Early birds rejoice and late risers… I guess waking up early is something for us to ponder about. There are so many spiritual benefits of waking up early in the morning. Experiencing one early morning hour could potentially change our life.
A Common Morning Scenario
Many of us don’t exactly jump out of bed with joy. We wake up from our slumber and our desire is to forever stay in bed under the covers. It’s especially strong if we didn’t get enough sleep but even when we’re well rested, there’s nothing better than spending a few more minutes enjoying the comfort of our restful state. But the wishful thinking stops with the need to go to work or to run errands or the cry of a child. We pick up our phones and quickly scroll through the news or our Twitter feed or perhaps, there’s a few work emails we internally groan at. Our snooze alarm rings for the fourth time and we begrudgingly crawl out of bed to start our day.
This is undoubtedly a common scenario for many of us. Even the Stoics, people who practiced the philosophy of Stoicism some 400 years ago in Ancient Greece and Rome experienced this possibly, universal feeling. However, they counteracted this desire with the belief that waking up early and having the morning for oneself was the pillar that determined the outcome for the rest of the day.
Spiritual Benefits of Waking Up Early
For us modern folks, we can certainly take this practice and weave it into a habit of our own. There are many spiritual benefits of waking up early. The most common benefit that often comes to mind is having more time. When rise up early, we have more time in the day to do things. We can fit in our gym session, go for a run, study or do something productive before work or school. However, that’s not the main reason why the Stoics believed in waking up early.
Getting up early gives us the time we need for our spiritual selves. It is perhaps the one period of the day where we can truly have the time for ourselves and only ourselves. It’s a time when we are actually living before the endless phone calls, the rushing to work and the need to tick off our to-do list. When we rise up early, we can collect our thoughts in the quiet and engage in some activities (below) that will cultivate our calmness, openness and readiness for the day.
An Early Morning Hour
Of course, how early is early? There is no rule as to how early someone should rise because we all lead different lives. We say an hour because that is what we try to do and we feel that an hour is sufficient to reap the benefits without making life too difficult. Even thirty minutes is wonderful. But we recommend to ease into the idea of waking up early by increments, so waking up 5 minutes earlier for a few days then increasing it to 10 minutes then 20 then 30 and eventually an hour. On days where we feel motivated, we try to wake up early enough to catch the sunrise and that’s honestly, one pleasure in life that cannot be replaced.
What Do We Do?
So we wake up early… the next question is, what should we do in this time period? As mentioned above, it’s easy to want to jump into doing something practical or productive. But it’s better to do things that have an element of stillness, things that will stimulate our mindfulness and sense of being. After all, we are looking for the spiritual benefits of waking up early!
Here are some things that we do to reap the mind and health benefits of waking up early in the morning.
Start the morning without looking at our phones, checking our email, social media or reading the news
Personally, I loved reading the news in the morning (on my phone as soon as I opened my eyes) but I realised it had a profound negative effect on my day. If I read something terrible or sad, I started off the day feeling terrible and sad. If I read something ridiculous, it made me lose some of my compassion for the day. We want to start our morning off on our own terms and values without being influenced by others or the world around us.
Go on a walk and immerse ourself in nature
The aim of the walk is not to exercise (it is only an added benefit) but to provide clarity to our minds. There’s something special about a morning walk when many people are still sleeping, the streets are quiet and the birds are chirping their morning song. We can practice mindful walking or simply get lost in our own thoughts. It doesn’t sound like much but do try it – many people are surprised by how powerful it is.
Write down your thoughts in a journal
Remember when we were kids and the idea of journalling or keeping a diary was much more celebrated? Writing down our thoughts and feelings can help us feel better. We can write down what we’re currently thinking, what we’re worrying about, how our sleep was, our plans for the day and what we aim to achieve. The effect is sort of like ranting about our problems to a close family or friend; this time, we’re putting it onto paper and seeing it written out is freeing and relieving.
There are so many benefits to practicing mindfulness and starting our morning off with it is wonderful. When we practice mindfulness in our morning hour, there are less distractions and we feel less inclined to ‘do it later’. There is no rush or urgency to get through with it. Mindfulness becomes a practice that we enjoy, rather than something we do because we know it’s good for us. The best thing about practicing it in the morning is that our mind and body are prepared for the day and also, we are more likely to use it again during the day when we feel stressed because we remember the satisfying feeling from this morning.
Sitting in stillness and observing
There’s nothing quite like sitting still and just being present. We occupy the moment with our existence and actually feel like we’re stuck in time. Sitting there, breathing naturally and just observing by the window or on a bench top. We can take in the things that are happening around us: the cars driving past, early risers like us walking past, the birds perched on the trees and the sunrise slowly coming up. I feel like these small things in life are so pleasurable and fulfilling.
Observe our mood and express our gratitude
I finish off my mindfulness practice with writing down my mood; what I’m feeling right now. It’s a weirdly positive feeling to describe. I have a visual word to describe what I’m really feeling and somehow, that’s validating. Then I move on to express gratitude and write down three simple things that I’m thankful for. It can be the same things or new things that we have begun to appreciate. We feel lighter, more receptive and affectionate.
Resting is Important for Our Spirit
Even though there are so many spiritual benefits of waking up early, it’s also important to know when we need more rest. If we know and feel that we haven’t slept enough, it’s not wrong to succumb to our tiredness and stretch out our sleeping hours. We certainly don’t wake up early everyday and we do enjoy our sleep-ins on our days off. It’s all in the balance and doing your best to what feels right. This blog post is just there to shine light on the other side.
We also acknowledge that in some cases sleeping is a luxury because of work, financial position, family, health and so on. I remember my Dad working two jobs to support the family and he would’ve found this article ludicrous. A lot of the points are based off mindfulness practices and there are other ways to gain similar benefits such as meditating, body scans and mindfulness in everyday life. We recommend these things if waking up early is not practical. At Embody Nourish, we want everyone from all walks of life to enjoy good health especially a nourished mind.
I’m going to end this post with a quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of the most respected Roman emperors in history and Stoic. “When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”
How to be Productive
Everyone has their own interpretation of productivity. Some people think it’s grinding and hustling, while others believe in working smarter, not harder. At Embody Nourish, we believe productivity means working to the best of our abilities to achieve something that we truly want. All the while keeping our bodies healthy and minds nourished – that’s the number one priority.
This article is part of our ‘how to be productive’ series so if you liked it then check out these ones!