How do you start your day? Do you pop up and hit it hard all day? Do you drag yourself out of bed and wait for the caffeine hit to get you going? Your crack of dawn customs can be catalysts for conquests and can change your life—or at least your day!

My Observation

Stacy used to sleep until the last possible second. She hit the snooze button over and over and then panicked to shower, grab a power bar and race to work. She slid into her desk chair right on time and only then took a breath and settled into the day.

On the other hand, my friend Christine kept workout clothes next to her bed and immediately went for a morning run before doing anything else.

Each made it to her desk, which got me curious about morning routines and asking myself “Does it really matter what they did before getting there?”

My Crack of Dawn Experiment

 About five years ago, I probably got on people’s nerves when I started asking everyone to tell me about their first 45 minutes upon waking. “What are your crack of dawn customs?” I’d ask. Some people said, “I don’t know. It varies.” They didn’t wake up at the same time and some days they checked their phone in bed, sometimes they sat at the kitchen table with coffee and did Wordle or Duolingo before hitting the shower. There were others who were a bit more intentional, like getting a cup of something hot, going out on the deck and checking the news or reading the paper. But they had a routine and followed it most days. (My son says he’s scheduled all day and he doesn’t want his mornings scheduled too!)

Then there were those who had a very set, prescribed custom and they rarely varied from it. Meditation was a frequently mentioned element. Some people drank mystery blender concoctions. One had a cold shower first thing.

My Research

Although I had fun with my own research, there are others equipped to scientifically determine which morning customs create optimal health and physical states! Andrew Huberman from Stanford has solid data you might want to review. He is also a great communicator with a popular podcast.

Bottom line: After running out of friends on which to conduct my own investigation and taking a deep dive into the research, I closed my investigation and developed my own morning customs (more on that later). And while you can thankfully pick and choose which practices work best for you, here is a distillation of some principles you might want to consider for your own customs:

Crack of Dawn Customs:

  1.  Determine to Design it:  Design it as rigid or as loose as you’d like. But design it. Otherwise, you might “wake up” one day and realize that opportunities were available for not only improving your day, but maybe even your life, if only you’d given it some thought and determined what works for you.
  1. Sleep Regularity: Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Apparently a consistent schedule is more important than the number of hours of sleep we get. Click here to learn more about a brand new study of over 500k people who make the point.
  1. Hydrate: Drink a big glass of water. For me that’s before coffee or tea. The brain is 70% water. It’s been on an all-night fasting regime. Hydrate it! More importantly, continue doing so throughout the day. Hydration Equation
  1. Be grateful first: Whatever we are dealing with, whatever we are going through, we can train our brains to develop gratitude circuits. If you doubt that, watch this TED Talk by someone with a brain tumor.

Expressing gratitude releases “happy chemicals” dopamine and serotonin. When dopamine is released in the brain, we feel a sense of temporary pleasure. And serotonin creates a long-lasting feeling of happiness or well-being. Yes, please! Consider writing in a journal, or in your favorite note app, three things for which you are grateful. Some days you won’t be able to stop at three; and on some “blue” days, maybe all you can write is “I am grateful I’m aware that I’m having a down day and that it’s not a permanent state of being.” For more on the science of gratitude click here.

  1. Get the lights on: According to neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, viewing sunlight (even if it’s through cloud cover) within a few hours of waking releases cortisol which does everything but fold the laundry and change the oil in your car! It sets your body for sleep that evening, influences the immune system and ability to focus. Sound good? Check out this article for more information.

My Crack of Dawn Customs:

 I drink water, light a candle, and turn on either spa music or instrumental hymns. After pouring a cup of coffee, I journal gratitude, read something inspirational and then spend time in meditation and prayer. Lately, I’ve been sitting quiet for a few minutes, no guided meditation or other incoming sounds, and just listen. Listen for a still voice nudging me ahead in this journey of life, usually calling me to love a little better today. I close my morning custom by sending a note of encouragement to someone else (an idea I stole from this short e-book).

That’s it! It’s not Stacy’s mad dash or Christine’s run at dawn, it’s mine. And mine won’t likely be what you design either. But I hope you have one (or find one) that works for you.

Wishing you wisdom,

Deborah Bennet Berecz


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