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

13 Healthy Ways to Begin the Day

SunriseIn the midst of topical wound ointment, baby wearing, and gynoid fat, sometimes it’s nice to just back up and focus on the basics. How much more fundamental does it get really than getting up in the morning? I think we can safely count it as square one. Whether you’re stopping by today as a Primal newbie or old timer, most of us need the reminder at some point. Ah, morning. It’s an alternately grim and comical scene in most American households. There’s the snooze parade, rumpled faces, chronic grouchiness, catatonic showers, coffee frenzy, mad dashes, and neon colored breakfast with cartoon characters (fun prize included!). We’re quite a species to behold at 6:30 a.m. What can we do to change this picture? Is there such a thing as a Primal morning short of rising from a sleeping bag in a remote corner of mountain wilderness? You decide. A more approachable goal this morning might be this: what can make the morning feel – and be – a little healthier and happier?

Drink Water

I don’t buy the eight glasses a day commandment. I think water is overrated in fact. Nature gave us a sensation called thirst for a reason, and for most of us it tends to work pretty well. That said, after eight hours of total abstinence, your body could use the liquid. I see people down two to three cups of coffee, when they were probably more thirsty than insufficiently caffeinated. Maybe a productive rule would be this: water first, then coffee or tea if you want it.

Wake Up to Natural Light

Once again, reduce your dependence on caffeine by stimulating yourself biochemically with plan old light. Sunlight is ideal, but turn on the all the lamps (full spectrum bulbs are best) if you’re up before the sun. Unlike caffeine, there’s no impending energy crash waiting for you in a couple hours. If you can, use natural light to wake yourself with open curtains (unless outside artificial light will disturb your sleep at night) or a progressive light “alarm.”

Spend Fifteen Minutes (or More) Outdoors

Even if it’s pitch black when you roll out of bed, try to get some time in before you leave for the day or get sucked into your at-home household/work routine. Enjoy your breakfast outside, shovel the walk now rather than later, throw the ball for your dog, water your garden in your bathrobe (the neighbors can deal with it), or take a walk.


For me, there’s just no substitute for a morning walk. It’s something I’ve come to appreciate over the years. Nothing wakes me up, relaxes me, and focuses my thinking in quite the same way. That said, any kind of movement can energize you naturally and boost your circulation. Who doesn’t want to begin the day with an endorphin rush? Getting your workout in first thing means you won’t be tempted to skip it later when a meeting runs late, you have an event to attend, or you just want to chill out at the end of the day. If you can’t bring yourself to workout or walk, do whatever you can: lunges while you brush your teeth, calf raises while you eat your breakfast, stretches while you wait for the shower to warm up. Anything will always be better than nothing.


For some, it’s cultivating quiet composure on a favorite pillow. For others, it’s an invigorating yoga routine. It can be working with affirmations, prayers, relaxation techniques, or mindfulness exercises. However it works for you, you’ll begin the day with a biochemical advantage that will hold stress at bay more effectively.


I know, I know. Morning minutes are precious. You don’t have time for fooling around. If you want to set a relaxed, creative path for the day, however, you’d do well to leave a little extra time for the wholly non-utilitarian. Rough house with the kids, play with your dog, do some doodling, or stop by the park on your morning run and hit the swings.

Enjoy a Good Primal Indulgence

Last week, so many of you weighed in on the need for non-destructive ways to “treat” ourselves in a healthy way. Everyone loves getting up in the morning when they know something good is waiting for them. We can use that pattern to our advantage. Do something that makes you feel good. Invest in a deluxe shower head or a luxurious robe. Put extra effort into making an amazing Primal breakfast. Get up early and take an honest-to-goodness bath once in a while.


Take the time to listen to yourself. There’s a reason productivity experts stress the importance of morning hours. We tend to have our best energy and clearest thinking during these hours. Do some writing therapy, and journal for ten minutes about a personal question or goal or taking inventory in a gratitude journal. An unencumbered mind might present unexpected insight.

Set the Inner Conversation

Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to journal, you can begin your day thinking on a positive and productive note. Skip the computer, TV, radio, and even the newspaper. Do you really need to start the day with news of 3,000 dead in an earthquake? There’s plenty of hours left to inform yourself. Instead of filling your head with the slew of random reports, feed yourself some good motivational nuggets. Whether it’s a daily quote, a brief chapter of your favorite health and wellness book, or some other encouraging source, take control of the thoughts that set the tone for your day.

Play Music

I’ve written about the power of music therapy. If it can get you through an operation with fewer pain meds, the right playlist just might help you get over the morning hump.


There. I said it.

Spend Meaningful Time with Loved Ones

Most people I know feel like they barely see their partners and families in the morning. It’s rushed, stressful, even agitated time. Don’t take the day – or them – for granted by accepting this as inevitable. You can all do better. Sit everyone down for a real breakfast or go for a morning walk together. Take time to cuddle and read with the kids before everyone gets dressed. If you live alone, meet a friend for coffee, or send a couple morning emails to your favorite people.

Follow a Simple Routine

This is really a “how” rather than a “what.” Do whatever you can the night before (make lunch, prepare breakfast ingredients, write the day’s agenda, choose clothes, unload the dishwasher, etc.) The more you do the night before, the more relaxing your morning can be – and the more time you’ll have for the stuff that really matters.

On that note, thanks for reading today, everybody! Share your own ideas for enjoying your morning and starting the day on a healthy 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. No Exercise?!

    Reid wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Reid, I think you must have missed the paragraph titled ‘move’?!

      L.B wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Also the one titled “sex”!

      Tom B-D wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • Bahaha. True that!

        Susie wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • +1

        mars wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • haha how could Reid miss that one?!

        Chika wrote on February 18th, 2013
  2. Funny, I find that my mornings fly away, it is the afternoon and evenings that I have a problem with, from like 3 pm till 8 -9 pm when I go to bed. Tired, anxious, and not enough time to relax, and hungry, so hard to stop eating.

    I would love a post on how to make one’s evenings less stressful and the Sunday night blues syndrome…. I seem to have it every night.

    leida wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I think banning computers/ laptops & the tv after sunset would make a huge difference to so many people (myself included)

      Paleo Suz wrote on February 15th, 2013
      • For sure, and taking it 1 step further, try to only check your email 2x per day max. It’s like we’re email addicts, continuously checking to see who’s emailed us. Emails are a bit like playing roulette, you never know what’s coming up next!

        But much more relaxing to check 2x per day, action and move them out of inbox. is good service to try out for inbox management

        Patrice wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • Ditto! Mornings are great. Evenings stress me out, big time.

      Michele wrote on February 15th, 2013
  3. Great advice on drinking water. Of course we’re a little dehydrated first thing and coffee will only make it worse.

    2 cups (500ml) of water will give you the same wake-up as a coffee.

    With most North American glasses being well over 250ml, if not 500ml, it’s easy.

    Happy Morning, G

    Ginger-eight wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Ummm, What?

      For one thing, the diuretic effects of caffeine have come into serious question based on recent studies and after decades of zero evidence based assumptions. It merely increases the urge to urinate.
      And unless it has been determined that chlorine and fluoride are neurostimulants, I highly doubt that tap water is as effective as coffee for “waking up”.

      Bryan wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • unless you’re tired from being dehydrated

        mrs jett wrote on August 15th, 2013
  4. Great post! I’m a big fan of lemon water in the mornings. Also, I can definitely say that having good food to look forward to makes getting up worthwhile!

    I also love going outside first thing in the morning. Ever since Mark’s post on grounding, I’ve really liked the idea of standing in the dirt or grass barefoot for just a couple minutes in the morning, even if it’s freezing cold or wet.

    Alyssa wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • +1

      BillP wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • In the summer I love going outside and walking barefoot in the wet grass and dirt. But since it’s winter I generally start the day with some yoga poses after rolling myself out on a foam roller.

      Susan Campbell wrote on February 14th, 2013
  5. Great post. It’s all really simple stuff, but it seems that it’s the simplist things that we forget about. We all need reminders of this once and a while.

    Adam wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I couldn’t agree more. It seems so easy to forget the basics. I have found that when the morning is managed in these simple, healthy ways, it helps me in almost every other area of my life.

      Chad wrote on February 19th, 2013
  6. Some of my favorite mornings are when the alarm goes off, and my wife hits snooze and snuggles into the spooning position. What’s better than waking up to a long, loving, embrace?

    On the other hand, when we first went Primal we also had a new dog, and we made it a point to get up in the mornings and walk with her. It really is amazing what it can do for you.

    Danny wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Morning snuggles are pretty awesome. My fiance and I set an alarm 30 minutes to an hour early sometimes, just to make sure we have plenty of snuggle time.

      Kristina wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • Get a room! :)

        greg wrote on February 15th, 2013
        • Or a cave!

          Animanarchy wrote on February 17th, 2013
  7. Thank you! You have no idea how much I need this advice right now! I’m going to try and incorporated some of these in my morning routines starting right now:)

    Dawn wrote on February 14th, 2013
  8. In fact I am making your paleo no oatmeal right now. My daughter loves it! We may even eat it out on the patio since the sun is out!

    Dawn wrote on February 14th, 2013
  9. My husband and I cook (primal) breakfast together and eat it at the table every morning – all my colleagues seem to think that they don’t have time to do this but it’s such a great way to stay connected.

    The evenings can be so unpredictable and I love our 30 mins of togetherness first thing.

    Primal V wrote on February 14th, 2013
  10. Love the water advice. Not enough people deviate from the “8 cups of water” idea.

    A nephrologist once told me, “your kidneys are smarter than you are and will tell you when you need more water.”

    bjjcaveman wrote on February 14th, 2013
  11. Oh yes… +1 to the sex thing. Happy Valentines day!

    bjjcaveman wrote on February 14th, 2013
  12. No alarm today! Heading for a hike!

    Luke DePron wrote on February 14th, 2013
  13. I can tell you from personal experience that I was never more refreshed, woke up more “alive,” and made it through my day more energized than when I was going to sleep and waking up with the sun. It is astounding how something so simple can make you feel so amazing. Great advice. Oh, and +1 for morning sex!

    Dr. Mark wrote on February 14th, 2013
  14. To quote a famous fire-survivor, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

    Steve wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • LOLOL…

      Cheralyn wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • “Ain’t no sugar for me in my coffee!”
      Ain’t going overboard on the coffee anymore either.. feeling jittery, it’s time to cut yourself off, for the day or at least until most of the caffeine wears off.

      Animanarchy wrote on February 15th, 2013
  15. A cup of hot lemon water followed by some yoga, outside if possible, covers a few of the above. Even for my non-American crazy household!

    Grokesque wrote on February 14th, 2013
  16. I just love (and need) 10 minutes deep breathing to feel my daily dose of gratitude for being healthy (after so many problems) before I touch the ground. That’s powerful.

    Gabriele wrote on February 14th, 2013
  17. 5am BEEP BEEP… shoes on, meet up with the running club, put in 4-6 miles, go home drink water, make the coffee (decaf), feed the dog, fix the kids a primal lunch to take to school , cook some eggs and sausage for the whole family, jump in the shower, take the kids to school and arrive at work by 8:05 am – not relaxing but it works

    lockard wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Thats sounds stressful along with possible cronic cardio. Hope you can relax more in the future.

      Nocona wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • Seriously? You think running for an hour daily is “cronic [sic] cardio”? That’s ridiculous. Even Mark suggests 30 minutes to an hour of low to moderate level aerobic movement. For a seasoned runner, running a few miles at a comfortable pace is exactly that.

        I used to use the Stairmaster or exercise bike for HOURS a day. That’s what he advises against.

        Don wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • it works for what?

      mars wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I got stressed out just reading that. Don’t kids take the bus anymore?

      Mark A wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • No they don’t. You should see the lines of cars at the public schools in the morning and the afternoon around here. Some do take the bus in my neighborhood, but the thing seems nearly empty.

        And yeah, that’s a lot to fit in the morning. I kept up that pace for a while, until I couldn’t. :(

        Amy wrote on February 14th, 2013
        • Whatever happened to having the kids walk to school? I walked in the inner city neighborhoods that most lock their car doors while drving through as young as 6 all by myself al the way through high school in the country. And that wasn’t that long ago!

          Julie wrote on February 14th, 2013
  18. These tips and the ideas in the comments make me want it to be tomorrow morning already!

    Joy Beer wrote on February 14th, 2013
  19. I start my morning with a coffee, and some MDA.

    Patrick wrote on February 14th, 2013
  20. Wow, I’ve got at least half this list down already.

    -Wake up to a “sunrise” alarm clock
    -Open the windows to let in some nature / light
    -Drink a glass of water while making breakfast
    -Indulge in said tasty primal breakfast (best meal of the day, really)
    -Journal briefly
    -Listen to music while getting ready
    -Walk to work as often as weather permits

    Grok on!

    Gina wrote on February 14th, 2013
  21. I read all these as sex.

    Set the Inner Conversation
    Follow a Simple Routine

    C.Rushing wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • ++++1 :)

      Merky wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • Perfect valentine’s comment !

      mmajunkie87 wrote on February 18th, 2013
  22. File under “Meditate”: Eyes closed under a steamy-warm shower. Great way to “hold stress at bay.”

    Paul Mirek wrote on February 14th, 2013
  23. That was a really good article about a really good morning.
    Love it.

    Anna wrote on February 14th, 2013
  24. I always take a shower first thing in the mornings, it’s so refreshing.

    Henrik wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I was suprised this didn’t make this list

      jake wrote on February 14th, 2013
  25. A morning garden tour is a habit I learned from my mother. Step outside, smell the fresh air, and walk from flower bed to vegetable garden, all around the house. That way I see what’s coming up, identify where I might need to work on weeding later in the day, and give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs.

    Denise Zapf wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I love doing this too, the dogs roar around like loons, and while observing the garden, I organise the day in my head, shoo the crow away from the chook shed and collect the eggs. Doesn’t always work that way, lately the tour was actually watering to keep the garden alive during our withering hot antipodean January, but Feb has cooled down and this is a great way to start the day. One other thing folks, the list was a suggestion, everyone has limiting factors, try for one or two of them most days. My
      Personal favorite is sex 😉

      Heather wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Walking the yard/garden is my daily morning and evening routine. It’s peaceful and exhilarating at the same time.

      I can’t wait to plant the summer garden and watch the plants develop and produce.

      We will have chickens soon; they are another adventure. I love looking in on them a few times per day and checking for eggs.

      Susan wrote on February 18th, 2013
  26. We love our sunrise-style alarm clock. It’s even set up to play bird chirps and morning noises while it goes off. Most mornings (especially during the darker winter months) this makes a great difference to the start of the morning–much better than the screech of an alarm.

    Brent wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I love mine too! Even though I live in the suburbs there is too much light (from streetlights, neighbor’s porch lights, etc) to have a really dark bedroom. So I installed blackout shades and a light alarm clock was the only sensible way to mimick the rising sun…especially during winter when I’m waking up 2 hours before the sun rises.

      Jen wrote on February 14th, 2013
  27. Those of us who are not fortunate to have the luxury of waking up to sunlight, or live in very gray, rainy areas (ie Pacific NW) can try “wake-up lights.”
    After going Primal in 2011 I purchased the Philips Wake-up Light from Amazon. A small investment but SO WORTH it! The light bulb gradually gets brighter, as if mimicking a the rising sun. And you can customize sounds to accompany the gradual light (beeps, radio, music, or birds chirping).

    Jen wrote on February 14th, 2013
  28. I often write (whatever is in my head) in the mornings. It stills amazes me that I’m anxious or worried about stuff and don’t even realize it until I start writing. The cool thing is, I usually can come up with a solution to whatever’s bugging me, which I can’t seem to do in my head.

    My other favorite is to read (which is a weekend thing). I get up before the kids do and cozy up with a book and cup of coffee and enjoy the silence.

    BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers wrote on February 14th, 2013
  29. I think you should drink water (16 oz?) before you sleep. You can’t act on your thirst when in dreamland. I used to wake up dehydrated and constipated later.

    tam wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I think that it depends on the person. 16 oz of water right before I sleep almost guarantees I’m running to the bathroom. :)

      Amy wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • At midnight, that is. :)

        Amy wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Ah I wish! I’d have to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

      Alyssa wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I keep a bottle of water by the bed, as I wake up at regular intervals through the night thirsty. Especially if I have been naughty and had a take-away curry or Chinese.

      Lindsey wrote on February 14th, 2013
  30. As a cheap (and brighter?) alternative to a wake-up lamp or sunrise alarm clock you can get a cheap plug-socket timer. Plug it into a bright lamp of your choice. It’s great to have that come on 5 minutes before the alarm sounds – I usually wake up with the lights now.

    fifer wrote on February 14th, 2013
  31. Some may agree with me that coffee in the morning is more about calming ritual than simply caffiene.

    Especially in those months where the sun comes up early enough to enjoy coffee with before 7:30am to leave for work.

    WC wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Agreed. I don’t care if it has caffeine or not (although it’s hard to find good Sumatra without caffeine), I just like coffee in the morning.

      michael wrote on February 14th, 2013
  32. I’ve been on a news black-out now for coupla month’s! LOVE IT! If something big happens, I will see it on FB. The news is truly ridiculous most of the time and rarely action-able. If it doesn’t matter, then I do not care about it!

    Bill Berry wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • +1

      Ara wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Have you ever really paid attention to how much of the reporting is actually speculation? The few facts from the story can be given in 30 seconds. Sports stories are the worst. “What is your goal for the big game tonight?” “Well, I thought I’d tell my team to go out and play to lose tonight!” What a bunch of moronic questions!

      Tigger wrote on February 15th, 2013
  33. Well, this is one aspect of primal life that I definitely can say I am doing alright in! I have always been a morning person – I love being awake before everyone else, when the world is still quiet. The day seems so full of possibilities.
    The first thing I do when I wake up is open my blackout curtains. Lately I wake up at 6:30 every day (before my alarm clock, and 3 hours before I have to leave for work). The eastern sky is just beginning to brighten.
    I have water (with my supplements), then coffee. Always fresh ground, with some cinnamon sprinkled on top of the grounds before brewing. My morning cup of coffee is one of my favorite rituals.
    Then journaling while sitting outside w/my feet in the grass.
    In addition to regular journaling, I also keep a gratitude journal. Thinking about what you were grateful for the day before is a good way to ensure that you are present and able to find gratitude in the day ahead.
    Then 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation.
    On the weekends, I’ll sit outside with my coffee and read something enjoyable for awhile. I have been news-free for years now.
    I don’t always wake up in a good mood, but following these morning rituals almost always ensures that I’m feeling pretty good by the time I leave the house.

    Happy Paleo Girl wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Happy Paleo Girl,

      You made me happy just reading of your ritual :)

      Kevin Goldman wrote on February 14th, 2013
  34. To be clear, how many Natural Lights can I have in the morning before the boss notices? 😉

    Josh wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Have them before your interview, then first day of work, and so on, and it won’t raise too many eyebrows.

      Animanarchy wrote on February 14th, 2013
  35. 1) I love the idea of waking up gently. In reality it’s usually get dragged out of bed by small people bored of us struggling to wake up. We’re off on a veeeeery long road trip soon & I’m really hoping it will help us get into a healthier sleep/wake routine.

    2) I bet ‘it’ was the most-clicked on link in that post….

    3) For those with smartphones, I highly recommend a ‘peace alarm’ style app. A gentle gong sound, increasing in frequency for 15 minutes. Makes you feel like you have woken up naturally, but more definite wake up for those who tend to sleep through a sunrise alarm.

    SFJL wrote on February 14th, 2013
  36. Thanks Mark– a personal note that is!

    On the latest article– I get up before my wife so sex is out of the question but I do spend time with the dog outside getting some fresh air– and I know what some are thinking– STOP IT!

    I also like to stretch, drink water, one cup of coffee and then pray. I’ll work on the other suggestions!


    Pastor Dave wrote on February 14th, 2013
  37. My morning ritual includes a pass of foam roller (*). Highly recommended (**)

    (*) Rumble-Roller: buy this in amazon, the big one blue, don’t do as I did, bought several cheapo ones.
    (**) Don’t work for them, but if the Rumble Roller people read this, please send me a spare one :-)

    wildgrok wrote on February 14th, 2013
  38. I wake up without alarm around dawn, get up open the curtains, open the bedroom door so the cat can come in. Get back in bed, cuddle with the cat while sun rises. Sometime later, have a glass of warm lemon water with olive oil (gets the digestive system working) and when the weather is not really bad (live in the northern midwest) will go for a walk. After that, it’s time to let the ferrets out for some play time – they are incredibly joyful first thing in the morning.

    Tamara wrote on February 14th, 2013
  39. A bracing early morning ride on my motorcycle is a good way to get outside, I guess. I ride in whatever the (Southern California) weather offers. An easy bicycle commute is also nice, but so hard to do when it’s pitch black in the morning.

    Diane wrote on February 14th, 2013
  40. I forwarded this to my husband today and this is what he wrote back:
    “I know there is limited time in the morning but to be truly primal we need to adopt this routine. We have about 8 minutes to make it happen.
    Alarm goes off 4:45 am. Lay with eyes closed for 30 seconds meditating. Turn on all lights and have sex for 1 minute. Drink a glass of water while we walk from the upper deck to the lower deck and in to the kitchen. Turn on some music and do calf raises while making coffee. We can try to add more once we have mastered this.”

    I love you,

    Denise wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • I notice that “Getting dressed” never made that list. 😀 I hope you have understanding neighbors while you walk outside.

      Beccolina wrote on February 14th, 2013
      • hmmm… lucky neighbours, maybe it’ll convert a few more to the primal lifestyle when the results of a healthy living are made plain to see :-)

        Primal V wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • wow this is the best post I have read in a while

      WildGrok wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • Cool – some of those timings are probably more manageable than others!!!

      Grokesque wrote on February 15th, 2013

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