I was writing my morning pages earlier this week (part of my morning ritual and a practice I learned about in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) about how I had “slept in” that day. I had woken up at 8 a.m. For the vast majority of my life, I would have called that getting up early, and now I considered it sleeping in! Such an enormous shift in my thinking has occurred over the past year or so.
As I’ve talked about here before ("How a Morning Ritual Changed My Life," 8/17), when I started improving my sleeping habits in an effort to feel more rested and less irritable, I began to wake up around 7 a.m. without needing an alarm. As long as I had fallen asleep by 11 p.m. the night before, I would feel rested and have plenty of energy all day. Rising a little earlier enabled me to spend that time in peaceful activities that centered me.
I was reflecting on this, and feeling deeply grateful, when something occurred to me. Believe it or not, this was something I hadn’t yet realized. If I used to get up at 9 a.m. most days, and now regularly rose at 7 or 8 a.m., I was gaining at least an hour every day. I was adding time to my life—a minimum of 365 hours each year! THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE HOURS! What?! And I was devoting that time to myself—to stretching, writing, meditating, sitting outside, walking—activities that energized and refreshed me daily. I had reclaimed those hours of unconsciousness and was using them to become more “awake” in my life.
This feels like magic to me, although I know it’s simple math (something that was never my strong suit!). If I live fifty more years, as I hope to, that will be 18,250 additional hours—at least. If I get up at 6… ah, but no. That’s a bridge too far! But 7 a.m. is doable for me on most days, and that would mean up to 730 hours a year, or 36,500 hours over fifty years. Holy cow.
What might you do with an extra hour each day, devoted solely to something that makes you happy? If you aren’t able to wake up any earlier, can you find some “bonus time” during your day—perhaps by cutting down a little on social media or TV?
Even half an hour or fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference in how you feel. Maybe instead of checking your phone, you could check in on yourself: scan your body for any areas of tension, then stretch it out. That can take as little as five minutes—you could fit several of those mini-breaks in throughout the day, and you might be surprised how relaxed you feel afterwards.
Imagine how those extra minutes spent focused on yourself—and the positive changes that will bring—can multiply over the years. Give it a try for a week or two and see what happens!