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How To: Become a Morning Person

It’s rarely disputed that early risers are the most productive, optimistic, and healthy people, and as this New York Magazine article highlights, they also experience the most serene part of the day. With the 9-6 routine taking up most of the day’s sunlight, people are often left cramming errands, exercise, and socialization into the wee hours of the night. So, what is needed to get to bed sooner, to get out of bed earlier, and to not snooze the alarm until the very last second? We asked author and psychologist Joe Taravella (better known as “Dr. Joe”) for his advice on making this mental shift.

BB Man: What's the biggest hindrance to getting to bed at a decent hour?

Dr. Joe: There's something to be said for not wanting to end or "lose" the day, so many of us will cram in as much as we can, to make sure we don't lose even a second of our day to the dreaded Sandman. What keeps us up late at night is our desire for a release. After a long day working and doing things for others, we want a little "me" time to devote to ourselves, and to enjoy the time we have by staying up late and catching up with our friends, our shows, our errands, or whatever makes us happy. Simply put, sleep interferes with "me" time.

BB Man: How do you make the transition from bedtime procrastinator to morning conqueror?

Dr. Joe: If someone truly wants to become the morning conqueror, they need to desire it badly enough. That desire, and willingness for change, will set the mental process, getting you right out of bed and into the morning dew. Similar to planning out our day, we also need to plan out our nighttime routine. If your goal is an early bedtime, then write a list of all the things you want to get done after work and begin to prioritize them. Take inventory of how well your plan is or isn't working for you, and how it feels. Anytime we implement change in our lives, it takes time to acclimate to them, so take the time to slowly shift into your new bedtime. Bring your thoughts of gratitude into bed with you as you let the day come to a close—don't fear or resent the loss, but focus on how grateful you were to make the most of your day.

BB Man: How do you hold yourself accountable for this goal?

Dr. Joe: Ultimately, you want to hold yourself accountable for your life and your goals, but this may be challenging. So at first, it may be more effective to elicit help from friends and family. Let everyone around you know your intentions and see if anyone wants to help you, or if they are willing to make the change themselves. You will be surprised how many people have the same great ideas but are looking for someone to help jumpstart it with them.

BB Man: What's the best approach to developing a new routine?

Dr. Joe: Plan a time to wake each day and never give in to the dreaded snooze button. Consider it your enemy and you won't give in to it by staying in bed. Scheduling a morning run or workout will keep you motivated throughout the day with an elevated mood and energy on the job. Once you get in the swing of things, you'll be feeling energized and motivated to keep the momentum going each day. And if you want to hold yourself accountable each day, set up rewards and consequences that are tied to your goal. If you stick to your routine for the week, reward yourself with something you love, but also tie it into a consequence if you don't stick to your guns.

BB Man: What are the health benefits of rising early?

Dr. Joe: Early risers who get a good night's sleep not only decrease their risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and depression, but research has correlated waking up early with optimism and success, including getting better grades, being more proactive, and anticipating problems and efficiently minimizing them.

Joe Taravella Dr. Joe is a licensed clinical psychologist and family expert in private practice in Manhattan and New Jersey. Learn more at his website, or follow him on Twitter.

This article is part of the Birchbox Man 31-Day Challenge for January 2015. Click to see all daily challenges and to learn how you can win sweet stuff all month.

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