Here’s a big trend that I’d say is rather out of order in our current state of modern day society:
Waking up in the morning and feeling completely unenthusiastic about starting the day is considered to be the acceptable norm.
“Mornings are hard.”
So many of this think and feel this exact statement every day without even having to say it to ourselves.
Never mind the fact that we’re more privileged and abundant in this day and age than ever before — almost all of us perceive those first few minutes (and maybe even hours) of our waking state to be one of the most lackluster, humdrum parts of our 24-hour cycle.
And we’ve been conditioned to be okay with this.
We see it portrayed by fictional characters on TV, in product/service advertising, on everyone’s faces during the morning rush hour on the subway, in BuzzFeed listicles, in our Starbucks barista’s body language, and everywhere in between.
Because if everyone else is just kind of bleh in the morning (if not completely miserable about having to be conscious at all), then that part of our brain that seeks out social reward from our intense evolutionary desire to fit in with our “tribe” will find some sense of relief and satisfaction in this relatable morning monotony.
And it’s not just night owls — morning people may not experience as much mental or physical pain in waking up as night owls do, but a lot of them aren’t exactly beaming with passion when they have to start their day.
To make matters worse, we’ve become so used to blaming other parts of our lives on why waking up sort of just really sucks.
If it’s not our mundane jobs, it’s our inability to pursue one that’s more rewarding.
If it’s not our 50-hour workweeks, then it’s work-related stress.
If it’s not our bad heating habits, then it’s our lack of exercise.
If it’s not our trouble with getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, then it’s the poor quality of sleep we’re probably getting.
If only all of the above could be fixed, maybe then waking up wouldn’t be so bad, right?
I certainly thought so.
I love and am grateful for the work I get to do every day, I work hard to take care of my health, I sleep great, I’m not chronically stressed out… and yet I still always seemed to struggle with waking up in the morning and feeling excited about starting the day.
The words “ugh” and “meh” really would come to mind (as if those are even words) when I’d have to wake up.
In fact, I’ve always had a terrible habit of slamming the snooze button on my alarm clock repeatedly — even if I used the old “put it on the other side of the room” trick.
I’d literally get out of bed, walk over to shut it off, walk back over, collapse back into my bed and lie to myself that I’d actually get up, like, soonish.
Guess what I figured out what was wrong with this picture?
It didn’t really matter how bad or good the rest of my daily habits were that apparently influence sleep — my negative morning outlook was really just a bad, standalone habit that I developed subconsciously over a period of time.
That’s all it was.
And the only reason I had it was because it’s just natural for those first few seconds of coming back to a conscious state after an entire night’s sleep to still be extremely low overall on the consciousness scale, making it really hard hard to gain any significant awareness and control at all over what the mind and body want to do (keep sleeping).
So if the mind and body’s default morning state becomes identified with pain, discomfort, and general negativity, and if you have super low awareness in the morning (which most of us do), then that’s how it’s going to be pretty much every day.
Almost everything you do day-to-day is just a hard-wired habit, including what you think and feel when you wake up.
While things like your job, stress, health and personal life definitely influence how you feel when you wake up, the way you perceive each morning can be seen as a completely separate habit that gets programmed into your mind over time and then often stays that way regardless of how effective you are at perfecting all those other things that tend to impact sleep and your ability to wake up.
So, here are two things that I’d recommend to anyone who’s mornings are controlled by mild negativity and the snooze button:
- Get over the fact that you shouldn’t have to settle for a blah and miserable wake up habit just because society convinces you that it’s a standard trend, and set your intention to make waking up an extremely positive experience.
- Start targeting your morning wake up habit as a direct, standalone habit instead of trying to fix everything else in your life and expecting it to take care of how you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Going from blah and miserable to passionate and exhilarated in the morning is simpler than you might expect.
I’ve done it, so far it’s really sticking, and now I’m just working toward shifting my sleep cycle so that I can get up earlier.
That’s right — I’ve been a pessimistic person plus a true night owl for the better part of my life, and now I consistently wake up happy.
Not just neutral and satisfied, but actually happy and totally exhilarated.
There are two simple techniques I used to target and change my regular wake up habit that anyone else can do too.
The first thing you need to do is change the sound on your alarm clock, and the reason why you need to do this is because you subconsciously associate the current sound you wake up to with the thoughts, feelings, and actions of your old habit.
For years, I woke up to the same song: “Lady” by Modjo.
This is a damn good song, and I gotta say, it’s a heck of a lot better than waking up to some obnoxious buzzing or beeping sound.
But over the years this song has become so deeply ingrained in my mind as part of my regular, lame wake up routine that it now automatically triggers my old morning wake up habits practically no matter what.
It has literally become the song that triggers me to hit snooze repeatedly, even when I’m well rested.
How messed up is that?
If you wake up to an alarm clock too, then the sound you currently wake up to is the trigger for your bad wake up habit as well — even if you don’t know it.
So what do we do?
We change the song or the sound.
I recommend getting one of those fancier alarm clocks that can work with an iPod so you can choose a song from your music library, or get one that comes loaded up with sounds of birds singing, crickets chirping, or ocean waves rolling up on the shore.
A good song or a pleasant sound that invokes positive feelings right off the bat just makes it way easier for you to associate it with the positive thoughts and feelings you want to instantly have in the morning.
Now that I wake up to “Money Can’t Buy Me Happiness” by early 2000s Canadian rapper Jelleestone (lol, I’m being serious), there’s absolutely no trigger for my old habit.
Since there was no association in my mind for this song to trigger a specific habit, I could intentionally craft it to be whatever I wanted.
And so I did.
I wanted to feel refreshed, happy, grateful, excited and exhilarated as soon as that ridiculously awesome song came on in the morning.
And this leads me to introduce the second technique.
The second thing you need to do to make morning exhilaration a new hard-wired habit is start practicing it.
Believe it or not, the best way to practice is by literally faking your wake up routine repeatedly and acting as if you already feel the way you want to feel in the morning.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Pick a time of day when you can practice this in your bedroom for at least 10 to 20 minutes.
- Set your alarm to go off within 1 to 5 minutes.
- Pretend to actually go to bed by getting under the covers, getting comfortable as if you were actually going to sleep, and closing your eyes.
- When your alarm goes off a couple minutes later, immediately get up, jump out of bed, and start totally exaggerating the positive thoughts you wish you’d automatically think — even if it feels totally fake and phoney.
- Repeat this 3 to 5 times every day for at least a week.
Just one day of this can be enough to get you to start doing it in the morning, even if it’s typically a struggle as your mind and body try to cling to your old habits.
The more you practice, the easier it gets.
This particular technique has a lot to do with what I discussed in two of my previous published blog posts: why we’re so bad at sticking to good habits (and what to do about it) and how to align your mind to get exactly what you want.
If you want a habit to stick, you have to start practicing something ridiculously small.
If you want to become something, you have to start acting like you already are that something.
This is how you reprogram your mind to change your habits.
Eventually, it won’t feel so phoney anymore.
Eventually, it will feel real.
And eventually, it will become automatic.
It’s not really “fake it ’til you make it.”
It’s more like “fake it ’til you become it.”
Exaggerating your positivity is easiest if you can think about something you actually look forward to doing in the morning or during the day.
Even if it’s just that first cup of coffee or a hot shower, start with that first, and go out all out by really thinking about how much you love it and why.
Something else you can do that’s wildly effective is think about what you’re grateful for.
Be grateful for a brand new day, for endless possibilities, for your job, for what you get to do, for your family, for your health, and for all the other big and little things you don’t acknowledge and appreciate nearly enough.
Gratitude is the most powerful tool we have to instantly lift our mood and generate more happiness.
When I hear my alarm go off, it now triggers me to look forward to and be grateful for the simple fact that I get to do some reading or listen to an audiobook / podcast first thing in the morning on topics of interest to me while I drink coffee.
But I had to practice this with the five-step method shared above.
I’m not kidding you when I say I legitimately faked sleeping in my bed, got up and started acting excited about getting to read or listen to something cool, and then repeated this several times over.
I’ve even had some nights where I don’t sleep well or long enough at all, and I’ve still been able to get up immediately feeling happy and excited about getting to start the day (although I might’ve taken a much needed nap later on, but that’s besides the point).
One bad night of sleep used to ruin any good wake up habit I tried to create through sheer willpower or moving my alarm clock to the other side of the room.
Not anymore, because I finally figured out how to hard-wire this behaviour into my mind as a real, solid habit.
I used to be one of those crazy people who had to set like five alarms — one on my alarm clock (still located on the other side of the room of course) and four other ones on my phone.
Now I just set the one, and Mr. Alarm Clock is back in his regular place beside the bed where he belongs.
So let me ask you this…
What would you automatically love to think and feel first thing when you get up?
Whatever it is, start using the techniques above to make it happen.
Be intentional about it, and then do it.
The general consensus may be that realistically, mornings are and should be hard for almost everyone, but you still always have a choice in the matter.
Some people might call it shallow positive thinking, others might call it delusional, but I know that it works and that’s all that matters to me.
It just takes a little more open mindedness, self-confidence, and extra work to rise above the rest of the crowd.
Photo via Surian Soosay
- 30 glorious snippets of wisdom worth knowing by the time you’re 30 (or any age, really) - December 31, 2016
- The divided self: Why we care way too much about what other people think - August 14, 2016
- What everyone gets wrong about “being authentic” - July 3, 2016
- 7 eye-opening ways to forget about your goals so you can let happiness flow - June 20, 2016
- Why you won’t do all the things you want to do this summer - June 13, 2016
- 50 everyday things you can give up to make time for more important stuff - April 30, 2016
- How to go from waking up miserable to exhilarated every morning - April 18, 2016
- How to align your mind to get exactly what you want - April 3, 2016
- Why we’re so bad at sticking to good habits (and what to do about it) - March 19, 2016
- 6 useful tips for dealing with an all-around bad day - June 30, 2015