Routine is the one of the most important ingredients to find balance and health in life. When I look at my life and the lives of patients I notice that most amount of imbalance and dysfunction come when we are breaking from a healthy daily routine. What I mean by this is that when we start to eat out too much and at random times our digestive system suffers, or when we stay up too late too many nights our sleep is poor, or when we fail to integrate stretching and exercise our bodies dysfunction and scream in pain, or when we skip out on relaxation and meditation our mental and emotional states become weak and overwhelmed. Do you see where I am going with this? We need to get back to health and how is this usually done, through setting up a healthy routine to begin to reintegrate healthy practices.
There are four pillars of health and routine can help in strengthening them. I read a great blog post by Chris Kresser about these four pillars and I thought what a great way to quickly, holistically, and systematically look at one’s life and how it relates to health. The four pillars of health are sleep, relaxation, healthy eating, and exercise. If we can honestly say that we do all of these well then I think we can pretty honestly say we feel healthy. But how does one do all of these well? Routine to the rescue. We need to create a healthy routine that we can follow everyday. Without routine I would dare to say it is impossible to have strong pillars of health.
Let’s begin with sleep which I think is the most important pillar of health, but that may because it is one I tend to have the most difficulty with. So I developed this habit I think around my college years to stay up way too late because of some activity that catches my interest. It is very abusive to my circadian rhythm and my body becomes confused as to when to shut off for sleep. Routine to the rescue. My sleep greatly improves when I return to a healthy sleep routine of starting to get ready for bed around 9:30 with some yoga, relaxation, and meditation practices, and then in bed by 10:15 or 10:30. Every night the same way, over and over again. I try my best, but I am not perfect. And when I start to abuse this routine my body lets me know with waking me in the middle of the night and waking up feeling unrested and lacking that awesome electrical charge with a restful night of sleep.
Routine works the same when it comes to eating healthy. I eat pretty healthy consuming mostly whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, some whole grains, organic grass fed meats, and wild caught fish. During the week I have my routine that serves my digestive system well with smooth passage. The weekend however is when I sometimes break away from this routine and as a result digestion suffers. Don’t get me wrong going out for dinner and having fun is an important part of life but there is usually a price to pay. The more unhealthy we eat and at irregular times the bigger the price tag. Routine to the rescue. The Chinese philosophers were super smart. They determined that there are actual optimal times for healthy digestion and the best times for us to eat. I think eating at regular times during the day is as important to the type of food we eat. I always feel better during the week because I integrate the routine of cooking my own meals and I eat a regular times during the day. Breakfast around 7am-9am, Lunch from 12-2, and Dinner from 5-7. Again I try my best, and some of you might say hey I have seen you eating later then 7 at the office and I say yes that is true.
With exercise I am no expert, however I think we can agree that establishing a routine as a way to integrate it in is best. Yoga is one of my favorite forms of exercise because I can do it anywhere and it also incorporates the other pillar of relaxation and meditation. Patients that I see who frequent the gym seem to always have an established time that they go and a workout routine that makes them feel the best. I have also had patients tell me that their mood and the way they feel about themselves worsens when the have stopped exercising. I know you have heard this, “I have been so busy with work I just have no time for myself.” Routine to the rescue. Then we remember we can’t function well without taking care of ourselves with exercise. We desire greatly to feel good about ourselves again. So we create a routine to exercise, the same time everyday and we feel good, really good.
We can and must use routine in our lives to strengthen the four pillars of health; sleep, relaxation, healthy eating, and exercise. Through using routine to strengthen these pillars we build a strong foundation to go out into the world and live our life’s purpose! Amen! We don’t show up at random times to work everyday, we have a routine. So let’s bring that routine into the things that make us healthier, stronger, and more vibrant individuals.
Joseph Tonzola L.Ac, Dipl. OM