Are you SO not a morning person?iStock/nesharm
Many of us dream of having jobs in which we can decide exactly when we start and end our workdays. But unless you become your own boss, you probably won't have that power anytime soon. Most companies, schools, and government offices in America continue to follow the traditional 9 to 5 model, give or take a few hours. So it's in your best interest to become a morning person. And while you may worry that you're simply incapable of becoming an early bird, that is not true. Scientists who've studied identical twins have found that 50 percent of being a morning person is determined by genetics, which means that an equal amount is within your control. Up until last year, I myself was a capital-R Reluctant Riser. After road-testing all the morning-person tips and tricks I could find, this is what has helped me get out of bed on the bright side every day.
1. Believe deeply in the benefits of making the changeiStock/lzf
Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, fashion designer Tory Burch, Apple's Tim Cook, First Lady Michelle Obama, Starbucks' Howard Schutlz, Pepsi's Indra Nooyi—these are just a handful of the incredibly successful morning people among us. Even if being a business mogul is not in your future, consider these good reasons to go to the lark side. Morning people get better grades (according to a University of Texas report, morning larks had an average GPA of 3.5; night owls, 2.5). They’re more conscientious and proactive at work, which has been tied to better jobs—and salaries. Finally, morning people displayed greater feelings of well-being, satisfaction, and optimism than night folks.
2. Amass enough zzzzz'siStock/Geber86
Quite often, the No. 1 reason holding folks back from becoming morning people is this: They’re just too exhausted to get up early. According to the most recent National Sleep Foundation International Bedroom Poll, 56 percent of people aged 25 to 55 reported not getting enough sleep during the week. So create a sleep-supportive environment. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and on the cool side; declare an electronic-device—TVs, cell phones, laptops, Kindles—ban at least one hour before you turn lights out; and finally, climb into bed at a reasonable hour. If you aspire to wake up at 6:30, your head needs to hit the pillow by 11 p.m.
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3. Stop using your phone to wake you upiStock/Elenathewise
One drawback about relying on my phone alarm was that I'd keep it next to my bed where the vibrating and chirping would interrupt my sleep; making me tired and, thus, making it harder to get out of bed. The other problem: On my iPhone, it was way too simple for me to tap snooze. Even when I moved my phone across the room, it still took me only a few seconds to walk over, touch the screen, and climb back into bed. Now I use a clock radio tuned to an all-news station (and in this presidential election year, the headlines are usually enough to jolt me awake). I charge my phone in another room so that I'm not wakened by its blips and blurts. It was also essential for me to quit the snooze button. Sleep doctors say that pressing snooze is the equivalent of hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. When the alarm goes off again 8 or 10 minutes later, you're at the start of a brand-new sleep cycle, which is the absolute worst way to wake up. You are in what scientists call "sleep inertia," a severely groggy state that can take several hours to shake. Truly powerless to resist? You may need to disable the button on your clock with a few squirts of glue.
4. Take it slow and steady
You need to be realistic in making your morning-person switch. If you wake up at 8:30 a.m. and hit snooze three times before you even sit up, you will not transform overnight into an easy-peasy 6:30 a.m. riser. Even if you can force yourself to do this for a while, the change will not last. Instead, dial back your wake-up by 15- to 20-minute increments at a time. So if 8:30 a.m. is your current norm, try 8:15 a.m. for one week, 8 a.m. the next, and so on.
5. Get outside as soon as possible
Becoming a morning person isn't just about adjusting your alarm clock; it's about re-setting your body's own internal clock. To do this, you need to expose your eyes to bright morning light. Throw on a robe, sit in your yard, and drink your first cup of coffee there; get dressed and go for a walk; or put on your gym clothes and go work out. The third choice was the charm for me; my morning workouts boosted my mood and energy so much that they made me want to get up early. Researchers at the University of Vermont in Burlington found that moderate intensity aerobic exercise improved people’s mood immediately and that these improvements lasted up to 12 hours.
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6. Make a commitment that will hurt you to break
The other way that exercising has helped is by exercising my conscience. I have no problems with letting myself down, but I hate disappointing other people. So I made plans to work out with my friend at 7:30 a.m. Knowing she was standing outside my apartment waiting for me helped get me out of PJs and into my sneakers. Another option: hit your finances. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that people who had money removed from their accounts when they did not exercise were much more diligent in working out than people who were given money when they exercised. Enlist a loved one to fine you when you fail to wake up early. Or use the free, goal-setting website stickk.com to set up such a system for yourself. Want to make it painful? Designate that your money will go to your opposing political party whenever you slip up.
7. Do as much as you can the night before
Part of what makes mornings tortuous is having to complete all those obligatory activities that are either not fun to do (period), or not fun to do under time pressure. I enjoy picking out what to wear and trying on different options, but I get stressed out when I need to figure it out quickly in the morning. Same goes with packing my lunch. But when I began completing these tasks the night before, it meant I didn’t have to race around before work, which meant I could …
8. Use mornings to enjoy something beautiful, funny, inspiring, or delicious
I used to record Mad Men and watch it in the mornings. I looked forward to getting up just so I could see what Don and Peggy and the crew were up to. Now it’s Downton Abbey. Soon it will be the new season of House of Cards. Take any show on Netflix you've earmarked for later, and treat yourself to view it in the morning. If TV isn’t your thing, indulge in the current trend of adult coloring books, read a great book, or tune into a popular podcast you haven't had time to listen to. The key: Turn your mornings into fun time, not run-around-like-a-headless-chicken-doing-chores time.
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9. Forgive yourself
Backsliding is inevitable, so don't beat yourself up on those days when you give in to the lure of a warm, cozy bed. While every sleep expert stresses the importance of maintaining the same waking hours on weekends to make the change stick, I let myself sleep later on Saturdays and Sundays—sometimes even four or five hours later!—and I’ve still been able to get up early come Monday. Experiment with these tips (and others) to find what works for you.