How to wake up

Photo by Mike Kenneally

I’m a black coffee kind of guy.

I remember being quite a bit younger and my gruff grandpa asking me if I’d like some coffee with my cream and sugar when I first started drinking the stuff, trying to drown out the bitter taste with sweet and creamy.

From then on, I took pride in my answer whenever someone asked me how I took my java. I answered them in the same way my grandpa always did: “black as the devil’s heart and twice as strong.”

Embarrassingly, I spent much of my life with the same minor disdain my grandpa possessed for those who muddled their morning coffees. “Oh, would they like some coffee with their cream and sugar?”

It took me a lot longer to realize life is much too short to care about such small things. I let people enjoy their joe as they will. But myself: I’ve stuck to black coffee and I’m too far entrenched in my tastes at this age to change them.

Coffee, however you might take it, is how many of us start our days. Whether you’re working, retired or somewhere in between, there’s something to be said about a steaming cup, maybe enjoyed on your patio, your easy chair or in a steel mug as you brave the daily commute.

There’s an embarrassment of options these days as well. Whether you’re a diehard Tim Hortons fan, a Starbucks enthusiast or perhaps have a local shop on the corner you like to support, there’s plenty to choose from.

To be frank, I’m not partisan in my coffee appreciation. If it’s got caffeine and it’s warm, I’ll guzzle it down happily. The best tasting coffee, in my opinion, is coffee made by someone else. There’s joy in waking up and smelling it from beneath the covers, a brewed pot just waiting to be consumed.

But coffee can only go so far in getting us up, alert and awake. It’s important to have a routine.

A routine can look like a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to be boring. It’s not a rut; it’s a well-trodden path we take because it’s comfortable and enjoyable.

Here are a few steps you can add to your morning to help wake you up and get you started for your day.

Get dressed

Seems obvious, no? But not necessarily.

It’s too easy to let ourselves fall into the habit of pajamas, especially if our days aren’t filled with a to-do list that requires fancier clothes.

But you’d be amazed at how much better you feel by pulling on a pair of pants and a nice shirt or top.

In fact, a campaign from the government of Alberta looks towards ending “PJ Paralysis.”

“End PJ Paralysis is a global movement to help patients get up, dressed and moving. It aims to get patients out of bed, dressed in their own clothes and when possible, moving rather than lying in bed,” reads the Alberta Health Services website.

It states that getting up, getting dressed and moving around has positive health impacts.

While the campaign itself is aimed at those recovered in hospital, the psychological benefits for all of us are clear: getting dressed helps us prepare for a day with potential.

Coffee and lists

I’ve talked coffee to death, so I won’t restate why I think the stuff is beneficial, but it need not be coffee necessarily.

Whether you’re a tea drinker or even a fan of hot cocoa, something warm to sip on in the morning feels wonderful. It’s like a hot bath for your insides, which is especially appreciated on cold, Albertan mornings.

Be sure to pair whatever hot drink you have with a glass of water. I don’t need to tell you the importance of drinking water, so consider this a gentle reminder.

On the subject of lists, start one of all the things you’d like to do today.

My favourite and first thing to put on any to-do list is “1. Make a to-do list.”

You immediately get to scratch something off. Look at you! You’re already accomplishing things.

You might be tempted to just write down errands and chores, but I’d suggest something different. Write down a few relaxing, light things you want to do today. Whether it’s reading a few pages in your book or finishing a crossword puzzle.

Make time to waste some time. As they say, “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.”

Do not read the news

Why are you reading the newspaper?

Put it down.

This is not the way you want to start your day.

The news right now is no way to start the day. There is too much going on at once and reading the news in the morning is a good way to paralyze your thoughts for the rest of the day.

That is not to say you shouldn’t consume the news at all: absolutely not. Being ignorant of what’s going on around us is of no benefit to anyone. But carve out a point in your day, later in the morning or afternoon, to see what’s going on in the world.

And follow it up with something light: find a happier story, call a friend or family member, or even read something positive right here in the Kerby News.

You can be well-read and still choose to balance the heavier aspects of current events with something lighter. I promise you, your mornings will improve.

Now that’s the “how” of waking up in the mornings. It’s short, simple and will benefit your well-being in ways you couldn’t imagine.

But there is another question, that’s just as important if not more so, to answer when it comes to this subject.

It’s the question of “why.”

The question of why

I had a close friend contact me recently.

There was a person she loved and who loved her, and they were now no longer in her life.

She asked me for something: not for kind words or advice or empathy.

She asked me why I chose to get up in the mornings.

At first, I was taken aback and worried that I might say the wrong thing. But I remembered what happened earlier that day.

I went outside to enjoy my cup of coffee and there, in the courtyard of my apartment, were half a dozen saxophone players. They were standing there, music stands on the grass and instruments at the ready. The lot of them began to play, haunting, gorgeous melodies that made my hair stand on end.

I sat on a nearby bench and listened until I cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard, especially when it seemed as though the world had been filled with such ugliness for so long.

And so when my friend asked me the important question, the “why,” I told her this.

Even though some days are hard and they seemed to be getting harder, there are some days that are good.

The bad and the good don’t cancel each other out. Life is just a mass of good things and bad things. The good parts of life don’t always soften the bad ones, but at the same time, the bad things don’t spoil the happy moments.

We often spend so much of our brain power on imagining the worst case scenarios, the awful things that are happening and that could happen. Very seldom do we spend time imagining the good things that could happen: even though they are just as likely to.

In my wildest dreams, I had no idea I’d wake up to see a chorus of musicians creating something beautiful in the light of my own backyard, despite the darkness that has permeated this year.

And so that’s the big answer to “why.” Because life can change and surprise you in the most wonderful, incredible and positive ways.

And because even if I make my own cup of coffee in the mornings, it still tastes good.

Life’s too short not to live it. Maybe I’ll have cream and sugar next time.