I’m not a morning person. I’d rather stay up late than get up early. And in the winter, getting up before 8 a.m. is the pits.
It’s dark out when I get up. Like middle-of-the-night dark. And it was dark when I went to bed…even if that was at 5 p.m. the night before. I hate it. I have such a hard time waking up when it’s completely dark outside.
My alarm goes off. I groggily hit snooze and lay under the nice, warm blankets and think about all the reasons why I can’t get up. When I finally convince myself to crawl out from under the covers, I think about how long it will be until I can get back in bed and sleep the world away.
It makes for some really rough mornings.
I knew I needed to do something different. I couldn’t wake up every morning having a mental argument with myself about why I needed to get up. Furthermore, I didn’t need to be having a struggle with myself all day long about going back to bed. Sleeping when I should be working, working out, cleaning, etc. is not socially acceptable.
My therapist has been suggesting to me for weeks that I need to get some time in front of my happy light. Well, actually Happy Light, because yes, that’s the brand name. Anyway. This full-spectrum light is supposed to be good for people like me. The SAD people. I’m not sure of the exact science behind it, but apparently having this thing about an arm’s length from you for 20 or so minutes per day is enough to trick your body into thinking you have seen the sun.
The only thing that wakes me up enough not to want to crawl back into my cave of a bed is exercise. So I thought, what happens if I combine these two things? And what happens if I do it first thing in the morning?
So I started getting up a half and hour early in mid-October. Well, more like 45 minutes earlier, because I’d hit the snooze button several times so I wasn’t really getting up at 6 a.m. My alarm goes off at 5:30. I have ten minutes to change my clothes, grab a water bottle, put on my shoes and head downstairs.
Then I get on the treadmill with my Happy Light sitting in front of me.
I did it one morning. Then the next. Then the next.
It wasn’t easy. When that alarm would go off, I had to convince myself that another 30 minutes of sleep was not going to make a difference in the grand scheme of my day. Once I was up, staying moving was easy.
I walk for about 20 minutes. While on the treadmill, I have the TV on the news so I get a little bit of current events and weather before starting my day. I can even put my phone on the treadmill behind the Happy Light and scroll through my news feed. This was DEFINITELY not something I was doing when I was sleeping to the last possible minute each morning. It feels like I’m a little more “in the know” before I’m even dressed for the day.
By the time I hop off the treadmill at 6 a.m., I’ve walked over a mile, gotten my heart pumping, my blood moving and I’ve logged some time in front of the Happy Light.
One morning, I *gasp* worked out with a video instead of walking on the treadmill.
Who am I? I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore!
This led to more good changes.
- I’m hungry so I eat breakfast at home now, and it’s typically healthier because I have the time to grab a yogurt or some whole wheat toast rather than just eating some pretzels or something at work.
- I drink more water. I drink on the treadmill and when I get off the treadmill before I get in the shower. This isn’t something that I even thought about until I was at work. I’ve upped my water consumption and I can tell my skin doesn’t feel quite a dry.
- I’m not as likely to go back to bed. Even on the days when I don’t work, I feel like I’ve already invested too much time in my day to get back under the covers and sleep it away.
- I’m averaging 10,000 steps easily each day. Getting 2,000 under my belt before I’ve even gotten dressed certainly helps, but I think I’m up and moving around more just because I’ve had a good start.
Does the light help?
I can’t tell because I’ve committed the biggest sin in science….I have too many variables. Do I feel better because of the exercise or because of the light? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not willing to screw around with what is working. I’m not going to take away the light or the treadmill just to figure out what makes a difference.
I should note that I’m doing this in combination with a weight training program, which I typically complete later in the day. I’ve averaging 5 days per week or more on the treadmill in front of the light—and the other day, I try not to wake up until the sun is up.
I’d like to incorporate more light therapy into my day. I work inside of a walled off room. I have no windows. This makes it incredibly difficult in the winter. I’d like to have a light at work, but one step at a time.
In previous winters, I haven’t been diligent about the light therapy. This year, I hope to keep up the process.
Have you ever had luck with a light or exercise for seasonal affect disorder?