I was chatting with my dear friends and colleagues the other day about natural rhythms. What we came upon is that we are surrounded by natural rhythms…the rhythm (cycle) of the moon, the rhythm of the seasons, day and night, sleep and wake, hunger and satiety, rest and action, play and work. Bears and other animals go through a quiet cycle of hibernation during the winter, and so do plants and trees. Guess what? We do, too (or should I say our bodies and minds want us to). But how many of us are aware that humans also have a rhythm that is unique to each of us? And how many of us listen to those rhythms?
The invention of the light bulb, while wonderful, was also the beginning of our disconnection from our natural human rhythm. Artificial light allowed us to be awake long past the setting of the sun. And now, with technology and “on demand” television, video games, smart phones and the like, we have entertainment at our fingertips 24/7. While a leap in “civilization,” these advances have further disconnected us from our natural rhythms, and the result is greater levels of stress as well as increasing rates of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes (according to www.smartglobahealth.org). In our fast-paced society, there is growing pressure to do more, faster and all at once, eating on the run, and failing to connect to loved ones, but is this really good for us?
A look at the “blue zones” of the world (www.bluezonesproject.com) reveals 9 habits of the healthiest, longest-living people on this planet. How many of these are a daily part of our lives?
- Move naturally – it doesn’t even have to be that strenuous – just incorporating movement (house-cleaning, gardening, walking to the store, taking the stairs) into our daily routines is all it takes.
- Know your purpose – know why you want to wake up in the morning. If you are not sure, start exploring the possibilities.
- Kick back – finds ways to reduce stress, including relaxation techniques, slowing down, taking breaks, naps – whatever works for you.
- Eat less – adopt the practice of many of the healthiest people in the world and stop eating when you are only 80% full instead of continuing to eat until you feel stuffed.
- Eat less animal products – beans are a staple of the healthiest people in the world.
- Drink in moderation – a glass of wine is actually good for you! But moderation is key here.
- Have faith – it doesn’t matter what denomination it is – but it is important to have one, and to attend services regularly so that you truly feel part of a larger group.
- Stay social – build an intentional network of people who share your values and inspire and uplift you and make time for them in your daily life.
- Loved ones first – taking care of aging parents or grandparents, devoting time to and nurturing your children and your partner are all part of the lifestyles of the healthiest people on this planet.
So can we as parents adopt some, most, or all of these practices into our lives? Getting back to the natural rhythms with which we have lost touch, how do we know when it is time to slow down and when it is time to move into action? When we get back in touch with our natural rhythms and learn to listen to them, we will be more productive in our activities, have more fulfilling relationships and feel more joy.
Have you noticed any of your own rhythms? What are they?