There’s really not much I love more than when modern science catches up with traditional wisdom. We are seeing more and more scientific literature emerging on the importance of optimizing or “resetting” our circadian rhythms. If that all sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
Both Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine have long taught the importance of a daily rhythm to optimize your health. In Ayurvedic Medicine, the concept of Dinacharya is the Sanskrit term for daily morning rituals. It’s based off of the idea that our bodies run off of an internal clock dictated by the sun. Traditional Chinese Medicine also emphasizes the importance of a daily rhythm as a powerful tool to maintain optimal wellbeing.
In the not too distant past, we worked and slept with the sun. But today, our fast paced lifestyles are mismatched with these natural rhythms. Instead, we spend hours staring at screens, work well into the night, and reach for snacks when we really should be sleeping. This not only has an impact on our health but our overall wellbeing.
Most of us are quite familiar with the sleep-wake cycle, but this internal clock also regulates nearly every system in your body. Following a daily routine and the rhythms of Mother Nature, by eating with the seasons, rising with the sun, spending time outdoors, and moving your body regularly can help you to achieve more balance in your body and your life. It can also be helpful to regulate digestion, improve sleep and moderate your mood. One of my favorite ways to get these natural rhythms back into sync and bring more balance into your days is to incorporate small rituals into your daily routine.
Rituals come in all shapes and sizes and are used for everything from processing grief and decreasing anxiety to improving sleep and athletic performances. Anthropologists have long documented a variety of rituals across cultures and have found that simple everyday rituals can be quite effective at achieving the desired outcomes. The following are a few of my favorites:
Wake up early. How you start your day sets the tone. Waking up in a rush to get out the door will leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed all day long. So I’m a big advocate for a morning routine that allows you time for yourself before the rest of your household wakes. Starting your day with ease and awareness is a total game changer and allows you to be in control of your day and not the other way around.
Deep breathing. Before you step out of bed in the morning or reach for your phone, take one minute to focus on your breath. Simply breathing in and out through your nose and into your belly activates your parasympathetic nervous system (getting you right into rest and digest mode) and has a calming effect on your entire body. Research shows that your body can reset your stress response quite quickly so even 60 seconds of deep breathing can get you feeling more calm, and all of us can find 60 seconds in our day to breathe. This is a great practice to do upon waking but also can be used as often as needed throughout the day.
Start your day with warm water with lemon. After sleeping you want to slowly rekindle your digestive fire in order to optimize digestion. Lemon is anti-inflammatory, high in vitamin C, and there’s just something so grounding about holding a warm mug in your hands and taking the time to sip slowly.
Move your body. A few sun salutations in the morning can be a great way to wake up your body, connect with your breath and welcome the day. Mindful movement such as yoga or even walking is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Particularly for those of us who struggle to sit in stillness, this can be a very powerful tool. And gentle stretches in the evening are helpful to release tension and prepare your body for sleep.
Create boundaries around technology. Gift yourself an hour of technology free time in the mornings and try putting your phone away at least 1 hour before bed. Read books, write in a journal or simply allow yourself to be more present with whatever is going on without feeling the need to be connected at all times.
Get outside. Nature itself truly is the best medicine and the more you can weave it into your daily routine the better. There is a growing body of research on the positive impact of nature on our mental health. There’s even an entire field of science called Eco psychology dedicated to studying how being in nature impacts your health. Go for a walk or take your morning beverage outside. Just being in nature is a great opportunity to really engage all of your senses and increase feelings of overall wellbeing.
Start small and choose one or two small changes to start. The idea is to incorporate these rituals into your lifestyle, not just add one more thing to your to-do list. Simple things to incorporate every day so you can increase your energy, reduce stress, and find more joy in every day.