What if the secret to ~finally~ being able to get up early is just to think about it differently? Experts weigh in on how to switch up your thoughts so you can become an early riser.
Mornings are tough, especially if you're not in the habit of being an early riser. But with your busy work, family, and social schedule, sometimes mornings are the only times you have free to have a little alone time. (Here, find out more about why alone time is so important.) Whether you want to use those extra hours for working out, practicing mindfulness, or making progress on a passion project, they're sure to be a valuable addition to your normal day—if only you could get yourself out of bed. (The struggle is *real.*)
We've all heard practical advice like "lay out your workout clothes the night before" or "put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up!" (Ugh.) But it turns out your mind can be one of your strongest allies when it comes to turning yourself into a full-fledged morning person. (And here's why you should want to: Science Says Waking Up Earlier Can Change Your Life.) These five strategies will help you change the way you think about early mornings, no matter how much you hate them.
1. Use visualization.
You've probably heard about athletes picturing themselves winning their next game or event in order to mentally prepare. According to Holly Rilinger, a former pro basketball player, Nike master trainer, and creator of the meditation-meets-HIIT workout LIFTED, you can totally use this trick to make your perfect (early) morning a reality. "The mind cannot differentiate between what has actually happened and what you have dreamed or visualized," she explains. "This is why so many great athletes use visualization techniques in their respective sports. So if Michael Phelps can visualize the perfect stroke and Lebron James the perfect shot, why can't we visualize the perfect morning?" She definitely has a point. Rilinger recommends using this technique before you go to bed at night and taking extra care to imagine your ideal morning, right down to the nitty-gritty details. What time will you get up? How will you feel? What will your energy be like? What will you have for breakfast? Thinking about all these little things will help you really imagine being in the moment.
"The trick to visualization is that you have to BELIEVE it," says Rilinger. So go ahead and really get into it if you're thinking about trying out this strategy. If you like to journal, that's totally an option here, too. "I love to write things down because it takes dreams out of your head and puts them into the real world," she adds. If you go this route, make sure you write out your visualization in the present moment so that you can basically "relive" it later. For example, "I wake up every morning full of energy, life, and passion, ready to take on each and every challenge!" (If you like this idea, find out how to use visualization to achieve all of your goals this year.)
2. Stop telling yourself you're not a morning person.
While this is a pretty simple strategy, it's a very important one. "Your body listens to your thoughts," explains Tiffany Louise, a licensed clinical social worker, life coach, and therapist at a top addiction treatment center. "If you create a story that you've never been a morning person and it will be SO AWFUL and SO HARD to get out of bed, guess what? You're gonna keep sleeping through that alarm." It makes sense that if you believe there's *no way* you could ever possibly become a morning person, you're setting yourself up for it to be pretty hard to accomplish that goal.
So how can you actually put this plan into action? "Start by clearing your mind of any negative morning thoughts," says Louise. "Instead, focus on how good you'll feel once you accomplish your morning goal." So while the non-morning person in you might be imagining feeling super tired when you first wake up, the newly optimistic morning person in you can focus on feeling energized after you crush that workout. "Focusing on the desired outcome makes you much more likely to move toward change," Louise adds.
3. Ask yourself the right questions.
If you really feel like you're not a morning person, consider what makes you feel "on" at other times of the day, suggests Rachel Kazez, therapist and founder of AllAlong, a service that helps people find and understand mental health care. "Is it your sense of excitement? Energy level? Schedule? Hobbies? Connections with people? Once you figure that out, you can figure out if it's possible to make a morning feel similar," she explains. If you're a night owl and you feel super productive during that time, what steps can you take to make your morning feel that way, too? This might not be possible for everyone, and if it's not working for you, Kazez recommends figuring out what being a morning person will really look like for you, and recognizing how that can be different from how you feel other times of the day. "You might feel more energetic, more calm, or otherwise different," she says—and that's totally okay. Taking a mindful approach and noticing how you feel at different times of the day can help you understand why and how you want to become an early riser.
4. Have gratitude every day.
It might sound cheesy at first, but waking up feeling grateful can make it easier to get out of bed. "Many suggest that having the 'attitude of gratitude' is the key to a better life," says Jennifer Wolkin, Ph.D., a New York City–based clinical neuropsychologist. "And the research concurs: cultivating gratitude has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, and both decreased anxiety and depression." Turns out, writing a gratitude journal or even just taking a few moments every day to think about what you're thankful for can make a huge difference in your well-being. "At the very least, I like to just simply say 'thank you' to whatever out there that is greater than I am, and for this gift of a new day," she explains. In practice, you may just find that it's easier to spring out of bed in the morning when you're feeling thankful for all the good things you have going on. (Want more reasons to incorporate thankfulness into your life? Scope these five proven health benefits of gratitude.)
5. Treat morning and night equally.
"People often see the night as 'their' time and the morning as 'obligation' time," notes Jo Eckler, Psy.D., who practices in Austin, Texas. "If you start thinking about morning and night in this way, of course, you'll dread mornings." It's true. You stay up as late as you can to get as much "free time" as possible, which makes it pretty much impossible to get up early, even if you want to. "We start associating mornings with the feeling of being stressed and exhausted," she says. "No wonder we start to dislike them!"
So what if your morning actually included some things that you really look forward to doing? "Think about how mornings feel on a day off versus on a day when you have to deal with work or family obligations," suggests Eckler. "You may find it easier to wake up in the morning to go on a road trip or have breakfast with a friend than you do when you have to wake up to go to work, even if the alarm goes off at the same time and you've had the same amount of sleep," she says. Good news: This effect can be recreated on a daily basis. Obviously not the road trip part, but Eckler suggests thinking about something you can do in the morning that would qualify as "fun time" so that you look forward to waking up instead of dreading it. "It can be something as small as using a body wash with a scent you adore, or something more involved such as making a delicious breakfast, playing with your pets, or reading a few pages of a really good book," she says. Whatever you choose to do, it will make your morning feel like it's yours again, and that could make you more excited to get up and use that time to the best of your ability.