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Taking back the morning

Posted by: Laura Granieri
Posted: October 24, 2019
Categories: Lifestyle & Wellness

I’ve never been a morning person. Even as a kid and especially in my younger years, my parents would turn the lights on and pull the blankets off as I would shriek in horror to greet the day. I imagine that I wasn’t the only one who hated mornings in the Granieri household. As a nearly 30-year-old, things haven’t changed too much despite my efforts over the past decade to finally become a Morning Person™.

Last month, I returned from a trip abroad and thanks to the time difference, I began waking up earlier than normal. I won’t divulge my previously normal wake up time to avoid mass judgement but let’s just say there was juuust enough time to shower, change, and hit the road. On a good day.

So here I was, with the absolute best intentions to return safely to EST and claim my gold star morning routine of snoozing alarms and scrolling Instagram until the last possible minute before peeling myself out of bed and making my way to work. However, our first night back at home, I woke up in the middle of the night.

Glancing around in the darkness, I felt around for my glasses and phone (I have no alarm clock), thinking that I might as well just “get up early” and start the day. Clearly, having always typically woken up after sunrise, I didn’t realize that 3 a.m. looks mysteriously similar to 6 a.m. this time of year. Ahem. The bright screen hurt my eyes as it declared 3:07 a.m.

Okay, so I’ll try to fall back asleep. Because only crazy people wake up this early. But my body was all, “That’s funny, you aren’t going back to sleep and also let’s think about a million different things that don’t really matter” and then all of the sudden it was 7:45 and I needed to actually wake up.

I decided to have a strategy the next day, just to be safe. So I planned to wake up early, which for me, was a big deal. As I got ready for bed, I set two alarms, one for (don’t laugh!) 6:45 a.m. and one for 6:50 a.m., just in case. Without snooze capabilities. Whaaat.

The next day, I ended up waking up one minute before the first alarm went off. Which is actually the worst normally but I felt so energized and ready to get up that I hardly noticed. Weird. I went downstairs and got a glass of water before grabbing a book and sitting down to read. After about a half hour, I made myself some breakfast and then continued getting ready for the day.

As I arrived at work, I felt more prepared for tasks, meetings, even things that just came up. I thought about why that was and realized that taking some quiet time for myself in the morning is a more intentional way to start my days. By slowing down and allowing myself time to wake up at my own pace, I was in a better mood and I didn’t feel rushed throughout the day. 

I think the most memorable part of that first planned early morning was sitting in our loft and watching the sky shift, the vibrant pinks and oranges cutting through the window as our street woke up. And in that moment, I said to myself– I gotta do this more often!

I always heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. After a quick Google search, I found that not only is this statement completely false, but it actually takes closer to about two months to officially translate a new practice into habit. For context, I’m only a little over a month in to this new routine.

So, as I approach my sixth week into this experiment and recognize that I fully expected to be waking up with the birds and singing like a Disney Princess at this point, I know the hardest bit is likely ahead of me. However, I have found that there are layers and small wins along the way. 

For example, initially, the hurdle for me was to rid myself of the gluttonous snooze cycle. After about ten days, I found myself sitting up immediately, putting both feet on the floor, and turning the alarm off entirely. Huge win.

After conquering the snooze button, my goals were different. How else do I want to shape this time for my health and mental well-being? Each day has been different and I’ve definitely snoozed a few mornings here and there, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve learned that shaping your morning routine isn’t always about what the “successful people” are doing. 

Improved personal health and wellness

In the mornings of the past, breakfast was completely unheard of unless I managed to snag an extra 5 minutes to shove a bagel in the toaster. Or maybe dump whatever ingredients were available into the blender for a smoothie. In reality, I was skipping breakfast entirely in most cases. And you know what they say about breakfast!

I decided that the least I can do is start each morning with a full glass of cold water. Everyone can stand to drink more water, right? Depending on the day, I’ll make myself something to eat before heading in or take my breakfast into the office.

As far as physical health, I’m still a far cry from being a 5 a.m. gym rat (or even a 6 a.m. gym rat!), but fueling my body with a healthy breakfast has allowed me to really focus in the morning and through the afternoon. I’ll stick with my evening workouts, thank you!

Time to recharge and nurture

If I’ve learned anything about myself and my needs in the past few years, it’s that I need time to recharge. So since I’m going to be up earlier each morning, I want to do something for me! The first week or so, I would instinctively check emails and the calendar to get prepared for the day. But once that happened, I was instantly in work-mode and was clocking in two or three extra hours each day. Don’t get me wrong, we all need more hours in the work week, but let’s be real– that’s not the point. (Sorry, Blake)

I thought about the things I enjoy doing but tell myself I don’t “have time” for, like reading, cross-stitching, listening to podcasts, etc. and realized that mornings could be the place where I actually sit down and make time for my hobbies. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been waking up, grabbing my water, and plugging into something I care about or want to learn before continuing on with the rest of the morning. And it’s been a complete gamechanger.

Starting my day by learning or practicing a new skill, accomplishing a goal, or doing something creative has really helped my mental wellbeing as I approach a new work week.

Slowing down allows time for deviation

I am a planner. I rely heavily on my calendar and tasks to guide me through my week. While I don’t think that will ever change, I’ve seen myself become more flexible these past few weeks. I used to follow “the plan” to a T and if things shifted, I would spiral or panic. I’m slowly adapting to embrace these shifts and fill the unexpected moments with things that I find meaningful.

Lately, I’ve also been trying to use my car less. With the new IndyGo Red Line just five blocks from our house, waking up earlier provides me more time to leave the car in the garage and enjoy the 10 minute walk to the bus stop. Or decide to leisurely ride my bike to the office. Or even walk! Enjoying my neighborhood and our city at the pedestrian scale is so incredibly different from whizzing by in the car. 

So while I *technically* can’t say that I’ve formed the habit of waking up earlier yet, something tells me that my mornings will continue to evolve and transform as I find new ways to serve myself. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll find my way to the gym in the morning, too.

Are you naturally a morning person or are you like me and you have to work for it? What are your strategies and favorite ways to spend your morning before allowing the ‘busy’ to take over? I would love to hear them!

Laura Granieri is the Director of Communications & Advocacy at IndyHub. She’s always on the lookout for the next social media trend or a unique Indy story. In her spare time, you can find her supporting awesome Indy organizations, riding her bike around downtown or snapping pics of her extremely photogenic dog Berkley. @lauraklaurak

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