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Maybe you’re a morning person. Maybe you’re not. Either way, could your mornings be better? Less frantic, perhaps? More pleasurable? It’s worth considering, because our mornings tend to set the tone for our days.

In this installment of The Living Experiment, we explore the challenges and opportunities that mornings present, and we offer some smart strategies for redesigning them in ways that work better for you.

We also explain the underappreciated power of your first waking moments and suggest creative ways to make your morning routines more rewarding. Finally, we serve up some practical experiments to help you consciously reclaim your mornings, bust out of stress-inducing ruts, and start each day on your own empowered terms.

Wake-Up Call

  • Are you waking to a screaming alarm or blaring music? Is an alert-cluttered smartphone the first thing you see? If so, it’s worth looking for a more humane way to come to consciousness.
  • An alarm that jolts you awake also alarms your central nervous system, sending it into an adrenaline-fueled tizzy. That jangled feeling is not an ideal way to start the day, and it’s not so great for your health either.

Smarter Clock Options

  • Handy as it might seem, your smartphone requires a level of complex executive function your just-waking brain isn’t yet ready to handle.
  • Look for a standalone clock that lets you keep your phone out of the bedroom and come to awareness without unnecessary stress.
  • Light sleepers might be able to get by with a gentle-chime, zen-style alarm. Heavier sleepers might prefer a light-up, sunrise-mimicking clock, one that gradually brightens before sounding the auditory alarm of your choice.

Respect Your Theta State

  • Those brief moments when you move from sleeping to waking are valuable, an important reason to wake gently and gradually.
  • As sleep recedes, your brainwaves shift from delta (a long, slow undulating wave pattern) toward beta (a much shorter, faster, spikier pattern). In between, for a few moments, your brain is in theta — a midlength wave pattern associated with daydreaming.
  • While in theta state, your ­relaxed mind has exceptional access to its subconscious realms. This makes your theta state ideal for daily meditation, visualization, and intention-­setting practices — and a terrible time to interact with electronic devices and mass media.

Pick a Practice

  • Rather than wasting your theta state on what Pilar calls “the outside world’s agenda for you,” consider keeping these high-value moments for yourself and turning them into a practice you genuinely enjoy.
  • Dallas makes a conscious routine of his morning coffee: grinding beans by hand, heating water on the stove, and using a manual, single-cup AeroPress device to produce an ambrosia worth savoring.
  • Pilar observes what she calls her Morning Minutes: Before looking at any electronic devices or tuning in to any outside stimuli, she spends three minutes, at minimum, doing some quiet, analog activity that appeals to her, like playing her guitar or petting her dog.
  • Think you’re too busy to have a morning practice? Think again. Because when you make the most of your first waking moments, you get a clearer head and a calmer body for support all day long.


Pilar suggests:
Consider doing a three-minute (or even one-minute) morning practice every day for a week. Make a daily reminder and check-off sheet that you can post on your mirror, refrigerator, or some other visible surface. Include a line next to each day where — if you don’t complete your practice — you can note what got in the way. At the end of the week, evaluate the results and decide if the experiment is worth repeating.

Dallas suggests:
Take a minute or two in the morning and slowly, carefully, mindfully make your bed. Make it well. When you’re done, take three breaths, then go on with your day.

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