting up early to watch the sunrise or meditate sounds all well and good, but your motivation has to be indestructible. I struggled on a couple of mornings, but knowing I had specific targets or things I wanted to do with my morning me-time, meant I just about found the drive to peel myself out of bed.
Each night I set myself a task for the morning, from organizing my twins’ birthday party to writing a chapter of the book I’m working on, to following a yoga tutorial on YouTube. As a rule I’m the type of person who looks forward to finishing things, so I found myself thinking about how good I’d feel once I’d gotten all these ‘to-do’s’ off my list.
Sleep is for the weak
I’ll admit it. The first few minutes of waking up early are excruciating. Every part of my body wanted to stay horizontal, but once I’d seen how productive my mornings could be, I started to feel, dare I say, smug. While everyone else was asleep I was getting stuff done, living for the now and packing as much into each day as possible. Perhaps empowered is a better word than smug, but getting up early made me feel powerful and like I was in the driving seat of my life.
Silence is sacred
One of the most surprising things I learned, is just how noisy my life can be. Noise accompanies so much of my day, but my solitary early mornings were gloriously quiet. There were no other demands on my time and attention than those that I put on it. Having this quiet space at the beginning of the day allowed me the luxury of having time to reflect.
By having this lovely bubble of calm at the start of the day, I felt better able to cope when things went wrong later (from tantrums or tough work projects), the things that would usually set me on edge didn’t feel quite so intense.
Good morning world
Getting up early and going for a run was by far the most special morning for me. It was still a little dark outside when I started, and it was genuinely breathtaking watching the sunrise and the colours intensify around me. The air felt fresh, the roads were calm. It felt like I had the world to myself. It was exhilarating seeing the day begin, and managing to get back and showered before the children woke up felt like a huge win.
I’m used to hitting the hay around midnight and having my quiet time in the evenings, so slipping between the sheets at 10pm felt weirdly early and it did take me a while to drop off most nights.
Before my week of early mornings, I’d waste the late evenings watching bad TV or scrolling through social media. By setting my morning alarm, my me-time had more significance, so I actually procrastinated less and by the end of the week I was surprised that I felt better rested than I had in ages.
One of my favourite things about the morning is the moment when my twins come for a cuddle. I have one either side and it’s just the loveliest way to start the day. I have to say I missed these precious moments of toddler snuggles in my week of early mornings. Despite feeling more in control and uplifted, my experiment made me realize how important my previous routine was for my children.
They were surprised and even a little upset when I wasn’t in bed, and kept asking for me to get back in it for cuddles, despite me being fully dressed. Drifting in and out of sleep with my children in the morning is one of the highlights of my day, so I realized fairly quickly I couldn’t sustain an early morning routine every day.
For me, two or three mornings each week is enough. The rest of the time you’ll find me in bed, squashed between two toddlers, with small hands curled around my neck. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
By Ursula Brunetti