To put it simply, if I don’t start the day the right way, I don’t start the day at all. Every single day I go through a long initiation to waking life, full of byzantine rituals and obedience to strange superstitions. If I don’t, I drift through the day and easily fall into lethargic ruts. In the past, this could be a big problem for me: instead of doing anything important, I’d spend several hours watching Lost or mastering Lego Star Wars for Wii. Now I’ve finally developed a system of morning calisthenics to get my mind and body working in tandem, but they’re not the exercises you might first imagine. I guess it’s like deep sea diving: if you come up too fast you’ll get the bends. Waking up can’t be rushed. Here’s what I do just about every morning:
Make the bed: a lot of people believe making the bed is part of a proper day because it mentally prepares you for having a tidy life. This might be true, but I make my bed each day for one simple reason: to discourage laziness. Or I should say, to fight laziness with laziness. If I make the bed in the morning, later in the day I won’t feel like napping or resting for the reason that I don’t want to have to make the bed again. Sometimes we have to anticipate our own faults in order to counteract them.
Sleep with my feet pointed away from the door: I’m not a believer of Feng Shui, but this one aspect of the ancient system stuck with me: if you sleep with your feet pointed at the door, it makes it easier for people to carry your body out if you die in the night, so by sleeping with your feet away from the door, you’re supposed to be ensuring longevity–either that, or you’re purposefully trying to create a complication for your undertakers. This is a simple enough task, and it taps into my inner Yossarian, who quipped “I’d like to live forever or die trying” (Groucho Marx also said that).
Light Therapy: This is something I just started doing. I’ve suffered for years now from random bouts of fatigue and depression that occur most frequently in fall and winter. I finally did some research on this and found that much of it comes from the eye rather than the mind. Apparently, if your eyes don’t register a decent amount of sunlight, they don’t convey the message to your brain that it’s day. This can be fixed by doing 1 to 2 hours of light therapy a day. I live in The Pacific Northwest, a place that’s grayer than a silent film. In fall and winter, the sun sets around 4, and barely makes an appearance during the day. It doesn’t help that most of my hobbies are indoors. Two hours of light therapy can often save me from several hours of TV. If you’re having problems with energy or irritability, give light therapy a shot. You have to purchase a special lamp with fluorescent light. Mine was only about $40.
Mix together light and heavy reading: Conveniently, now that I have to sit in front of a light therapy lamp for 2 hours a day, it gives me time to catch up on my reading (for more on that, click here). For the sake of happiness, I’ll do some light reading, and to indulge my ego, I’ll do some heavy reading, both in the same day. By doing light reading, it sets up a nice tone for the day. For example, I’ll read a lot of comic books in the morning. Parables of heroism or stories featuring witty talking animals can really make me start the day off happily. Then comes the heavy reading. Why? Because most people don’t do much of any heavy reading. I always have to separate myself from the herd. If I read philosophy or classic literature, I can go about my day knowing I’ve done something that many people would avoid. Sometimes you have to access your narcissistic side, just don’t drown in it.
Coffee: This is my biggest problem right now. I’ve long been in the habit of drinking horrendous amounts of coffee. In the past, that made up my entire morning ritual. By trying out the other things on my list, I’ve managed to cut down on coffee, but laziness, like an imp on my shoulder, tells me to forgo the other steps and just focus on coffee. Caffeine has been proven to create irritability and stress, so if it’s taken in the wrong dosage, it creates the exact problems I was trying to avoid! Since I started light therapy, my craving for caffeine has been considerably curbed.
Do something creative: I’ve heard health nuts say that you should exercise in the morning, because that way you move faster throughout the day and continue to burn calories as you go about your normal life. As you’ve noticed, exercise isn’t on my list. However, I think something similar applies to creativity. By doing something creative in the morning, it keeps me thinking creatively throughout the day. I’ll try to do something to engage this portion of my brain every morning. For example, I do most of my blogging/ social networking in the morning, and when I’m working on writing a book, I’ll do that primarily before noon as well.
So after doing all of these cumbersome steps, I can start my day properly. The problem is, I have no system for what follows.
—-If you’re looking for something to read, check out my books The Madness of Art: Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion. The Madness of Art: Short Stories is a collection of eight tales all about the stranger aspects of the artistic lifestyle. A Rapturous Occasion is a novel about a wealthy couple who let their fear of the Apocalypse ruin much of what they spent their lives building. Both are available on Amazon. Check out my author page!
Do you have any weird habits or helpful tips for waking up (if so, describe them in the comments box).