karin nordin wake up early

How to Wake Up Early in the Morning

If you’re not a morning person but want to be: have a seat and listen up. We are about to talk about how to wake up early in the morning. 


First, here is a personal story about me:

For years of my life, I struggled with mornings. In fact, I almost failed multiple college classes because they were at 8:00 AM. I just couldn’t get my butt out of bed, even for classes I wanted to go to! But then I got a Ph.D. in behavior change and became an expert on all things mindset, routine, and habit formation. That was like a light turning on! All of a sudden, I knew tactics that I could use to create a morning that works for me. And that is exactly what I’m going to teach you today. But, I want to start with a disclaimer: 


Getting up early in the morning does not make you a better person.

Why should you wake up early in the morning?


If you are not a morning person, you don’t have to be. But for me personally, even though I struggled with it… I knew that on the mornings that I succeeded, I had way better mental health throughout the day. So that is why I chose to pursue figuring out how to wake up early in the morning. I know some of you may be feeling the exact same way and I want to share what I learned. I hope it will help.



Waking up in the morning is hard, so today we’re going to tackle it in four different areas:


    • Environmental

    • Mental

    • Behavioral

    • Physical


Wake up early in the morning by changing your environment


When you first open your eyes in the morning as your alarm goes off, you desperately want to hit snooze. You can think of that version of your brain as your inner toddler. Of course, your inner toddler wants to kick and scream and rebel against your desire to get up. And that’s okay.


Have you noticed, though, that after a few minutes, your responsible inner adult emerges, and you can be reasonable?


Create a conscious thought gap


So your goal here is to stall your immediate instinct to resist. You just need to keep yourself awake long enough for your inner adult to come out. Then that version of your brain can take over and start to reason with your inner toddler. In order to do that, you have to create something that I call the conscious thought gap.



Conscious Thought Gap:

The time between waking up and having reasonable, responsible thoughts.


You can create this gap by changing your environment. This might look like:


    • Getting a digital alarm clock from Amazon and putting it all the way across the room.

    • Downloading an app like Alarmy that forces you to type phrases or do math problems to turn off your alarm.

    • Putting a glass of water next to you to chug and create a little bit of space.


What you want to do is force yourself to be awake by adjusting your environment for 2-5 minutes. During that time, you’re going to slowly work on the next step, which is adjusting your mindset and thoughts. Having that conscious thought gap in place first is the key to start making a different decision.


Wake up early in the morning by changing your mindset


Okay, so let’s say you’ve put your alarm in the bathroom. You have to get up and take several steps to turn it off. What do you do during those 30-60-seconds where you’re automatically awake, but your inner toddler is still in charge?



Well, your inner toddler brain is definitely going to present all of the reasons why you shouldn’t get up… You’re too tired… You have to go back to sleep.. You just need five more minutes.


Write out thought rebuttals


Imagine that you are a lawyer in court. Your inner toddler brain is the defendant, but your inner adult brain is the prosecutor. It’s your job to tell everyone on the jury why the defense’s argument is wrong. In my coaching program, we call this a thought rebuttal.



Thought Rebuttal

The argument you make back to your brain when your automatic thoughts are in opposition to your goals.


Try writing down the excuses that your brain gives you. Then, on that same piece of paper, write something that you are ready to say back to your brain. In fact, I highly recommend putting this piece of paper on top of your phone or next to your alarm. That way, when you shut off that alarm, you’ll see all the reasons you really do want to wake up early in the morning.



Let’s have a quick mindset shift moment. Something that drastically changed my experience with mornings was realizing that being tired is part of getting up. If you were outside in the cold, then entered a warm room, you’d still feel cold for a couple of minutes while you slowly warmed up. If you didn’t immediately feel warm, you wouldn’t go back outside in the cold. That doesn’t make any sense. It’s the exact same thing when you wake up. You can expect to feel tired. This is one of my favorite thought rebuttals; it really transformed the game for me. Once I normalized that being tired is part of waking up, everything got easier for me.



Being tired is part of getting up.


Alright, so we’ve adjusted our environment and we’ve written down our thought rebuttals. What comes next?


Wake up early in the morning by changing your behavior


Harness your intrinsic motivation



A lot of us have this perfectionistic idea of what our morning is supposed to look like. We think that we need to get up early, drink some green juice, do a pushup, take a cold shower, and meditate for an hour. But if you don’t like reading, meditating, or exercising as soon as you get up, that’s going to be a problem. If you don’t enjoy your morning routine, you’ll be motivated… to turn off your alarm and go back to sleep.


Design your first activity


My behavioral tip for you here is to design a first activity that you are truly motivated to do. When I was in graduate school, I absolutely loved watching YouTube videos. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to watch them. So I would wake up early in the morning and watch people that I really liked and admired on YouTube. It helped my mindset for the day, and it was an easy thing for my morning brain to do.



Design a first activity that you are truly motivated to do.

Okay, I have to jump in and tell you that if this is resonating for you, I want you to tell me in the comments, but I also want you to go check out my Meaningful Mornings course. It’s super cheap – only $37 – and it walks you through 5 days of video modules and resources on how to craft a morning routine you’ll look forward to and enjoy. So if you’re like, Karin, I don’t know what my ideal morning looks like, I don’t know what I would actually look forward to, that is where I want you to start.

Wake up early in the morning by making physical changes


Alright, let’s say that you use these tips – adjust your environment, write thought rebuttals, look forward to something in the morning – and you actually manage to get your butt out of bed. What should you do the first few days to make success more achievable and turn it into a sustainable habit?



The answer comes from your physical body. So, I’m going to give you 3 tips to reset and regulate your circadian rhythm.


Circadian Rhythm


The natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavior changes that the body goes through in a 24-hour cycle





Every organ in your body has an internal clock. They tell your brain what time to wake up and what time to go to bed. You can leverage the internal clock of the largest organs in your body. Tell them, We’re now going to wake up earlier in the morning.



Eventually, you’ll naturally start waking up early in the morning and won’t feel as much resistance. It’s sort of like when you travel and you adjust to the time change.


So 3 things you can do:




One of the largest organs in your body is your skin. Our skin knows whether it’s morning or night by exposure to daylight. So, if you can get outside or expose yourself to bright light in the morning, that can really help cue your body to wake up early in the morning. It tells your body, This is our new wake-up time. This is morning. We need to start adjusting.




I know, I know. You’re probably not hungry yet, and your instinct may be to swan dive into your coffee cup. And if that’s you, that’s okay. I relate. But I recommend that you try to eat something small. It can be a muffin, a piece of coffee cake, a granola bar – something that’s going to indicate to your stomach, This is the new breakfast time.




You don’t have to do a full-blown workout at 6:00 AM if you don’t want to. That’s not something that I ever want to do. But if you can move around just a little bit, especially in that first week of getting up early, that tells your circulatory system that it’s morning. This can look like:


    • Unloading your dishwasher
    • Walking a couple of laps around your house
    • Stretching or yoga flow
    • A five-minute high-intensity workout

Your aim is to raise your heart rate, at least a little bit. This simple action will benefit you exponentially in the future.




Finally, tip number 5 – which is really a bonus tip – is to work on building your self-accountability skill. And if you’re like, Karin, um, I don’t have a self-accountability skill… Check out this video, which tells you exactly how to start building that skill and become self-accountable.




P.S. Make sure you check back here because I have more posts coming out that are specifically about mornings and more tips for crafting a morning routine that you’ll truly, truly enjoy.

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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.


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