Last week's article on Practical Good talked all about how waking up early can be beneficial for you. By getting up earlier than usual, you can avoid getting stressed and anxious, and have enough time to start your day whether that is going to school or work. The calm, relaxed feelings you'll get by not rushing around will endure throughout the entirety of your day.
Waking up early is just part of the whole picture, however. While you'll receive benefits solely by getting out of bed a few minutes or even a few hours earlier, this extra time is an excellent opportunity to work on yourself. If you're awake before most people around you, you'll have time to do what you want without any interruptions. For many, this quiet time is the most productive time of the day. It might even be the only productive time you'll have in the morning.
This time for yourself is the ideal opportunity for advancing your personal goals. Having an abundance of free time to do whatever you want does pose its own set of challenges to be aware of. If you're not intentional about how you'll use that time, it's easy to waste it away on something unproductive and impractical. If you're waking up early just to watch an extra hour of television, deal with emails, or go through your social media accounts (which you should clean up, by the way), that's not going to help you get to where you want to be.
Use your morning for personal growth
Instead of using your morning hours on activities that won't move you forward in any way, one of the best uses of this free time is to do things that will fuel your efforts throughout the day. By this, I mean doing things that will nourish your mind, body, and soul.
One solid guideline that works wonderfully comes from the best-selling book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The author came up with an acronym called SAVERS that guides him through his morning routine:
- Silence (Meditation, breathing, prayer, personal reflection)
- Affirmations (Self-encouragement, repeating affirmations for positivity and dispelling fears)
- Visualization (Envisioning how you want your life to be)
- Exercise (Get your body moving and your physical energy flowing)
- Reading (Reading for personal and professional development, inspiration, etc.)
- Scribing (Writing, journaling, gratitude log)
The author of the book spends his morning by taking a few minutes for each of these parts. But don't think that you need to do five or six different things for maximum effect. You don't necessarily have to pack your entire morning with all sorts of activities if you don't have the time. Even doing one or two things out of this list will give you more than enough positive momentum that will last throughout your day.
Everything that's part of the SAVERS routine is a good choice, and you won't go wrong with any of them. But if you have to choose just one thing to do in the morning, here are my preferences that have personally given me the biggest effect in my days:
No matter how well-rested you are when you wake up in the morning, there's a good chance that your mind will begin to race around as soon as you're alert. You might have meetings or work issues that are in your thoughts, or you start to think about the long commute ahead or remember that you have to meet someone unpleasant. Even if you're not physically rushing around, your brain can exhaust you emotionally pretty quickly if you let it.
That's why spending time on meditation practice in the morning is beneficial. By spending time in stillness and silence, you'll be better equipped to control those racing thoughts in your mind. Meditating will lower your levels of stress and boost your mood, keeping your mind sharp and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.
If you have never meditated, there are plenty of resources out there to teach you to begin, especially using your phone or tablet. I highly recommend Headspace for beginners. If you're more serious about learning how to meditate correctly, my friend Thom Walters over on Zen Commuter has a fantastic course that covers the basics and more advanced topics on meditation.
Many of us can't spend as much as we would like reading books that can help us grow and develop. Our day is full of responsibilities that we need to handle, and by the time we have a few moments to sit down and read, we're mentally exhausted, making it an unsuitable period for picking up a book.
By reading early in the morning, you can avoid all of those issues. You'll have enough time to dive deeply into a book, and your mind will be refreshed and alert, helping you absorb and retain the material. Additionally, since you're not tired after a day's work, you'll be able to spend more time reading, increasing the amount of learning you can do. Add the silence and calmness of the morning, and you can see how ideal this environment is for reading.
You can choose to do your reading any way you prefer, but I would recommend reading somewhere else besides your bed. Doing this will give your brain the signal that your day has begun, so you don't start to slide back into sleep mode. If you have a favorite spot in your home to relax, use that. If you're the type of person who enjoys coffee or tea early in the morning, have a nice cup of your preferred beverage while you read in comfort.
Exercising more is possibly one of the goals most people want but never take the time to do. For most, every other priority will push exercise to the side. If you never make exercising an essential need in your day or week, it'll feel impossible to have any time for it.
Taking the morning hours to exercise eliminates that excuse right from the beginning. By making exercise one of the first things you do in the morning, you won't have anything else pushing it aside and will be able to increase the amount of physical activity during the week. You'll also receive a boost in energy and mental sharpness not just in the morning, but during the rest of the day and will help you sleep better at night.
One of the reasons why people bypass regular exercise is because they think that it's a considerable time investment, like having to prepare to go to the gym and work out for over an hour. But you don't even need to step out of your house to work out. There are plenty of home workouts that are short and very effective (my personal favorite is DDP Yoga). If you can't invest money in a workout routine now, YouTube has lots of videos for short workouts that you can do at home with little to no equipment required. You can do bodyweight exercises using a chair or sofa, or some yoga stretches. Anything you can do to get the blood flowing in the morning will serve you right.
What you do in the morning will shape your day
As mentioned, the Miracle Morning's SAVERS routine is a great guideline to get you started. All of the activities described above will help your morning be calm and confident, and in turn make your day serene and peaceful, regardless of the situations you deal with on a daily basis.
It doesn't matter how you choose to spend your morning, as long as you choose the right tasks that will take you to the place you dream of being. We all have goals that we want to accomplish. Starting the day off with fulfilling activities will build momentum that will carry on through every single thing you do afterward. Prime your mind for success, and you will reach it sooner than you ever imagined.
Small steps for your Practical Good
Once you're getting out of bed earlier and have some time to spend on yourself, here are some next steps you can take to get yourself ready for an amazing day:
- Spend time in the morning on one, some, or all of the SAVERS activities. Check the description of the SAVERS acronym above and choose which ones resonate with you the most, and try doing those in the morning. It doesn't matter how many you choose or how much time you can spend, as long as you accomplish it and note how it makes you feel not just in the moment but later in the day.
- Avoid checking email, social media, or any other unproductive activities before doing your new morning routine. Thanks to our smartphones, it's very common that the first thing lots of people do is check their email and social media as soon as they open their eyes. If you do this, make an effort to change this behavior by first doing your most-beneficial activities. Don't feed your brain garbage early in the morning, and your brain will work better for you all day long.
- Read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The Miracle Morning was the main motivator for writing this blog post. It's a wonderful book full of inspiring messages and motivating actions that has changed countless lives. I'm sure that you will find the book to be encouraging. You can also listen to a great interview by the author on Zen Commuter, where he touches on many of the book's topics.