The Daily Routine
A short overview
Do we need a specific routine in order to thrive? Simply put, the answer is YES!
First, let's define what a routine IS and what it ISN'T:
Routine- a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program
Routine- 1670s, from French routine "usual course of action, beaten path" (16c.), from route "way, path, course"
Route- early 13c., from Old French rute "road, way, path" (12c.), from Latin rupta "a road ". Sense of "fixed or regular course for carrying things".
Therefore having a routine means that one chooses a route/path. If you choose a good routine you are on the right path. Path to what? Path to good health and wellbeing. So the right rout(ine) will lead us to the right destination. The destination we all desire; health, happiness and prosperity.
What routine isn't?
Sometimes people confuse a stable routine with a rut. A rut is:
Rut- a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change
Rut- deep, narrow mark made in the soft ground especially by a wheel.
-> This is where the idiom "(stuck) in a rut" comes from.
Stuck in a rut- too fixed in one particular type of job, activity, method, etc., and need to change.
Hence, a rut is different from a good routine in the way that it indicates a negative state of being. A state of stagnation and inertia, whereas the right routine denotes movement, a path that can be thread upon. Rut fixes you in one place and does not enable you to move. A rut is a wrong path one chooses, and then falls into it and can't seem to get out of it.
Both routine and rut probably come from the same word "rute"(road/way/path). Both do fix you to a certain path, but one gives you stability while the other binds you back from progress.
Fortunately, nature gave us cues and signs on what our routine should be and how it should look like. If we observe nature closely, we will notice that all living beings have a routine they follow. Be it daily, monthly, seasonal... We are also part of nature, we are also living beings, it's reasonable to assume that there is a specific routine designed for us humans. And there is. There is a right schedule a human being should follow.
However, people ask this question a lot; how can we all have the same routine considering we all don't lead the same lifestyle? The problem lies not in the routine itself but in the fact that we organize our day mostly according to our work schedule. For most people, our job dictates our daily routine. Your work schedule dictates when you eat, when and how much you sleep, when you exercise and all the other things. Unfortunately, our modern rut does not align with the routine nature has intended for us. The modern daily rut is usually hectic, unstable and variable. One day we might fall asleep at 10pm while another day we go to bed after 1am. On Mondays, we might have a quick snack at 2am for lunch, while on Sunday we will eat a large meal at 6pm. Sometimes we will do an intense workout at 9pm, and then do the exact same workout the next morning because we can't make it that evening. All of this is most likely too familiar for many of us. And it's a pity. When we have an unstable schedule like that our internal clock gets disturbed. That state is called CHRONO DISRUPTION. The consequences of this imbalanced state may seem mild at first. But as time goes by and the years go on all of this disbalance adds up and can manifest as various diseases.
In order to avoid Chrono disruption, we must follow the natural circadian rhythms that are embedded in our very own bodies.
So, how does the circadian routine look like? What is the daily "perfect" schedule? Let's start from the beginning:
SLEEP- (6 AM) Ideally one should get up with the Sun, that is when melatonin (sleep hormone) stops and cortisol (wakefulness hormone) production starts. It will depend on the season, but 6am is optimal. Try not to sleep after 7am.
FOOD- (TILL 9AM) Get a good, hearty, wholesome breakfast. Do not skip! Skipping breakfast has been associated with increased weight gain, contrary to what you might believe. It has also been shown that people who ate breakfast had lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
EXERCISE- (TILL 10 AM) This is the time for light to medium activity. You can go for a brisk walk, do some gardening, go jogging or ride a bike. If you prefer to build muscle, now is your moment; testosterone levels peak in the morning and testosterone is responsible for building muscle mass. If your goal is to lose weight, do it now, testosterone helps to burn fat also.
SLEEP- sleep is not recommended at this time since you are the most active at this hour
FOOD- (11AM-14PM) Enjoy a LARGE and HEALTHY lunch. Now is the time to indulge. This is the biggest and most important meal of the day. NEVER skip lunch. We can say that having lunch with other people is a sacred ritual. And science even backs it up. A good and nourishing lunch has many many many health benefits. Eat it in a relaxed and focused manner, try not to hurry. Respect your meal and feel the food and how it gives you energy and builds your body.
EXERCISE- not recommended at this time. Most of the bodily focus goes towards lunch and digestion.
SLEEP- (15-16PM) finally you can take that long-desired nap. But don't make it long! A siesta after a fulfilling lunch is practised in numerous cultures and it has shown its benefits. It should not last longer than one hour.
FOOD- (TILL 5PM) if you experience afternoon sugar crash often that means you probably have Chrono disruption. One of the most common reasons for the crash is not eating a satisfactory lunch. As we said; a lunch should never be skipped, eat a big portion so you will feel satisfied and well-fed. That way you won't reach for that bag of cookies or a snickers bar. But if you are really hungry, eat some fruit, something light.
EXERCISE- (14-15PM) a brisk walk after a meal is a great option, it aids in digestion and also helps to clear the mind and reset it a bit after working.
SLEEP (9PM-10PM) - Begin to wind down, unplug and get ready to go to sleep. Once the Sun has set your body should start producing melatonin, but if you turn on all the lights and stare into the screens all the time you will inhibit that process and that leads to Chrono disruption among many other issues. Going to bed by 9pm may sound strange and difficult to do, but try to make it as often as you can. You will see the beneficial results very soon.
FOOD (8PM-7 PM)- Your last and lightest meal of the day. Eating a heavy dinner is a big no-no! A large dinner poses a much bigger threat to our health than we predicted. It increases the risk of diabetes, overburdens the liver, builds fat tissue and a host of other undesirable things.
EXERCISE (6PM-7PM)- Since the sun is set, and naturally, you wouldn't have a source of artificial lighting, you would not engage in vigorous activity. However, body temperature peaks at this hour. Which means that your muscle is at their warmest which means they are very flexible. Do gentle yoga or stretches. Your flexibility will increase and you won't "wake up" your body before going to bed. Always exercise at least 2 hours BEFORE going to sleep.
SLEEP (AFTER 10PM)- at this time you should enter the REM stage and your mind should work on memory consolidation. Your glymphatic (lymph system in the brain) system should be draining and your liver detoxing.
FOOD (AFTER 8PM)- do not eat at night! Of course, it will happen sometimes (while you are at the wedding or at a party), but for the most part, eating at night will totally throw your circadian clock out of whack. We are not nocturnal animals and we cannot digest food properly at night, it will only build up in the body as toxins and fat.
EXERCISE (AFTER 8PM)- same goes for exercise. At these peaceful hours, our body and mind should get a chance to rest, regenerate and cleanse.
There are many more things to be said and added to the schedule. This is a rough presentation. In the next post, I will go in-depth on every step and its importance and scientific evidence. For now, try to follow this routine as much as possible. See how you feel and remember, always listen to your body!