In 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?
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.
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.
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.
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.