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.

Move

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.

Meditate

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.

Play

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.

Journal

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.

Sex

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. Yep, I do better if I exercise before I ever get out of bed. Some stretches, some isometrics, some breathing exercises…a great start to my day. I journal everyday too…and have for 30 years or so (and written a lot about it, in magazines and books!) LOVE it when I can take time to be outdoors first thing…of course, being self employed makes all this a lot easier. No long commute!

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on February 14th, 2013
  2. A cup of coffee while spending my first 30 minutes reading the news. Then an hour of yoga and a breakfast of a two-egg omelet. I actually look forward to waking up in the morning.

    Stan the Man wrote on February 14th, 2013
  3. I love mornings – exercising, eating a hearty breakfast, taking a shower, and even accomplishing a thing or two before work if I can. My wife, however, does not like mornings (outside of using them for sleeping in). Thanks for the great list of ideas!

    Jeffrey James wrote on February 14th, 2013
  4. Some of these are great and easily implemented ideas. I have been getting up at 5:45am for the last three weeks for a course, having little time other than to dress and leave, but I wanted to try and continue this early wake-up time even when I return to a more civil start.

    The ones I’m looking forward to adding to my routine: getting outside, moving (gently, as I think full on exercise is still a bit beyond me as a nightowl type), and journalling – I sometimes do run out of time in the evenings to write, so mornings are an ideal solution.
    Music is always a given in the morning, as is a glass of water with my vitamins :) play usually involves patting my kittens, which is always relaxing. If only my dear partner and I left at a similar time, but sadly sex is not on the cards except on weekends. Better than never though!!

    Clare wrote on February 14th, 2013
  5. I leave for work between 5-6 a.m. but I make my mornings manageable by preparing all my food and laying out my clothes the night before. I wake up before my alarm most days, full of energy, ideas and goals. I tend to be a little too “get up and go” and I’ve lately taken to sitting down in a cozy spot to really savor a cup of tea and drag a string around for my cat. This calms and centers me at a “cost” of about 10 minutes. I get up just as early most weekends but savor not having to plan out all my food and being able to start my day however I please. I don’t like to eat at all in the morning, other than heavy cream, and as much as I love to exercise and be outdoors, morning is my huddle and hunker inside time. I like the peaceful reflective time to myself when no one else is up. (Other than the cats.)

    Danielle Thalman wrote on February 14th, 2013
    • unfortunately I’m up at 4am and at work at by 4.15, not much time to do anything but get dressed and be on my way.

      scott wrote on February 15th, 2013
  6. still lost 10kg in the 3 months I have been primal eating so can’t be too bad

    scott wrote on February 15th, 2013
  7. Not too bad?! 10kg in 3 months is amazing – well done! Are you doing lots of exercise in the evenings instead, or do you have an active job?

    Grokesque wrote on February 15th, 2013
  8. What time do you go to work? I would have to get up in the middle of the night to get all of this done.

    BFD wrote on February 15th, 2013
  9. I have an 18-month old alarm clock :) Never, and I mean never, needs batteries!

    Steve Gardner wrote on February 15th, 2013
  10. My T’ai Chi routine takes about five minutes and really gets your energy in the right place for the rest of the day.

    shannon wrote on February 15th, 2013
  11. I do most of the items mentioned because I live on a farm. :) I wake up without an alarm and before getting out of bed, put myself in a positive state of mind. I drink our naturally carbonated water before coffee. My morning farm/feeding/haying chores do not take long and, thankfully, we don’t have a dairy (just one Jersey we milk and share with the calf).
    I am going to unplug a couple days each week as well; the computer can be sneaky about taking up a lot of time! I want to get in more walking and spinning (wool, not tires) time.

    Kathleen wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • Apparently carbonation assists the caffeine kick.
      Then apparently both promote bone loss.

      Animanarchy wrote on February 15th, 2013
  12. I have recently become aware of how often the kids see me on the computer. It increased dramatically a few months ago because I started my Masters program, but like so many others, I was on it plenty before that. So my January 1st resolution was that the computer (and any screens) didn’t go on until after hubby and the kids left in the morning. It’s just and hour and a half, so no real inconvenience to my schoolwork, but I’m not signing forms as they walk out the door anymore!

    Tigger wrote on February 15th, 2013
  13. Cold shower! My near-daily morning ritual for the last three years.

    Couple of deep breaths. Then the decisive act of turning on the faucet. Couple of hectic moments, followed by whole-body frisson. Step out and you’re the human torch, a beacon of warmth in a cold world.

    Highly recommended!

    Timothy wrote on February 15th, 2013
    • I’ve done a few morning cold plunges in our pool in the spring but I couldn’t imagine taking a cold shower. The thought simply chills my bones and makes me shiver.

      Bald and Angry wrote on February 15th, 2013
      • Pre-primal I was aware some cold exposure was good but could only bring myself to stand under quick bursts of cold water, then one warm night in the summer after having a substantial amount of alcohol I went for my first full cold shower, and afterwards used the same cheat for cold water plunges and more showers, and quickly got used to it.
        I can imagine some shaking their heads in disapproval.

        Animanarchy wrote on February 17th, 2013
  14. I start my day off every morning with a 30-45 walk with the dogs. Most mornings I beat the alarm clock but as a fail safe I wake up to classical music. Unfortunately I get up too early to wake up to natural light.

    Bald and Angry wrote on February 15th, 2013
  15. You nailed this one on the head. My best mornings are when I can incorporate as many as possible.

    I am also fan of the foam roller to my back right after rolling out of bedt.

    Nate Anglin wrote on February 15th, 2013
  16. at Grokesque, I finish work at 2 in the arvo come straight home and do an hour of exercise be it walking or some lifting then pick up the kids from school, look after them, feed them and get them to bed then get to spend an hour with my wife when she comes home from our shop then bed then do it all again the next day. I only have 1 day off a week and thats spent doing stuff around the house going fishing or family time. So much easier doing all this on a primal diet for sure

    scott wrote on February 15th, 2013
  17. Can anyone recommend a good sunrise clock? One that doesn’t have a bright LED display of the time lighting up the room during the night? One that doesn’t have a continual electronic hum to disturb my sleep? One that can take a nice low-energy LED bulb? One that doesn’t trip my fusebox (yes that happened)? One that doesn’t cost too much?

    Orielwen wrote on February 16th, 2013
    • I have a soleil sun alarm and you can turn the digital display light off, which I have to do when I use it. I don’t remember how much it costs but I doubt it’s too pricey. I’m a very light sleeper and I never notice any sound/hum coming from it. I got it through groupon but you can probably find it through amazon.

      Brianne wrote on February 15th, 2014
  18. All I have to say is, brush your teeth first.

    Sarah wrote on February 16th, 2013
  19. What a great list and you have encouraged me to go on a walk a few mornings or more a week. Hubby and I do P90X after work, but a morning walk after hubby leaves for work would be great!

    Andrea Merrigan wrote on February 16th, 2013
  20. I like to start my day off outside in the grass reading for about 30 minutes or so while the dogs run around. I’ll try to have as much bare skin on the ground. It’s remarkable how great this starts your day!

    Deron wrote on February 16th, 2013
  21. I love waking up when the sun rises… And I love when something else rises in the morning! LOL! Phenomenal ways to start the day!

    GiGi wrote on February 16th, 2013
  22. I find it very hard to wake up and get out of bed straight away in the mornings..my brain n body is in a coma… my bodily temperature is very low..i feel very cold…n sleepy for about half an hour…n then im fine!?
    and believe me it doesnt matter if i go to bed early and avoid using technology.read/play relaxe tc…same thing happens in the morning..i wish i cd jsut wakr up and get up! any advice? :)

    Vlada wrote on February 18th, 2013
  23. I like to drink a cup of beef bone broth with a pinch of sea salt first thing in the morning. Wakes me up and gives me the energy I need for my morning workout.

    Chika wrote on February 18th, 2013
  24. The one that really hit home are the music and the sex those can definitely get the body going especially at the same time lol.

    Andre wrote on February 20th, 2013
  25. For the past few months or so I’ve had trouble with being hungry in the morning. After never being able to fast without low activity, I was IFing in the morning. I started it because most mornings I would eat and walk to the bus and then my stomach would feel sick and my energy off all day. So I just stopped eating it. Then I was eating really late for a while. Now I think I’m cycling back to not eating a few hours before bed and eating some breakfast.

    And breakfast seems to make me hungry! Anybody felt that? Maybe it’s that breakfast is a gathered or leftover hunted morsel that humans would pop before going out for the first hunt of the day. Breakfast has been weird for me half the time I’ve been primal.

    Michael B wrote on February 28th, 2013
  26. anyone have the link to that video of a morning workout that lubricates your joints and limbs?

    SolG wrote on March 4th, 2013
  27. Hi Mark,
    Great list. You know what’s funny? Most of us instinctually know that these are things that we need to do; we just like to go on with our lives not paying attention to what our bodies are wanting. I have to add this: have a daily yoga routine. It’ll help clear your mind, get rid of back pain and help you sleep better.
    Alana

    Alana wrote on March 17th, 2013
  28. Love your posts, of course for those of us working night shifts for many years, much of what you say is impossible.

    And NOBODY who has NOT worked nights for years has anything to say about it. You do not and will not understand!

    Life isn’t simply reversed, it is completely FUBAR!

    Mully wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  29. I’ve started using warm water in place of one of my cups of wake up coffee. It works and I save money on coffee too. My problem is that I’m a night person. I go to bed around 2am and get up about 10am. The sun has been up for hours when I get up. I’ve tried getting up at sunrise but that just doesn’t work for this elderly retired person!

    Plugger wrote on February 15th, 2014
  30. When I’m stressed out I find it really hard to keep my place clean. A month ago I cleaned everything spotless and decided I was going to be one of those people who makes their bed every morning…lol.

    I’ve read that accomplishing something that simple early in the morning can set the tone for your day. So tomorrow will be 4 weeks I have made my bed every single morning and what’s crazy is my bedroom and master bath have also remained spotless for 4 straight weeks. Quite an accomplishment for me lol. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but coming home to a clean place has lowered my stress levels considerably. It all starts with the bed! Lol

    I also implemented a morning meditation which I’ve been doing diligently for 3 weeks now (30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening) and this too will be something I continue as part of my morning routine.

    I’m not much of a morning person but these two things seem to help a little. I also wake up to music (sonos), which automatically shuts off when I need to be out the door, and a gentle sounding alarm. I have a sunrise alarm too but it usually wakes me up the second it lights up, even on the dimmest setting so I don’t use it much anymore.

    If only I could convince myself to crawl out of bed earlier I could implement some of the other suggestions.

    Brianne wrote on February 15th, 2014

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