Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Feb

12 Healthy Ways to End the Day

nightAfter last week’s post on healthy ways to begin the day, how could I not cover the flip side? Just as our mornings can mirror scenes of rampant pandemonium, evenings for many people are remarkably unhealthy in their own right. We collapse and barely move from the couch. We spend hours in front of media entertainment, basking in blue light way past our intended bedtimes. We succumb to the day’s stresses and take them to bed only to lose the chance for mental rest as well as physical relaxation. There’s a better way of course. It doesn’t take much hoopla or energy to make for a healthier or more Primal evening, but the benefits will carry us through the night hours and then some.

Enjoy Physical Touch

Yes, sex was on last week’s list, but let’s expand the concept. Cuddling your kids, massaging your partner’s shoulders, or petting your dog or cat gives you a pleasant shot of oxytocin, which can help you relax and fall asleep.

Fast

Food intake, like light and sound, can trip (or trick) our circadian rhythms. Finish dinner and call it a day food-wise. Your body will benefit from the longer stretch without metabolic stress, and you’ll likely sleep better.

Choose the Messages That Bookend Your Day

Just as I think it’s important to begin the day with the messages that set the course for our morning, what we end the day with can have repercussions as well. What thoughts do you want to bring to your sleep (or subsequent lack thereof)? Consider that the local news or that hefty financial bestseller might not inspire the deepest repose. Skip the doom and didacticism in exchange for something inspiring or plain old escapist.

Carve Out Some Solitude

In that spirit, claim a little time for yourself each night – especially if you’re at work all day. Everyone could use the time to hear his/her own thoughts. Enjoy the mental space for doing whatever activity feeds and relaxes you or for doing absolutely nothing.

Set an Alarm to Go to Bed

How many of us lose total track of time as we go about our evenings? Whoa, how did it get that late? I’m not a big fan of alarms for waking up, but they can be a great reminder to turn in when you should and not when you finally remember to.

Create Order for the Next Day

A few minutes tonight will allow you to begin the next morning without undue stress and turmoil. Take care of business, write your to-do list, and you’ll sleep better knowing you’re ready for the day.

Power Down

I’ve written pretty extensively about how blue light throws off our circadian rhythms. As countercultural as it is to power down at night just when “Must See T.V.” is at its height, your health is more important than some late night show. Turn off the electrical equipment (including the smart phone) as early as possible in the evening, and dim the lights at least an hour before turning in. Fire is a nice alternative – and Primal to boot.

Spend Time in Natural (Outdoor) Darkness

I think it’s strange how we tend to avoid being outdoors once the sun sets. At no time in our evolution was this ever the case. Sure, there’s crime in many neighborhoods, but when we put the fear in perspective given our individual environments, do we give ourselves reasonable opportunity to enjoy the moods and views of the darker hours? When and wherever you can, spend some evening hours under the night sky. Notice how much different you feel there than you do simply parked on the couch.

Move

Primal truth be told, it’s never a bad time to move, but there are specific benefits to working out at night. A University of Chicago study found better hormonal responses (cortisol, thyrotropin, and glucose) in subjects who exercised in the evening or nighttime as opposed to the afternoon or morning. Even if you’re somebody who prefers to put in the heavy stuff early on in the day, use the evening as a time when you can work in some low level activity (e.g late walk around the neighborhood). Get in that last bout of activity a couple hours before bed, and then you’ll feel that blissful afterglow descend right as you’re ready to hit the sack.

Incorporate Some Mindful Movement

It’s movement, yes. Most people I know, however, see it as more relaxing. (Perfect for evening, no?) It could be a few restorative yoga poses, a few minutes of Tai Chi, or some focused stretching. Neuromovement expert, Anat Baniel, says any time we bring awareness to our movement, we’re creating new pathways. We’re working our muscles and our minds – increasing the creativity and productivity of both. Use the time to get out of your mind, so to speak, and into your body.

Follow a Ritual

I had a roommate once who literally did the exact same thing every night – same order, same timing, same activities for the same duration. After a month, his nighttime routine made me tired. When it comes down to it, we Homo sap-saps are complicated and all, but we’re just about as trainable as Pavlov’s dog. Use this inherent simplicity to your advantage. Create a regimen for the last half an hour before bed. Over time, you’ll find you may not even get through the full list anymore before you’re compelled to doze off.

Get to Bed Early

Given the time-sensitivity of sleep cycles and related hormonal secretions, every hour before midnight really is invaluable. Besides, as a friend of mine says, every decision made after 10:00 p.m. is a bad one. All the more reason to call it a day.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Be sure to share your ideas for ending the day on a Primal note.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. When I was a kid and my parents stayed up past 10, our dog would walk to the foot of the stairs (leading to the bedrooms), look up the stairs, then turn and give my parents the most mournful look before trudging slowly up the stairs. It was hilarious. Oftentimes my parents would chuckle and say “Well it I guess it IS time for bed.”

    Jay wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  2. Many night shifters here. Me too!

    Noura wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  3. Great advice on ending the day. Being a night owl, I really struggle shutting down my computer before bed. It’s a great reminder of why it’s important. Does anyone have any great tips for someone who works their 2nd job (hobby) at night? I would love to hear some thoughts.

    Chad wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  4. Like the one about setting alarm to go to bed. Help me stay on track with my new goal of 9 pm bedtime! Can’t believe the difference it makes during the day, since I get up around 5 am and usually have the chronic crabbiness of not enough sleep. Also have cut out tv in the evening before bed, instead read for a while to help get me tired. Glad my days of chronic insomnia are gone ( due to SDA centered healthy diet and chronic daily cardio with no rest! Come on , I was desperate! ) Thank God for going primal!!! Grok on!

    Primal Rach wrote on February 23rd, 2013
  5. Love this article! Its always nice to be reminded on basics to keep our lives healthy & active. Especially having a little reminder of why getting enough rest is not only important for our children, but for us as well. Thank you!

    Anastasia Healthy Mama Info. wrote on February 25th, 2013
  6. And if you can’t let go of your thoughts, take a pen and a piece of paper and write down your thoughts – to let them go. Your mind then relaxes and you can fall asleep.

    Hanne wrote on March 6th, 2013
  7. Great article. I love the idea of a bedtime alarm, I have a friend who has set his pc to sleep at 11pm. I can literally be in the middle of “chatting” to him and he just goes offline mid sentence. He explained to me before hand that this would happen so I was not offended. I think it’s a great idea.

    Sex often (but not always) wakes me up. I turn into that creepy lady who lays there gazing fondly at the sleeping BF all wide eyed and weird. If he wakes and sees me doing that, it’s kind of odd!

    I did the f.lux program on my laptop – and this helps wind me down, I assume.

    I do the hahm sah meditation if I can’t relax (I know nothing about meditation I just repeat hahm sah in my head over and over) and I practiced this for months, now I get through about half a doz repetitions and Im out like a light (usually). I got this from “Eat Pray Love” and it works for me.

    Im a uni student so I do a lot of reading and online study. My brain is wired at night at bedtime. It’s a big problem, and I too found that reading a book that I love and have read a zillion times is a great way to go to my happy sleepytime place. I often read Eat Pray Love, or Harry Potter or any one of Bill Bryson’s books.

    As for the harried mother. We all feel stressed. I was a single mum of two small kids for years, you just need to simplify your life. Ignore the mess, cook simply, forget about after school stuff and just BE still. The dishes will still be there tomorrow. Big deal. Oh and when THEY go to bed, you go to bed.

    I agree, woman talk to vent, to help themselves feel better, to sort through their emotions, and men talk to solve.

    Ive been known to have entire conversations that start with, lets go to the snow for 2 weeks, and 30 mins later, Im booking a coastal holiday. Because at the beginning, I thought I wanted snow, and by hearing myself explore it verbally, I recognise that it’s not what I wanted after all. My husband meanwhile heard SNOW + vacation and starting booking tickets. He had no idea that I needed to talk for a week about snow before I realised it’s not what I wanted. Once we worked out why I talked, things became easier. (we divorced, hence the earlier comment about my BF).

    Anyway… obviously I DO love the sound of my voice, this post is proof.

    Shutting up now.

    Jane Britton wrote on February 18th, 2014

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