Have you ever noticed that your mood, energy, and motivation always track together? When one is up, so are the others and when one is trending down, it pulls the other two down with it. For years I thought this meant that if I was in a down mood or just wasn't feeling like doing what needed to be done, that there was nothing I could do about it. In fact, I "knew" what kind of day I was going to have the moment I woke up in the morning.
You know how some mornings you just feel shitty as soon as you open your eyes and before anything has even happened yet? I'm not talking about waking up with a headache, having your period, or being hungover. I'm talking about just feeling like crap for absolutely no reason. I guess it happens to everyone at least some of the time, but it used to happen to me fairly often.
When I'd have those mornings, I would just roll over and tell myself it was going to be "one of those days" and feel justified trying to go back to sleep for a while. After all, who is in any hurry to start a lousy day? Sometimes I could fall asleep for a while, sometimes I would find myself staying awake and feeling slightly better and other times, even the extra sleep did nothing for my mood.
It pissed me off when a full night of sleep left me feeling down, depleted, and completely uninspired to do much of anything (as if just putting in the hours between the sheets was some kind of feel-good guarantee.) And because I felt that I was entitled to feel good in the morning, when I didn't, I believed I couldn't do anything to change it, so I just lowered my expectations for the day and hoped things would be better tomorrow.
After I began studying positive psychology and personal development, I recognized the importance of my thoughts in determining what kind of day I was having and started being more curious and more critical about those mornings. It still didn't make sense that I would wake up in a bad mood for no reason, but my willingness to just write the day off and make no effort to try to improve it was acting like a victim.
Why wouldn't I try to turn things around, if I could? Sure, I could hit the snooze button a couple of times and procrastinate on getting started, but to be so passive in my own existence is just not how I want to show up for myself. So, I started being curious and creative just to see if it would make any difference. I had nothing to lose but a bad mood and a day of lost productivity.
Eventually, I learned that some people are just wired to have a slow start in the morning, kind of like a car that needs to warm up before you can drive it. There are people that open their eyes and jump out of bed every morning, full of enthusiasm, motivation and fired up to take on the day. But, I am pretty sure they are not the norm. For the rest of us, a few body, mind, and brain hacks will help us turn our engine over and they are easier than you might think.
First things first, as tempting as it might be to hit the snooze button because you are convinced that 9 more minutes will make all the difference, the truth is they won't. Just get up. Even if you don't feel like it. Using the snooze button is extremely habit-forming and you actually train your brain not to take the alarm seriously. Not only that, when you think about it, hitting the snooze button means that you are starting your day with the act of procrastination. Not a great beginning. Just say no to the snooze and get up. You will at least be proud of yourself for that, which will start moving the mood needle in a positive direction.
If you want to start kicking your energy into gear in the morning, I highly recommend some form of movement to get your blood circulating. You don't have to go to the gym, hop on a bike or pound the pavement in your running shoes, but going for a 20-minute walk can make all the difference in how long it takes to feel awake. Yoga poses or stretching are also great ways to start your body moving. And moving your body is the quickest and most reliable way to start feeling more energized and motivated to do other things too.
It's like the principle of inertia, in which a body rest remains at rest until an outside force acts upon it, while a body in motion remains in motion until an outside force acts on it. Once you are in motion, you will naturally want to stay that way, putting one foot in front of the other, mindlessly at first, but as your brain wakes up and catches up to your moving body, it becomes more mindful and intentional.
My last quick tip for how to wake up is a gratitude practice. When I was struggling to wake up and feeling lousy first thing in the morning, what I really was not feeling was gratitude. In fact, I was starting the day in a victim mindset, which is the furthest thing from gratitude that I know.
Here I was, waking up in my safe, warm, comfortable queen-size bed inside my beautifully decorated house, filled with beings I love (animal and human.) I was alive, healthy, doing work I enjoy, and I live in the most prosperous country on the planet. What kind of nonsense, not to mention entitlement, was my feeling sorry for myself for waking up in a bad mood, but a complete and utter absence of perspective? So, I started doing a daily gratitude practice, which I learned from visiting a Buddhist monastery.
The gratitude practice can be as simple or complicated as you want. I recommend that you keep it simple because you're more likely to stick with it that way. Not to mention, if you have trouble waking up and getting your mood, energy, and motivation going in the morning, the simpler the better. So, the easy-breezy way to start a morning gratitude practice is to have a notepad or post-it notes pad next to your bed, along with a pen and when you wake up, just ask yourself "what am I grateful for today?"
You can literally start off looking around the room and name three items in your room, such as "My warm bed, my cozy slippers, and my aromatherapy candle." That will at least get you through day one. Tomorrow, you'll have to come up with something else. If you make it a game to find new things to be grateful for each day, and decide to up the ante and start writing them down, you will be amazed at how it changes your perspective on life.
Instead of feeling tired, irritable, and resentful in the morning, you will quickly start looking forward to bringing to mind all of the wonderful things you have to be thankful for. And, by the way, inanimate objects are just one category of things you can express gratitude for. Other beings, both human and animal are popular choices, as are qualities and experiences such as intelligence, humor, and sincerity. The list is truly endless and it's actually fun looking for new choices daily.
So, I hope you are going to give these suggestions a try. You have nothing to lose but your snooze button habit and a bad morning mood.