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10 Ways to Wake Up Happy

You were up too late watching that show that was just too good to turn off (we’ve all been there), and now morning has come way too early. Here’s how to wake up on the right side of the bed and start your day with a sunny disposition.

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1. Let the Sun In

Go to sleep with your blinds or curtains halfway open. That way, the natural light of the rising sun will send a signal to your brain to slow its production of melatonin and bump up its production of adrenaline, a signal that it’s time to wake up. When the alarm goes off, you’ll already be half awake. Even better: Go to bed early enough so that waking up when the sun shines through your window still gives you the recommended seven hours of shut-eye. If you maintain this routine, it’s likely that you can start relying on your biological clock rather than an alarm clock.

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2. Set Your Alarm 15 Minutes Earlier

By setting your alarm early, you don’t have to jump out of bed and rush through your morning. You can begin your morning by lying in bed, slowly waking up. It’s just as important to prepare yourself mentally as physically for your day. These few minutes in bed, before anyone else is up, are all yours. 

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3. Reach for the Sky

Stretch every extremity for 15 seconds. Try this even before you open your eyes. Lift your arm and begin by stretching each finger, then your hand, then your wrist, then your arm. Then move on to the other arm. Then your toes, feet, ankles, and legs. Finally, end with a neck and back stretch that propels you out of the bed. You’ve just limbered up your muscles and joints and enhanced the flow of blood through your body, providing an extra shot of oxygen to all your tissues.

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4. Wake Up and Dance

Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes each morning listening to music or sitting outside just thinking. This allows the creative thinking that takes place during the night to gel and form into a plan of action, grounding you for the day.

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5. Don’t Be Decisive

For truly relaxing mornings, reduce the number of choices and decisions you make to zero. Go about this in two ways: First, make your morning decisions the night before: what clothes to wear, what breakfast to eat, what route to take to work, and so on. Second, ritualize as much of your morning as possible. Really, there’s no need to vary your breakfast, timetable, or bathroom ritual from one morning to the next. 

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6. Wake to the Smell of Really Great Coffee

Buy the absolute best coffee you can afford-fresh beans are preferred-and put twice the amount you’ve been using into your coffee maker, the one you bought specifically because it has an alarm that can be set to start brewing times. The strong scent of strong coffee will pull you out of bed like a fishhook in the back of your pajamas. Plus, if you’re going the caffeine route, morning is the best time for it.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that acts in many ways like other stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, waking you up and increasing your muscular activity. Even better: A study of 18 men found that caffeine improved clear-headedness, happiness, and calmness, as well as the men’s ability to perform on attention tests and to process information and solve problems.

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7. Brush Your Tongue for One Minute

There’s no better way to rid yourself of morning breath and begin your day minty-fresh and clean. After all, more than 300 types of bacteria take up residence in your mouth every night. You think a quick brush over the teeth is going to vanquish them all? 

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8. Use Real Sugar or Drink Some OJ

When researchers at the University of Virginia tested the memories of healthy 60 to 80-year-olds, they found those who had a small amount of sugar in the morning even before breakfast had better memory recall that day, and on into the following day. We’re talking small amounts, however, about a teaspoon or less; so put down that doughnut. 

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9. Check Your Morning Calendar

Hang a large calendar or white board in a prominent position in your kitchen. On it write everything you need to know for that particular day, from kids’ activities to whether the guy is coming to service the furnace to whether it’s time to pay bills. Check it out carefully while you sip that first cup of coffee or morning tea; it will help you structure your day in your mind and avoid the stressful effects of forgetting something important. 

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10. Share Your Love

Kiss all the people you love in your house (including the dog and cat) before you leave. Connecting with the ones you love soothes stress and provides you with a positive start to your day, as well as keeping you focused on what’s really important says therapist Barbara Bartlein, L.C.S.W., author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? 12.5 Strategies for a Happy Marriage.