5 Things to Do When Waking up at 5 a.m.

I have a confession: I am not a morning person. When asked to align myself with morning or night people, I’ve always proudly said how I’m a morning person and don’t understand night owls. That statement is partially true since people who thrive at night baffle me; however, I’ve recently realized how much I struggle to get going in the mornings.

Armed with the intention to become more of a morning person, I made a public declaration that outlined my plan to wake up at 5 a.m. for three weeks. I chose to start this goal in May because self-quarantining for over two months had severely impacted my productivity. As expected, this goal was immensely challenging, but I’ve learned there are many things one can do to fill the extra hours in the morning. These include:

Sullenly stand in front of the bed, wishing for more sleep | There were more than a few times when I would laboriously drag myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to turn off my alarm, only to then stand in the middle of my room showing the wall my most imposing death stare. Thankfully, no one saw me during those dark times, but if they had, I’m sure the sight would have been incredibly jarring.

Go for a walk | Once I was able to pull myself out of that trance-like state, I would often throw on my sneakers, grab my headphones, and head outside for an hourlong walk. These always started a bit rough, but once I began to wake up, I would be awestruck by the beautiful sunrises that I walked towards. I often don’t get a chance to see dawn—even when I’m up relatively early—since I stay in the house most mornings, so getting outside to take in the beauty helped me realize how much mornings have to offer.

Take a long drive with a parent | I have written about how my Dad and I have a habit of going for long drives throughout the surrounding countryside, and these past three weeks were no exception. We began making plans to do our driving tradition shortly after I was awake, and being out and about before the towns began to come alive for the day was delightful. We would grab our bagels, sip our coffee or tea, and chat about matters ranging from the best Elton John album to our views on the current political climate. The drives always served as the backdrop to some interesting discussions, but regardless of the topic, it was always an unforgettable time.

Enjoy some pre-work coffee and conversation with a sibling | Keeping with the theme of having more time in the mornings to see family, I fell into the habit of driving to my sister Jenny’s house to go for a walk through the town where she lives. Following our leisurely strolls past the dog walkers and night shift employees returning home for bed, we’d drink coffee on her porch and enjoy the peacefulness of the morning. It afforded us the opportunity to relax before our days could get clogged with meetings and responsibilities, and I’ve come away from the experience wanting to keep that tradition alive.

Peruse old journal entries | When setting this goal, I stipulated that I couldn’t sit around watching TV or scrolling through social media before work, so I soon found myself reading journals I’d written years ago. I initially started doing this since reading the news was beginning to be a bit of a negative start to my day, and I soon discovered how enlightening it can be to read your inner dialogue from years ago. I was taken aback by how often I was in situations that mirror my current life, and being able to see how I processed them in the past helped me develop better strategies to tackle things in the present.

The past three weeks have been full of many more epiphanies and experiences that came from waking up at 5 a.m., but those mentioned above are the ones that had the greatest impact. Seeing how much waking up early enriches my day has helped me better understand why it’s a habit practiced by many successful people, and it has inspired me to continue striving to truly become a morning person.

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