Our bodies are innately wise and are happiest (and healthiest) when we live according to daily rhythms – and the consistent every day rituals that we create around these.
The term circadian comes from the Latin circa meaning “around”, and diem meaning “day”.
Circadian rhythms – sometimes called diurnal rhythms – are the foundation of all the cycles within the body – sleep wake cycles, bowel habits and food intake. Each rhythm is a natural internal process that repeats roughly every 24 hours. There is a strong connection here to the rhythms and cycles within nature and the planet – the tides, cycles of the moon, and seasons.
Unlike nature though – whose rhythms are ‘set in stone’ – modern day humans often stray off the path with poor lifestyle choices that can have a big impact on their health, leading to reduced energy levels, struggling immune systems and, in the end, breakdown, dysfunction and disease.
So how can we help ourselves?
There are a number of general daily rhythms of the body that take place mostly on autopilot – as in they happen automatically, without us really thinking. If, however, we are more aware and mindful of these – and take responsibility for what is happening – these rhythms will help us to optimise our health. They include sleep, eating habits and activity (exercise AND rest are both important here).
- Sleep is completely free and one of nature’s best medicines
- We should all be aiming for 7-9 hours sleep every night (more for children and when we are unwell)
- Optimum time in bed is 10pm to 6am – many ‘repairs’ take place during this time (physical and physiological).
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.Adelle Davis
- It is so true that we are what we eat but, of equal – and often greater – importance is when we eat.
- Regular small meals across the day are recommended to keep blood sugar levels even, and it is certainly not a good idea to skip meals, especially breakfast. The first meal of the day is crucial to ‘break the fast’ of the night and give us energy for the day ahead; we should be aiming for 15-25% of our calories at this meal.
- If you are travelling, or out of routine, try to keep some wholefood snacks with you for breakfast ‘on the go’ – organic nuts, coconut flakes, energy balls. avocado, or a green smoothie.
- At the other end of the day, eating too much food just before bedtime can result in digestive issues. As the sun sets, our bodies naturally wind down, sleep hormones start to work and our metabolism slows down. If you can, plan your smallest meal of the day for the evening time. Too many calories, especially heavy carbohydrates at dinner, may result in a poor nights sleep and waking the next morning with a foggy brain; this often leads to a reliance on stimulants such as coffee and sweets, and a roller coaster of blood sugar highs and lows across the day.
- The speed that we chew our food is also important. Chewing produces saliva that breaks down food ready for the digestive juices in the stomach to work effectively. Large lumps of food passing down the oesophagus can cause indigestion, burping and flatulence. Chewing each mouthful 32 times is recommended!
- At any time of the day, drink an extra glass of water, as often we are dehydrated rather than hungry.
Generally, going more than 4 hours without eating results in low blood sugar stress.Paul Chek
- Keeping the body moving with consistent daily activity is crucial for our good health, but sufficient rest is also crucial to help repair and regenerate cells. Too much movement or the wrong type can also lead to problems.
- Stretching and breathing – a complete change of pace will help to build energy and strengthen your immune system, by lowering cortisol – your natural stress/ ‘flight of fight’ hormone. 5-10 minutes of stretching and breathing before bed time will increase your serotonin levels – an important chemical and neurotransmitter that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, as well as regulating the body’s sleep wake cycles and internal clock.
- Walking has so many health benefits and just 10-15 minutes a day can make a big difference including weight loss, stronger joints and stress relief.
- Resistance training – aim for 2-3 sessions a week – builds bigger and stronger muscles that will increase your metabolic rate – and so burn more calories – for up to 4 hours after each session.
My Daily Rituals
Rituals are a series of actions or behaviour that are “regularly and invariably” followed by an individual or group. They can have a powerful effect when consistently followed, and over time can become second nature. I wrote this list a few years ago for a New Year blog on 100 healthy living tips & can happily say that I do most things on this list each day! I recommend and challenge anyone needing a boost of healthy living to give these a go.
- Keep hydrated – drink plenty of quality filtered water – for example: 80kgs x 0.033 = 2.6 litres per day. Drink an extra glass of water after caffeine/ alcohol.
- Vitamin C powder, supergreen powder and liquid mineral drink first thing on waking (after swilling out mouth from overnight ‘nasties’ with water).
- Keep active – walking every day; swim or bike ride as often as possible; lift weights/ bodyweight circuit at least once a week
- Eat the colours of the rainbow – choose colourful veggies and fruit (ideally buy from local farmers market) – full of nutrients, fibre and phytochemicals to help detox and offset toxins.
- Protein at every meal including snacks – so important to help balance blood sugar levels. Choose healthy protein – organic chicken/ grass fed beef, fish, organic/ free range eggs, avocado, cheese (try to avoid processed packet cheeses in supermarket).
- Fermented foods – sauerkraut and/or quality probiotic. We make our own sauerkraut – tastes so good and also boosts healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Use toxin free personal care and household products (our skin is largest organ of body so will absorb everything that we rub on/ use).
- 10 mins focused breathing/ stretching before bed – to help relaxation and reduce stress (and stimulate parasympathetic nervous system).
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for and one Memorable Moment – this really works to send positive vibes through the brain and body just before sleep.
- Bed by 10pm – switch your phone to ‘Airplane mode’ at least 30 mins beforehand and leave in kitchen.
My mother is a firm believer and advocate of everything in moderation, and I am product of that ethos too. Life is too short to be 100% strict with any aspects of lifestyle. Most commonly applied to eating, the rule is simple: eat nutritious foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in your favourite – less healthy perhaps – foods the other 20%. There is no fun or benefit from being too obsessive as this will result in stress hormones that will undo all the good work you have done! Exercise programs are the same. If you are feeling like a rest/ day off from your program one day, then it’s a good idea to listen to your body, and stay in bed or do something less energetic.
Positive thinking is such a powerful way to help offset the daily stresses of modern life. The thoughts that we focus most on – good or bad – tend to become real ‘things’. Positive affirmations are one way to focus your thinking in a good way.
I recommend a daily affirmation that you repeat as many times as you like. Here is one of my favourites (or you can choose your own):
In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete.Louise Hay
Set your intentions for the day ahead
Everyone has the same 24 hours each day; it is just that we have a choice to use it how we like. By making a few simple decisions at the start of the day/ week – writing them down and reflecting on them at the end of the day/ week – we can give ourselves a clear path to focus on, helping us to feel in control and ultimately happy.
Why not start today? Small steps really can make a big difference.
- How to Eat Move and Be Healthy – Paul Chek
- You Can Heal Your Life – Louise Hay
- Changing Habits Changing Lives – Cyndi O’Meara