‘I watch the sun rise from a hammock in the garden’ – 16 ways to start your day well now the clocks have gone back

Sshorter days, colder weather, earlier sunsets: winter is approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, and turning back the clocks has only made this point clear. Guardian readers reveal the small rituals that bring joy to the gloom of waking up in the morning.

I don’t lie in bed and fight the clock. I make a hot milky coffee and take my hammock out to the garden, which is secluded and quiet. I hook it up and climb into the hammock to watch the stars in the sky as they slowly fade away with the dawn. Cindy-Lee Noble, 67, retired gardener, Dorset

I have to get up at 5.20am to commute from Leeds to Sheffield. It’s a bus, a train and a tram, so I need something to gird my loins as I leave my flat in the pitch black. I listen to my favorite podcasts (the Elis James and John Robins podcast always cheers me up). Everyone on the bus probably thinks I’m weird because I’m laughing to myself, but otherwise I’d be crying. Lucy, 35, Higher Education Research Support, Leeds

An early 5k run with a friend.
An early 5k run with a friend. Photo: Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

I have a chronic illness, so when the mornings are dark, I find it extra difficult to get out of my warm bed. I put a portable radiator on a timer for an hour before I wake up, then use a smart plug to turn on a salt lamp with my morning alarm. Then I read a poem in bed (the Poetry Foundation makes beautiful anthologies), light some incense and do some gentle yoga under a blanket. Even a few minutes gives me a sense of achievement before the sun rises. Amy, 33, actor, Lancashire

I’m meeting a friend at 7:30 for a 5K run. We take our dogs and go for a run the night before. We go in all weather conditions, unless there is heavy rain, snow or ice. It’s 40 minutes of exercise, but more importantly: we laugh. It prepares us for the day ahead and certainly helps to improve the mood. The dogs love it too! Sally, 45, head of strategic partnerships, ChebseyStaffordshire

I wake up around 5:50 am every day. At this time of year it starts to get a bit grim: dark, sometimes wet and cold. But I always get up, make a good cup of coffee and sit in my drawing room with the curtains open, waiting for dawn while I read the Guardian on my tablet. When it’s really cold or I’m feeling down, I build a fire and stare at it until the winter sun has crept over the horizon. Michael Hainge, 56, commercial consultantt, Wantage, Oxfordshire

I recently started working with a personal trainer, so I go to the gym and lift heavy weights. I’ve found it to be very effective at evening out my mood, and I don’t feel as down as we head into winter. I also take vitamin D in the form of a spray. Eva, 39, pottery teacher, Stockport

Read the news on a tablet until the sun rises.
Read the news on a tablet until the sun rises. Photo: Justin Paget/Getty Images

As hard as it can be to get up early on cold, dark mornings, I love taking two friends and their dogs for a walk to a delicious bakery in our town. We arrive just before 7:30am, when it opens, for hot, fresh coffee and the occasional cake. We catch up on our news before we go home to start our working day. Jo Bowditch, 52, construction trainer and assessor, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

I have never been a morning person and always have trouble getting out of bed. I literally brighten up dark mornings with a high-wattage daylight lamp on a timer in the bedroom, which goes off at the same time as the alarm clock. It’s a bit of a shock, but I’m sure it helps keep my biological clock in sync.
Steve Conner, 45, engineer, Glasgow

A robin in full song on an autumn morning.
A robin in full song on an autumn morning. Photo: Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock

Nice smells make me feel happier. On dreary mornings I start a meal in my slow cooker, usually with a roast of beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs, and let it cook for 10 hours. If I’m working from home that day, the smell fills the house and lifts my mood in anticipation of a delicious dinner with my family. Dorothy, 50, lawyer, Maryland, USA

I warm up my clothes for the day on the radiator while I get ready, and resist the temptation to crawl back into bed. Finally, I put on my warm clothes so I can enjoy a few moments of wonderful happiness as I slip out the door. Hanna, London

On workdays I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 am. I always start with a shower and then go back to bed with tea, where I spend half an hour reading, journaling or meditating. This is my reward for getting up early on dark, wintery mornings – time for myself to quiet down, be creative and reflective. It sets the tone for my entire day. Rachel, 58, consultant, Birmingham

A cold shower! Does wonders. Sean Tresilian, 67, retired teacher, Cardiff

I wake up early enough for coffee and breakfast in bed. As soon as I have something to read, I use my Lumie light therapy lamp. I struggle with depression, which is often worse in the winter, and the light therapy helps me resist the urge to stay in bed, go back to sleep and isolate myself. Kate, 34, pediatric mental health nurse

I drink coffee and then watch the sunrise in the garden, listen to birds and take care of the plants. Connecting in this way gives me peace and balance. Lena Welli, 48, designer, Los Angeles

A candle and a cup of tea.
A candle and a cup of tea.
Photo: Olga Yastremska/Alamy

Tea first! Always tea. Then I open the curtains and (safely) light a small votive candle on the windowsill. We sit up arm in arm in bed and enjoy the moment as the light slowly changes. I call it “enjoying the season,” which is a bit ironic because my husband has Sad (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but usually we laugh about something and it’s a valuable start to the day. Jennifer Walker, Scotland

I know it’s supposed to be hygge, skiing and candles, but the Scandinavians do it these days with the help of copious amounts of coffee. Norwegians drink a lot of coffee and the further north you go, the more free coffee there is. Six months ago I bought a used espresso machine. This is how I will get through the dark times this winter. Ben McPherson, writer, Oslo

People from the article responded to a call from the community. You can contribute to open highlights here.