Early rising

Sunrise from 20km above Earth (real photo)

As the time draws near for me to leave Bali, I’ve been reflecting on the things I have loved about living here.

High on my list is that Bali is a country of early risers. In fact, according to an online survey of 14,100 people conducted by AC Nielsen in October 2004, Indonesians (which, of course, includes the Balinese) were found to be the earliest risers in the world.

72% of Indonesians are out of bed by 6:00am, 91% by 7:00am, and most shops and businesses are open by 8:00 am. In the 20 years I’ve been here, my personal experience is that just about every Balinese person I know is already up by about 6.00am, and it’s considered absolutely fine to call anyone at that time of day (and I often do). It’s not so OK to call after 8:00 pm at night, though, because they may well be in bed.

I wasn’t an early riser when I first came to live here. But pretty soon I became acclimatized to the rhythm of life and now it feels perfectly natural to wake up at dawn and go to bed in the early hours of the evening. By far the healthiest and happiest westerners I know here are those who do likewise. Long-term residents who stay up late and sleep in every morning are out of synch, and it generally shows in their health or some other way.

Bali is 8 degrees south of the Equator, so the day and night are roughly twelve hours each, with dawn and dusk varying by only about an hour during the course of a year. I’m sure this helps immensely to regulate sleep. At the moment, dawn is around 6.00am so I wake up quite naturally as the sun rises and get out of bed. But I much prefer to go to bed a bit earlier and wake up at 4.00am or 5.00am so that I get to meditate in pitch darkness and peace before the cockerels start crowing.

Of the top ten early riser countries in the world, five are in Asia (Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, India and Japan) and five are in Europe (Denmark, Germany, Austria, Finland and Norway. Portugal turns out to be the top night owl country in the world, with 75% of the population never in bed before midnight, and seven of the remaining nine top night owl countries are Asian (Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand). Not surprisingly, these are the most westernized and urbanized countries in Asia.

Japan, by the way, is the most worrying in this survey, because the Japanese are ranked as the 8th earliest risers in the world and also the 6th latest to go to bed, with the result that 41% of them are thought to get only six hours sleep per night. Hence the Japanese karoshi epidemic (death from overwork), which is estimated to claim 10,000 lives per year, on a par with the annual number of road accidents in Japan. That’s westernization gone very wrong.

Early rising is now so much a part of my life that even when I visit other countries where the sun comes up much later in the day, I still wake up early. It’s not just the pristine energies of dawn that I enjoy so much. It’s also the lack of interruptions at that time of day because everyone else is still asleep. I find I can often do the equivalent of a full day’s work before everyone else wakes up, leaving me free to do other things that most people don’t have time for.

So how to become an early riser? Well, spending some time in a place where it’s a natural way of life really helps. Interestingly, Balinese children are not sent to bed by their parents at a set time as they are in the West. They are allowed to stay up as long as they like, and soon discover for themselves that they feel too tired in the morning if they stay up too late. School here starts at 7.30am.

And if you live in a place where early rising is the exception rather than the norm, then a good way to change your daily routine is to get up just a little bit earlier (say 10 minutes) each day until you reach your favourite early rising time. Make sure you do something in the extra minutes you have that you love to do and would never normally have time for. With a little bit of will power, most people find it only takes about a month to reprogram themselves.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2010

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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One Response to Early rising

  1. Thank you for your interesting thoughts on early rising, I will try to make this a new habit, as I usually wake up quite tired and have low energy levels.
    I have just finished decluttering, simplifying and redecorating my guest room, sewing room, living room, sun room and car garage.I took a whole car full (and the trunk) to the charity shop,a whole pick up full to the dump and I now feel like the nasty persistent (invisible) huge army of very tiny sprites of guilt, have gone to annoy someone else.

    When you have clutter and mess you seem to spend all your spare time being scratched, poked, bitten and pinched by these nasty little creatures.I can now sit in peaceful bliss without seeing or worrying about all the stuff I should be doing.

    Wherever I look, it pleases me, it is the way I want it to be, not “whatever” which is what you start with when money is tight and end up keeping because your energy is used up feeling guilty about the state of the situation.

    I was a bargain hunting fiend at the summer sales, so I not only have wonderful looking rooms, I saved SERIOUS money on light fittings, lamps, curtains, cushions, a sofabed and a lounge suite.

    You just have to start. You JUST have to start. You just HAVE to start.

    Thank you so much for your inspiration and all good wishes for your new start in the U.S.

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