Every morning I wake up to sunlight or an accurate substitute, accompanied by classical music most of the time. Waking up to sunlight fits with our evolutionary internal clock. It helps to regulate our body’s circadian rhythm and production of serotonin and melatonin which are vital to maintaining our mood and energy levels.1 It allows us to avoid the “wired but tired” feeling you experience at 3am when you’re exhausted but your mind is running at a million thoughts per minute. I gently wake as the “sun” rises rather than coming to in a room light by street lights and filled with the sound of a blaring alarm.
No, I don’t get to sleep through to sunrise most mornings. Like a lot of you, I have to get up when it’s still dark outside, I use a light alarm with colored sunrise simulation. The “sunrise” lasts about 30 minutes and I normally wake up before it’s fully lit up. Just in case, I have the alarm play classical music that builds the volume gradually to prevent the jolt of a sudden loud noise waking me. If you can’t get a sunrise alarm, I would recommend at least and alarm that can play soft music that gradually builds. Before I had my light alarm, when I didn’t like classical, I would use my iPhone, set to play “Break On Through” by The Doors or “Drive” by Incubus which both build gradually. The iPhone has a setting to supplement the natural build in the song so I had a very subtle increase in volume rather than loud beeps shocking me awake.
I get outside. Twice a day for 20-30 minutes each time I take Lily dog out to play and walk. Sometimes I’m tired and it’s cold so I’d rather not, but every time I get out I feel great by the time I’m ready to come back in. This helps me get enough vitamin D and low-level activity every day, even when I’d be tempted to stay in-doors if Lily didn’t need the exercise. A surprising number of children and adults don’t get enough vitamin D, 90% of which comes from the sun. 10% of children are deficient and 60% may have sub-optimal levels.5 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 70% of adults receive sub-optimal amounts of Vitamin D.6 Vitamin D is critical for strong, healthy bones. But beyond that it activates 900 genes that are important to brain health, it plays a crucial role in charging our immune system, and regulates inflammation.5,7 Low levels of vitamin D correlate with multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer (due to the role in gene expression).5, 7-8 Plus, it’s a Primal Principal! Getting out for a walk, some moderate activity, is very beneficial for our health. Our ancestors evolved due to their progressing ability to walk upright.9 The world opened up for them in terms of leaving the forests for grasslands.9 The evolutionary design to walk long distances at a slow pace is still inherent within us. Walking the dog is a perfect reason to get outside and stroll for a while.
I go to the gym. Well…not every day. Just most of them. I used to be able to get a solid workout outside practicing parkour and natural movement, but right now that’s a little more out of my way than I can fit into my schedule. What I’ve found is that making your exercise work for you is the most important way to stick to it. I go to the gym in the early afternoon when most people take lunch. If I tried to do it in the morning, I’d skip it too often to stay in bed. If I did it later in the afternoon or evening I’d be too tired and I’d feel like I was missing out on time with Adam. Adam, on the other hand, likes to go after work. It takes so figuring to find what works best for you. The one thing Adam and I both do that I think works well, is making an agreement with yourself to just go. That doesn’t mean “just do it no matter how you feel.” To me it means I get “credit” for even showing up to the gym or activity. Even if I just walk in my jeans or do a few push ups. What I find most times is, if I get there and get moving, I’ll want to continue. If I don’t, sometimes I just walk or pedal the bike and listen to a book and that’s totally ok. In the gym, it’s consistency that counts, not periodic intense workouts.
I do yoga. This is my form of meditation. Some people journal, some sit and listen to a recorded meditation, or sit and observe their thoughts and attention. I’ve found the most success with moving meditation. Yoga is my favorite, but occasionally I’ll meditate while walking. Meditation is a very personal journey of the self, but personally I’ve found more patience, the ability to separate my emotions and thoughts during stressful moments, and the enhanced ability to be fully present working with my clients. Another term bouncing around is “mindfulness”. This is a very similar practice, just with less of the “spiritual” connotation that meditation has gained (deserved or not). Every day, I practice being fully present in the moment and aware of my body, rather than being lost in thought or my inner dialog. I build on my physical awareness to better listen to my body, to hear the response when something I eat doesn’t agree with me, my lifting form isn’t correct, or I’m stressed and need to give myself a break.
I sleep in a room as dark as possible. Similar to waking to a simulated sunrise, I try to go to sleep in a dark room. Complete darkness signals to your body to switch from serotonin production to melatonin production.10 This allows to you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply. Darkness means eliminating any light, including electronics. I have blackout curtains over the windows, tv in the living room, and electrical tape over the little lights manufacturers are certain you want on every single thing in the room. I’ve had to tape over the humidifier, electric blanket, smoke detector light, etc.
As you’ve seen in my previous posts, I take ionic magnesium twice a day. It helps me with sleep, mood, relaxation, stress, inflammation, and energy. Magnesium has been linked to increased cardio-vascular health, migraine relief, decreased anxiety, decrease of chronic inflammation, and relief of insomnia among other things.
The little, daily things I can do for my health add up in a big way. If I take 5 minutes at night to take magnesium and shut out as much light as possible then I sleep better and have a better day. Everything I do allows my cycle of daily health and well-being to keep building off the small efforts. Plus, since I make so many little efforts, I don’t have to make as many big ones. Instead of going to the gym and doing a serious lifting session, I do a short, 20 minute strength session (even if it’s at my house) and a 15-40 minute yoga session. My yoga may be relaxing, but man are there some glue toning moves! Together that adds up to 30-60 minutes of physical activity, plus the 40-60 minutes I spend walking Lily. The little things really do add up, plus it’s a great way to take small pockets of time for yourself throughout the day.
2- Sisson, M. (2008, August 13). How Stress Can Make You Fat | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-stress-can-make-you-fat/#axzz3yIEgcEgf
3- Sisson, M. (2009, May 28). How to Wake Up Without an Alarm | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-wake-up-without-an-alarm/#axzz3yIEgcEgf
4- Sisson, M. (2007, July 05). The Definitive Guide to Stress, Cortisol, and the Adrenals: When ‘Fight or Flight’ Meets the Modern World | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from
5- Niman, N. H. (2014). Defending beef: The case for sustainable meat production. White River Junction, VT: Green Publishing.
6- Kennel, K. A., MD, Drake, M. T., MD, PhD, & Hurley, D. L., MD. (2010). Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat. Mayo Clinical Proceedings,Aug(85), 8th ser., 752-758. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912737/
7- Sisson, M. (2010, June 01). Deconstructing Vitamin D | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/deconstructing-vitamin-d/
8- Sisson, M. (2008, October 18). Vitamin D – Parkinson’s Disease Correlation and Child Dosage | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/vitamin-d-deficiency/#axzz3yXrPRJoU
9- Lieberman, D. (2013). The story of the human body: Evolution, health, and disease. Panteon Books.
10- Sisson, M. (2010, March 04). How Light Affects Our Sleep | Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-light-affects-our-sleep/#axzz3yOrSKVvi
Source: Rx Primal Blog