Shorter days, colder weather, earlier sunsets: winter is on its way in the northern hemisphere, and the clocks going back has only driven the point home. 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 hitch it up and climb into the hammock to watch the stars in the sky as they are slowly extinguished by 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 when I leave my flat in pitch darkness. I listen to my favourite podcasts (Elis James and John Robins’ podcast never fails to lift my spirits). Everyone on the bus probably thinks I’m weird for laughing to myself, but I’d be crying otherwise. Lucy, 35, higher education research support, Leeds

An early 5km run with a friend.
An early 5km run with a friend. Photograph: Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

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

I meet a friend at 7.30am for a 5km run. We take our dogs and commit to the run the night before. We go in all weather, unless there is torrential rain, snow or ice. It’s 40 minutes of exercise but more importantly, we laugh. It sets us up for the day ahead and definitely helps to lift the mood. The dogs enjoy it too! Sally, 45, head of strategic partnerships, Chebsey, Staffordshire

I wake up around 5.50am every day. At this time of year, it’s starting to get a bit grim – dark, sometimes wet and cold. But I always get up, make a decent coffee and sit in my drawing room with the curtains open, waiting for the dawn as I read the Guardian on my tablet. If it’s really cold or I’m feeling glum, I make a fire and stare at it until the winter sun has crawled over the horizon. Michael Hainge, 56, commercial consultant, 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 really effective at levelling out my moods, and I don’t feel so grim as we head into winter. I also take vitamin D in the form of a spray. Eva, 39, pottery teacher, Stockport

Reading the news on a tablet until the sun comes up.
Reading the news on a tablet until the sun comes up. Photograph: Justin Paget/Getty Images

Hard though it can be to get up early on cold, dark mornings, I love to go walking with two friends and their dogs to a wonderful bakery in our town. We arrive just before 7.30am, when it opens, to have hot, fresh coffee and the occasional cake. We catch up on our news before going home to start our working days. Jo Bowditch, 52, construction trainer and assessor, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

I have never been a morning person and always struggle to get out of bed. I literally brighten up dark mornings using a high wattage daylight bulb on a time switch in the bedroom, set to go off at the same time as the alarm clock. It’s a bit of a shock but I’m sure it helps to keep my body clock in sync.
Steve Conner, 45, engineer, Glasgow

A robin in full song on an autumnal morning.
A robin in full song on an autumnal morning. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock

Nice smells help me to feel more upbeat. On gloomy mornings, I start a meal in my slow cooker, usually with a beef roast, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs, and set it to cook for 10 hours. If I am 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, US

I warm up my clothes for the day on the radiator while I get ready, shaking off the temptation to get back into bed. I put my warm clothes on last thing so I can enjoy a few moments of toasty bliss as I slip out of the door. Hannah, London

On working days, I get up between 5.30 and 6am. I always begin with a shower, then return to bed with tea, where I spend half an hour reading, journalling or meditating. This is my payoff for early rising on dark, wintry mornings – time for myself to be quietly absorbed, creative and reflective. It sets the tone for my whole day. Rachel, 58, counsellor, Birmingham

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

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

I have coffee and then watch the sunrise in the garden, listening to birds and caring for the plants. Connecting this way gives me calm and balance. Lena Welli, 48, designer, Los Angeles

A candle and a cup of tea.
A candle and a cup of tea.
Photograph: olga Yastremska/Alamy

First, tea! Always tea. Then I open the curtains and light a small votive candle (safely) on the window ledge. We sit up in bed arm in arm and enjoy the moment as the light slowly changes. I call it “enjoying the season”, which is a bit ironic as my husband has Sad (seasonal affective disorder), but we usually end up laughing about something and it’s a precious start to the day. Jennifer Walker, Scotland

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

People featured in the article responded to a Community callout. You can contribute to open callouts here.



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