In a recent blog, I told you about a friend of mine who writes her novels at night because in the day time she cares for two small children, but she is working against her bodies’ circadian rhythms. She is making her body work when it wants to rest. To ‘bribe’ her body to do work when it should be sleeping, she feeds it carbs and caffeine. She snacks on chocolate biscuits and drinks coffee, consequently she has gained 20kg since her children were born ten years ago. Have you also become a night owl because it’s the only time you can find peace and quiet? It would be better for your health if you woke up early and enjoyed the tranquillity of the morning, instead of being up in the dead of night. It’s just a case of shifting your body clock to wake up in the early morning rather than being active at night. Many high achievers are morning people.
It is much healthier to get up early to work rather than slaving away on the ‘graveyard shift’. Working at night is not in line with our circadian rhythms. A circadian rhythm is the 24-hour physiological process of living beings, including plants and animals. Circadian rhythms determine when humans should sleep and eat. Humans are not nocturnal creatures. Scientific research has found that being awake at night and sleeping in the day is detrimental to our health. A recent article in The Journal of American Physiology found shift workers were much more likely to develop organ disease than the general population. While a new study by Temple University found that irregular sleep-wake cycles are a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease.
Get up When the Sun Rises
Humans are diurnal, meaning we are meant to be active in the day time. When the sun comes up we should be getting up. Many high achievers rise early. Indra Nooyi, the chairwoman of Pepsi, gets up at 4am most mornings. Jack Dorsey the founder of Twitter wakes at 5.45am. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, never closes the curtains so wakes whenever the sun comes up. Many great figures in history were early risers, everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ernest Hemingway.
Pay Attention to your Partner
But once you are awake, what should you do? If you’re in a relationship, you could try paying your partner some attention – provided of course she or he is also awake. Your attention can be physical or emotional – a morning cuddle or a talk. Everyone needs to invest time in their relationship.
Stretch your Body
Next on your morning to-do list is stretching. Have you ever watched a dog or cat wake up? They always have a good stretch when they rise, lengthening out their backbone. We often sleep in the same position for extended periods and this can make our muscles stiff and tight. A good morning stretch realigns those muscles and gets the blood flowing.
Drink Water with Lemon
An excellent morning tonic is a glass of warm water with lemon juice. The lemon readies the digestive system for food and helps cleanse the liver. Simon Cowell, the creator of the show, The X-factor, is a firm believer in this tonic as is the American cooking guru, Martha Stewart.
Avoid Checking your Devices
I also advise against reaching for your phone or laptop first thing in the morning. Never sleep with a mobile phone next to you as the screen lights up when notifications arrive and this disturbs the quality of your sleep. Also checking your inbox or social media over breakfast can be stressful and a distraction from family or personal time. Claim mornings for yourself!
Order your Thoughts
Many high achievers use the mornings to order their thoughts. Some swear by the benefits of a morning meditation. Adrianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post, meditates for 30 minutes every morning and is so convinced of its benefits she offers morning meditation classes to her staff. I love what that famous protestant minister, Martin Luther, said, “I have so much to do today that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer”. Getting your ‘head right’ in the morning sets you up for the day. Other high achievers recommend reciting motivational quotes to your reflection in the mirror, writing down your thoughts in a journal or blog or reading an inspiring book in the early hours. Tim Armstrong the CEO of the mass media company AOL and worth around $400 million reads every morning.
It is essential that we start the day with a good breakfast – a breakfast that will give us the fuel to get through the first half of the day. And a good breakfast is not last night’s take-away Thai reheated in the microwave. Go for slow-burning carbohydrates like porridge or rye toast. Low fat proteins are another good option – eggs, nuts and some fruit and vegetables. The most important nutrients to include in your breakfast are calcium, iron, Vitamin B, protein and fibre. If you miss these at breakfast, you are unlikely to compensate for these vitamins and minerals later in the day.
Finally, there is one last thing we should all be doing in the morning to set up our day – exercise! You need to get to that 6am aerobics or yoga class, lift weights, swim some laps or go for a jog. Exercising in the morning pumps up your energy levels, meaning you’re ready to face the day. It gives your immune system a kick start, reduces your risk of developing heart disease and makes you happier because of all those endorphins released.
Plan your Day the Night Before
The best way to organise your morning is to plan the night before. Have everything you need for the next day out, buy your breakfast food, write a schedule for the day. This may sound easy, however it is much harder to do if you’ve had a stressful day and just want to flake in front of the TV, but make sure you set yourself up for a successful morning.
I like Mark Zuckerberg’s morning ritual. He puts on the same T-shirt every day to avoid wasting time deciding what to wear, but Mark Zuckerberg is worth $63 billion. He can get away with wearing the same T-shirt, I’m not sure the rest of us could!