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How to wake up like Pee Wee Herman — even if you don’t have a playhouse

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The iconic morning scene of the 1985 film, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, is inspiring.

So, we asked Laura Vanderkam, author of several productivity books including What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, for help with figuring out how to inject a bit of Pee Wee-style happiness into our daily a.m. routines. And while we can’t promise that by following this advice your morning will actually mimic Pee Wee’s too — very few of us over the age of five are able to sustain that much enthusiasm for life and/or own a Rube Goldberg breakfast-making machine — there’s hope that it will at least brighten up (and tighten up) your morning.

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Be strategic about your morning alarm

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This is what he happens when Pee Wee’s old-timey alarm clock goes off: he reaches for it and triggers a chain reaction that turns on the record player and fills the room sing-songy music and — with that — Pee Wee springs up. Can’t exactly manage this? That’s okay, we can’t either. But as Vanderkam found over and over when talking with people who have healthy, happy morning routines, setting the alarm for an hour earlier (if you can do it), gives you the extra time to start the day off right — namely, without panic.

If you’re not a five a.m. riser (don’t worry, we’re not either), just try to strategically time your alarm clock. There are different sleep cycles, some lighter, some deeper, and how we feel when we wake up has a lot to do with which cycle we’re in when the alarm goes off. Consider setting your alarm so it works with your natural sleep cycles and doesn’t interrupt you when you’re in a deep sleep cycle (REM sleep). The horrible, bitter dread you might feel when your alarm starts buzzing in the morning will lessen. You’ll also feel less groggy throughout the day.

Need help figuring out how to time your wake up? Check out this free bedtime calculator.

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Jump on the bed (or some other form of exercise)

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Once the alarm has gone off, Pee Wee’s first morning ritual is to get moving. He jumps on the bed, chortling, flailing his arms, then dons a pair of bunny slippers and “exercises” (a.k.a. groans under the weight of a pair of small dumbbells). While evidence shows that exercising in the morning isn’t necessarily better than exercising at any point in the day, it may be a good way to reduce stress later in the day. Exercising in the morning also ensures that it won’t fall off your “to do” list later.

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“[Exercise] is something that busy people know they should do. It’s hard later in the day. So, mornings are just a really great time for that,” Vanderkam points out.

Adopt a childlike mindset in the mornings

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Take a hint from Pee Wee’s childlike approach to life and empty your mind of stress in the mornings. Vanderkam reports that many people use meditation as a gentle, mindful and forgiving way to open the day because — as we’ve reported in the past — meditation is a really great part of a healthy sleep routine.

“You can really use that tone for the rest of the day by filling your brain with something good,” Vanderkam says. “[Exercise and meditation] will put you into a more expansive, calmer frame of mind. And that’s a great way to approach life.”

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Express your gratitude for the simple things

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Many of us are more, let’s say, reflective, than Pee Wee. While Pee Wee manically plays with Scotch tape as a form of morning entertainment, many of us in the real world might be mulling over the challenges we faced yesterday — and are about to face today — as soon as our minds are awake enough to think.

A happy medium between manic happiness and morning dread may be to allow yourself to reflect in a more positive manner. When interviewing subjects for her book, Vanderkam discovered a practice that some people partake in after rolling out of bed: mindful journaling, or writing down what things they’re grateful for. It only takes a few minutes out of your morning routine, but by expressing gratitude for the people, opportunities and experiences in our lives, it can potentially brighten your outlook on the upcoming day/life in general.

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Start your day doing something you love

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Conceivably, Pee Wee loves everything: his house, his dog, the slightly-burnt toast that popped out of his automatic toaster. But it’s important to identify the one or two things that you (as a real person) love, and make time for them within your morning routine.

“[The activity] could be anything that sort of restores you,” Vanderkam says. “It can be exercise for some. It can be talking with a loved one. It can be making yourself a really awesome breakfast. It could be spending 30 minutes reading something that you love. It could be listening to great music, or painting if that’s something you love to do. But whatever it is, if you start with something that fills with your tank, you’re not running out of steam, you have the wherewithal to deal with the rest of the day,” says Vanderkam.

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Oh, and one last thing: the night before

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Remember, the first defense against feeling like your mornings are an endless routine of frightful chaos? Setting a bedtime and getting that 7-9 hours of sleep. We know, we know: people have been telling you this since Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was showing in theatres, but healthy sleep routines are essential to well-being and happiness.

As Vanderkam states, “What’s the point if you’re not happy?” We think that Pee Wee would agree.


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