When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius
It’s been almost 4 years now since I began working to rewrite my bad sleeping habits.
It was around that time that my first son Malik was born, and my personal time began to (really) take a nosedive. I had already been working for years on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, and then when I found it, committing myself to it. I wanted to give my wife and I, and later our growing family, a “better” life.
But it wasn’t until my first son was born though that I had to heavily reevaluate my life and how I spent my time. That was a real turning point.
For a while, I tried staying up extra late to work on my personal projects. But having a traditional work schedule on top of taking care of my son really made that difficult. A schedule like that was completely against not only my son’s sleep schedule but, as I would later learn, our bodies natural rhythm.
One day, I ran into an old article about Zen Buddhist monks sleep schedules. Knowing little about their day-to-day schedules at the time, I was really interested to find out that they typically had sleep schedules somewhere around 10-11 P.M. to 3-4 A.M.
The article talked a bit about the reasoning, mentioning some things such as the body’s natural rhythm, the fact that apparently experienced meditators seemed to need less sleep, among other things.
What really caught my ear was the bit about it being more conducive to our body’s natural rhythm, and apparently adopting a schedule closer to this rhythm helped us feel happier and be healthier. That was easily one of the two biggest convincing factors to getting me to start waking up early. I didn’t know if it was true, but it convinced me to try.
I also did some calculations, guesstimating what time I’d go to sleep (on average, kids really make this fluctuate) and wake up, and realized I’d actually get more time to myself as well as improve the quality of my sleep by going to bed, as well as waking up, early.
So I set out to do the unthinkable: I, the certified night owl since age 15, would begin waking up early. Fast-forward 4 years and I now wake up between 3-4 A.M. daily (you can read about how I did it here). It was a gradual process, chopping off thirty minutes to an hour every couple of months, but it was so worth it.
What began as a way to get some extra time and maybe feel a little more balanced quickly turned into one of the single best decisions of my life. It took a while to shift my schedule over, but my new schedule, even just starting out waking up at 6:30-7 A.M., made me feel great. I felt more alert during the day, my mind felt clearer and more at ease, and the quality of the time I got to myself was much greater.
I wasn’t half asleep for the last hour or two of my personal time, like when I’d stay up late. After a few minutes of shaking off the sleepiness, I was awake and ready to go. And it was so peaceful and quiet in the morning that once I started waking up early I knew I’d never go back.
I learned that what you do when you first wake up in the morning is a firm indicator of not only the quality of the day you’re going to have but by extension, the quality of your entire life. Committing to a few positive morning rituals each day can absolutely change your life in just about every way imaginable.
Becoming an early riser and making the most of each morning is about striving to get the most out of your life. You can use these 7 positive and healthy morning rituals to take command of your day and begin writing your own life’s story, instead of letting life write it for you.
7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life
My morning schedule has changed many times over the past couple of years. Some things were experimental, some things I just got bored of (which is dangerous, because if you’re not looking forward to waking up- you likely won’t), but for the most part any change in my morning schedule has been because of my evolving spiritual practice.
Below are 7 healthy morning rituals, all of which I’ve done personally for an extended length of time and can heavily vouch for. I don’t do all 7 of these rituals in one morning, nor have I ever. My morning schedule consists of usually 3-4 activities, some being daily activities and others being once or twice-weeklies. I’d suggest starting out by picking 1-2 of these to do each morning and expanding from there.
1. Tea meditation
This is what I do when I first wake up (on most days). For a long time, I wrestled with the difficulty of meditating immediately upon waking up. When you do that, you essentially sit down and go back to sleep. It’s really difficult to have just woken up and sit down to meditate because you’re just dozing off the entire time.
Bringing in a simple tea meditation ritual changed all of that. I drink mostly green tea, partly because that’s just what I’ve drunk for years but partly because of the caffeine. I’m not a coffee drinker, so the caffeine in the green tea is the perfect wake up call. After I drink my tea I’m alert enough to sit in meditation without dozing off, so it’s really worked out nicely.
Admittedly, this is one of my favorite parts of my day. I call this tea meditation, but when you fully engage yourself in what you’re doing with mindfulness everything becomes meditation, so this is really just “drinking tea”, nothing more than that.
To do tea meditation, you simply need to do every part of the tea making and tea drinking process with mindfulness. Take your time making your tea with mindfulness- heat up your water, get your cup out, pour the water, and sift the tea. Then, take your tea and sit down in a quiet place with it. Drink your tea like there’s no tomorrow. Drinking this tea is the most important thing in the world.
When I sit down with my tea, after each cup I pour I sit the cup down in front of me, put my hands together, and give thanks for the tea. I bring my awareness to all those people who have to live with the threat of death from dehydration, and all those people who simply don’t have enough. I make sure to first fully respect the tea and express my deep gratitude before drinking it.
After paying my respects to the tea, I simply drink it slowly with mindfulness. I usually drink a few small cups (about 1/4 of one cup at a time), but you can drink however much you’d like. You can shorten the practice down to just 10-15 minutes from start to finish by drinking only one small cup and drinking at a moderately slow pace.
After I’m done I put my empty cup down in front of me and give thanks once again for the tea. I do this for each cup of tea I drink.
(You could always choose to do this with coffee if you’re a coffee drinker.)