I got up 30 minutes early every day for a week—here's how it impacted my wellbeing

Keen to carve out some more time for myself, I set my alarm for an earlier wake-up call and the results were transformative

Woman wearing sleep mask in bed reaching out to turn off phone alarm
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you ever feel so caught up in the cycle of work, social commitments, household chores and life admin that you can’t remember what it’s like to have a few peaceful moments to yourself? If so, you’re not alone. Like many others, the only time I seem to be able to focus on ‘me’ is 9pm at night when I’m so tired it takes all my energy to simply sit on the couch and point the remote at the TV.  

Having kids certainly doesn’t make it easy to carve out time for yourself, but even my friends without children complain about how quickly their evenings disappear after work. It’s part of the reason why ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’—when people stay up late to try and claw some time back for themselves—is a thing.

I’m no night owl and struggle with get-up-and-go post 8pm, so I was keen to consider other ways I could gain a few extra moments for self-care. With this in mind, I decided to try getting up at the crack of dawn and challenged myself to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual for a week.  

The benefits of getting up early

While getting up early may sound like a chore, there are benefits to be had. One study of university students, published in Harvard Business Review, showed that early risers tend to be more proactive. Other research (again, focusing on university students) showed that morning types have a more positive mindset.

For me, the important question was, what was I going to do with my extra morning time? I could easily tick off some life admin, or get ahead with work, but I was determined that this challenge would allow me to focus on my physical and emotional wellbeing.  

Mhairi Todd, a transformation coach and founder of Revolve Coaching, recommends starting the day by getting outside—whatever time you wake up. 

“Get daylight directly on your face and skin as soon as possible,” she advises. “There's a wealth of evidence to suggest even two to five minutes of exposure first thing helps with anxiety, PMS, insomnia and much more." 

And as for the rest of the extra minutes? “Use the time to do something totally for you and don't underestimate how important small steps are and how they add up,” she says.

Mhairi Todd
Mhairi Todd

Mhairi Todd, aka the roadblock coach, is an accredited transformation coach and the founder of Revolve Coaching. She helps women navigate and overcome the roadblocks in their lives, and her coaching programs cover everything from unlocking potential and gaining confidence to improving relationships and combating anxiety.  

What I discovered

With Todd’s advice ringing in my ears, I started each (non-rainy) day by stepping outside for a few moments—feeling cool stone beneath my bare feet and fresh air on my face. I loved waking up my body and mind in this way. 

I then used the extra time for a variety of different activities—all of which felt nourishing and good for my physical and mental health. Here’s what I found... 

Woman doing yoga at home in the morning

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It gets easier with time 

OK, I’ll admit it. Setting my alarm for 5.45am was a real struggle at first. There’s something about seeing the number five on the clock that just feels wrong. But, after a couple of days of getting up early and relishing the benefits of a quiet cup of tea to myself, waking up at that time felt like a treat, not a chore. Good habits really do stick, and I can see this one becoming the norm. 

You can do a lot in 30 minutes 

When you’re busy at work or trying to cram a million jobs into your lunch break, 30 minutes can fly by in an instant, but when the whole house is quiet and your phone isn’t pinging with notifications, 30 minutes can actually feel like a long time.  

In my early morning moments, I managed to do all sorts: one morning I went for a quick run, another morning I curled up on the sofa and read a few chapters of my book, and another day I did some gentle beginner stretches on my yoga mat. It reminded me that you don’t need to set aside hours and hours in order to get fit or focus on your health—just 30 minutes can have a big impact on how you feel. 

Making time for myself makes me happier 

It’s perhaps not surprising, but setting aside half an hour for myself in the morning boosts my mood hugely. I now wonder why I never tried it before. It feels good to dedicate time to my needs and I feel more fulfilled and less stressed. Being able to spend time on things that bring me joy, like reading and running, means I now start my day feeling content and that happiness permeates into the following hours too.  

My mornings feel less stressful 

Before starting the challenge, I’d assumed that after my 30 minutes of peace, the manic-ness of my usual mornings would return. But the sense of calm I gained from my time alone has stayed with me. And now, when the rest of my family wakes after me, the juggle feels more manageable. I have time to get some headspace and process my thoughts for the day ahead, which means I feel less on edge in the midst of the breakfast rush and it doesn’t feel so stressful.    

So there you have it: plenty of reasons why your morning alarm could become your new best friend. Be brave and switch it up—I promise you won’t regret it. 

And if you need more tips on how to get moving when it's still dark outside, see our morning yoga routine or energize yourself with this full-body dumbbell workout.

Claire Munnings

Claire is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years experience. Specializing in health, wellbeing and women’s lifestyle topics, Claire was previously the editor of Natural Health magazine and Health&Wellbeing magazine, and has written for titles including Stylist, Platinum, MadeForMums, Happiful, and In The Moment.