Lately I’ve become a ‘morning person.’ I don’t even like that word or its associations, but I love feeling like I’m on antidepressants every morning with a minimum of effort and no coffee. I go to bed when darkness falls, around 8:30, and wake up about an hour before the sun rises, at 5:30 AM.
I’ve been amazed at what it’s done for my life, emotionally and energetically. To a large extent, it’s meant no more moodiness, no more depression, and, especially, no more ‘sticky’ moods I can’t shake off. In fact, I have a spot-test I ask myself whenever I’m feeling bad enough to be aware of it: is it dark out, is the quality of the light dark and unchanging? Over half the time now, the answer is ‘yes.’ Then I go to sleep, knowing that I can just restart where I left off the next day, renewed.
It’s hard to overestimate how powerful an effect this has on your mood, how easy it is to pick up these points. It’s ‘free money,’ basically, in the sense that you still get the same amount of hours every day, the same amount of wakefulness, but just by tweaking the hour you get up, you get a boost that would take drugs or exercise to get any other way.
The combination of synchronizing to the sun and running for an hour a day is, for me, a sort of impassable barrier for negative emotions; together they make it impossible to feel terrible in a sustained way, for any length of time longer than several consecutive days. Does it make me feel good all the time? No. Does it ‘stop the bleeding?’ Yes.
Even emotionally traumatic events as the end of friendships and relationships can’t break this combination; it’s such a strong wall of support for the emotions that very few things can destroy it. You might feel terrible, but it stays within limits. I don’t know anything else that offers this level of protection, so easily and so painlessly.
The Romans had a cult of ‘Sol Invictus,’ the Invincible Sun. Even on a spiritual level, we recognize the power of the sun – the ability to dispel darkness and bring light. There are long descriptions in classical literature of the sun, not just glossing over it or treating it like some kind of annoyance but celebrating its strength, its power, its grandeur, noticing in an observant way that lovely quality of the light at dawn as it successively increases in strength.
There’s something invigorating about leaving your bed and seeing the light creep over everything, intensify, and finally blaze out over the city, essentially ‘waking up’ at the same time and on the same schedule as your body. The Invincible Sun is right; nothing conquers it, nothing can resist it. It’s nice to get a taste of this, just by setting your hours so you can participate in the arrival of that light, every day.
You need this in your life.
In fact, it’s such a powerful advantage that the only reason I don’t do it all the time is because of social events which drag out into the night. If it’s not for a party or a social thing, there’s no question – I’m going to arrange my day to get as much daylight as humanly possible, because that, more than anything else, is going to push me up.
I’ve tried to sell people on this same idea, which is so simple, so natural, and so reliable that it stands up to every test. It’s been a hard sell.
People tell me they are ‘night people.’ But what does it matter? We all get the same amount of hours anyway; it’s just about when you go to sleep, and unless we’re talking about an arbitrary hour for a social event, you can do the same things with light that you can without it.
So try it. Give it a week, and understand that, obviously, you’re going to feel bad if you wake up 3 hours early one day, but not if you ease into it and reset to an early schedule more intelligently.
And forget about ‘healthy, wealthy and wise’, because it’s not about being wholesome, just as being awake in the long darkness has no intrinsic value (I think that’s mostly about that feeling of expansive time, which quickly changing daylight doesn’t allow). I like the feeling of being able to sleep as long as I want, and possibly longer, which becomes much easier when there’s no daylight streaming through your window.
Make your own hours, your own days, your own schedule – with as much light as possible, because that way is best.
I’m sure I have the zeal of the converted now, but honestly, knowing the benefits? It’s an easy choice.