Ben 9 min read

On Becoming a Sunrise Sensei: How To Rock Your Day By Waking Up Early

Health & Fitness Psychology & Happiness Random + Awesome

how to wake up early sunrise sensei

I am absolutely a morning person. One hundred percent sure of it. But I hate getting out of bed.

Maybe some of you can relate…

I feel my best in the morning. My mind and body have abundant energy. I’m relaxed and happy.

The earlier I get up, the better my mood throughout the day. I’m more motivated. I’ll joyfully practice an hour of yoga, a short meditation, make breakfast, and do something creative while I eat.

The problem is the getting out of bed part. I’m not a morning person until I leave my bed.

Staying in bed is a beautiful blissful stupor which everyone should let themselves enjoy once in awhile. I can’t deny the happiness of waking up and staying under the covers while listening to the serenity of rainfall.

But even when you truly want to, even when you’re totally stoked for the day, getting up can be so difficult. Which is unfortunate, because having the willpower to get up when it’s not easy can change your life. For me, getting up early is my number one keystone habit. In this article, I’m going to teach you how to wake up early and why it will transform your existence.

how to wake up early sunrise sensei

Keystone Habits — How to Wake Up Early

A keystone habit makes it easier to adopt and maintain other good habits. It’s a centerpiece. It’s the glue that holds a good lifestyle together. Meditation and exercise are both known as excellent keystone habits.

Meditation cultivates self-awareness. Through practice you become more sensitive to your own thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Naturally, this process better attunes you to how you feel about your own actions.

You’re more aware of the positive feelings that come after exercise and a good meal. You’re also more aware of the negative feelings that follow smoking or waking up after only three hours of sleep. Meditation is a keystone habit in large part because it forces you to confront the consequences of your actions. It amplifies both the positive and negative emotions which reinforce your motivation to live well.

Exercise is a keystone habit because it significantly improves your energy level, which is the bedrock of motivation. If you feel tired and shitty, you’re a lot less likely to follow through on your habits and goals. You’ve got a much better chance when you feel energized and optimistic.

Human bodies need exercise; we’re hard-wired for it. It releases feel-good hormones that improve your mood and confidence levels. It builds strength and stamina. Regular exercise makes you feel good, which makes doing challenging things much easier.

Waking up early is my keystone habit. Because I’m a morning person, I absolutely need to do it in order to accomplish my other habit goals for the day. If I sleep in late, I simply won’t have the will to meditate, do yoga, and write after I get home from work. Those things must be done in the morning.

If you’re like me, waking up early could be the key to an amazing life. The key to accomplishing your goals and feeling great about your day. If you don’t know yet, then you’ll just have to try.

I love waking up early, and my day is better by every measure when I do. I’ve gone months waking up and leaving bed at 5 AM every day. Life was awesome because of it.

Recently I’ve been less consistent. On some days I get up at 5 am and do all the things I listed earlier. I feel great for the whole day. But as of late I’ve been hitting snooze a lot more often.

So what makes the difference? What helps make it easier to wake up early? Here’s what I’ve learned, and what I’m still learning, through my imperfect habit:

Night-Before Rituals

What you do the night before your attempt to get up earlier is absolutely essential. Your nightly routine can set you up for failure or success. It forms a foundation for how well you sleep and how you feel in the morning. Make sure your night is designed to support restful sleep and a good start to the next day.

How can you do that? First, there’s good old-fashioned health advice you should definitely take. An abundance of articles on the internet cover this part so I won’t go too deep here. I’ll just quickly mention a few things, and you can check google for more if you’re curious.

Don’t drink coffee or take other caffeinated substances in the afternoon. Turn off all screens an hour before bed, and keep your phone off while you sleep. Get exercise sometime before 5 PM. Spend at least 20 minutes outside during the AM hours (exposing your eyes to real sunlight before noon helps adjust your internal clock).

I’m not perfect with all of these. I love coffee, I often don’t get to my exercise routine until after 5, and finding something to do for an entire hour that’s not internet, television, or screen-related is a radical act in our society. But I’ve tried all of these, and they all help. You’ll do yourself an enormous favor even if you make just one of them a regular habit.

Now, on to how you spend your hour before bed.

What you do in the time before you sleep lays down a primer for the quality of mind you experience during your rest.

The activities you engage in shape how long it takes you to fall asleep, how well you sleep, and what you dream about. Through these processes it influences your mood in the morning.

This is crucial because your mood upon waking is key. If you feel groggy, you’re a lot more likely to stay in bed. If you feel rested and energized, you’re a lot more likely to get up. It’s that simple.

Many of us, myself included, often find ourselves spending this time looking at a screen — a computer, a TV, or a phone. What is that doing to the quality of our sleep?

To start, the blue light that screens emit keeps your body and brain in a wakeful state. It cues the body’s processes to maintain wakefulness because your eyes perceive the blue light as daytime light. Your body and mind are tricked into believing the sun is out.

From a psychological angle, the content you’re consuming or creating on the screen affects your mood and thinking processes. Browsing social media, listening to music, and writing will all affect your state of mind differently.

If you’re Netflix and chilling, the effects will depend on what you watch. Although I’m recommending a screen-free hour before bed, if you really want to watch something, then maybe a light hearted comedy will be better than American Horror Story. At least for the sake of putting your mind in a good space for sleep…

If you use a screen tonight before bed, spend a few mindful minutes reflecting on how what you’re doing affects your mood and thinking. Check in with the quality of your feelings and thoughts.

Afterward, try to connect the content you were browsing to your state of mind. If you were reading a complicated research study, maybe you’ll be thinking a lot and at a fast pace. If you were watching an intense or suspenseful movie, there may be nooks and crannies in your mind that are experiencing stress.

Other Before-Bed Activities

Now let’s say you manage to get away from the screens a full hour before bed. Give yourself a pat on the back! It’s truly an accomplishment.

Turning off the screens is an awesome step, but you still want to find something to do that puts your mind into a restful mood.

There have been times when I wrote, or played chess with one of my roommates, before bed. Both of these are great things to do. I enjoy them a lot and they’re good exercise for my mind and my creativity.

But, at least for me, they’re terrible before-bed choices. They put me into a heavily cognitive, “thinky” state of mind. After these activities I just keep thinking a lot, about everything. I am totally on board the thought train. I ride it to the end of the line and back again, then I switch to a different line and keep riding.

Needless to say, this keeps me up for a long time. I normally think a lot, so before sleeping it’s really important that I avoid things which stimulate thought.

I’ve found that listening to chill music, going for a walk, and drawing all help me wind down. These activities are screen-free, wholesome, and don’t stimulate thought or any kind of stress. I also genuinely enjoy all of them, so it doesn’t feel like a chore to pick one and do it before bed.

Sure, sometimes it takes a little willpower to get off the couch and walk around the block instead of hitting “Yes, I’m still watching” on Netflix. But I’m always glad whenever I make the healthier choice.

If I find that I’m thinking a lot and I don’t believe any of those will help, I actually spend time sitting and thinking on purpose.

I get away from screens, usually sitting on my meditation mat as I look out the window. And I just let my mind think about whatever it wants to. For some reason this gets the thinking out of my system. It lets my mind feel assured that it’s gotten a chance to think about all the things it wants to. I could see this backfiring on someone and making it harder for them to fall asleep, but it works for me and maybe it’s something you can try too.

Find a few relaxing activities that you enjoy. Make those your go-to habits before bed. What relaxes me may stress you and vice versa, so if you’re not feeling my examples then try what you think will work best. Use your instincts, I’m sure you know yourself well enough to know what helps you chill out.

Morning Rituals

If you set yourself up well the night before, then there are a couple important morning rituals that will help you nail down the early wake-up habit.

The first one is so simple I can’t believe it took me up until just a couple months ago to think of it. Here it is: put your alarm clock out of reach of your bed. Boom.

If you have to physically stand up and walk to your alarm clock, instead of just reaching over, then you’ll be a lot less likely to hit snooze.

But often, even after standing up and shutting off my alarm, I still want to go right back under the covers. So it’s important that you have another support in place.

Here’s the thing I’ve found most critical to whether or not I wake up. More than anything else this has helped me get up even when sweet comfort beckons:

I include something that I enjoy in my immediate morning routine.

Make fun a part of your early wake-up habit. My yoga practice and the coffee I drink are my primary motivators.

I love the feeling of yoga practice. I don’t see it as a self-improvement thing anymore. At first I did; I practiced for the physical and mental benefits. But now it has become a thing I really like doing, and would do regardless of those benefits. The physical sensations of my body relaxing, expanding, and strengthening are wonderful to experience.

I love the taste of coffee, and the feeling of caffeine hitting my system. It’s so delicious and soothing. Coffee is comfort for my soul.

Because I genuinely enjoy these things, I have a reason to wake up that’s not self-improvement oriented. I’m not just waking up “because it’s good for me”. We all know too well that just because something is good for us, doesn’t mean we’ll do it.

Telling yourself that waking up early is healthy, or that you’ll get more done because you’ll have more time, may not be enough to spark your motivation. It will be a lot easier if there is something you actually like associated with the early wake-up. You’re not just getting up because it’s good for you, but because you’re looking forward to doing something awesome that morning.

It could be a delicious breakfast. It could be listening to music you like. It could be watching videos on Youtube (often I watch skateboarding videos, and sometimes use this as my motivator if I’m really struggling). Whatever it is, find something you really like to do and make it a morning habit.

Go Now, Sunrise Padawan!

I wish you auspiciousness in your endeavors. Never give up, for although the journey is often arduous, you’ll have many chances to develop your skills. You’ll need cunning technique and at times iron willpower. But even more importantly, you’ll need consistency and practice. Only the momentum of a habit practiced day after day will keep you afloat. Go now, and become a Sunrise Sensei!

If you want to learn to wake up early, take our new course, 30 Challenges to Enlightenment. We incorporated a challenge called ‘Sunrise Sensei’ that is specifically designed to turn you into an early riser.

how to wake up early sunrise sensei

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