From a very early age, routine is something that is crucial to health. We see this a lot of when raising kids as it relates to their eating and sleeping schedules. If you forget to feed your children or too much time passes before they get a nap, what happens? Meltdown! The state of their emotional health becomes reactive and in turn, they have to manage states of increased stress. Now, we know as soon as we feed the child or get them to sleep they are going to feel better, and things will begin to improve. But let’s fast-forward 30 to 40 years down the road. It’s pretty commonplace these days for individuals to eat, sleep, move (and really do most health-oriented activities) in a random state of occurrence. I believe this stems in large part from two things: a lack of understanding about the rhythms of nature, and the state of autonomy that we feel we deserve as adults. So let’s take both of these concepts and look at the important parts of them.
I feel like our connection to the natural processes within our environment is slowly depleting. Back in the “good old days” :), there was a need to stay in a natural routine given our decreased dependency on technology. We rose and fell with sun and moon, we ate in season, we ate three meals a day on a consistent schedule; we understood the rhythm of the seasons, and planned appropriately to adapt to the changing environment. Our present culture seems to have a disregard for these principles of rhythm. When I see patients in my clinic who are struggling with health concerns, there is this common thread of variability that seems to be of impact. For instance, people are going to bed many hours after they should be (in bed by 10pm), they are waking sporadically through the night, they are eating at different times during the day, moving their bodies at different times, etc… It might be hard for some to imagine why it would really matter what time of day you eat, or what time you go to bed and wake in the morning. I just encourage you to think back to the child and the relevance of how important that routine was for development. We need to remember that while we are not children anymore, we still need to be maintaining a state of routine. If you are sick and suffering with health concerns, creating a self-care routine will help you heal.
With regard to the autonomy that we deserve as adults, it is common for us to make a justification that I am not a child anymore and I am capable of staying up all night, eating whatever and whenever I want, because “DAMN IT, I do not have to listen to anyone anymore.” Well, I get it on one hand, you can do whatever you want. But let’s be clear: each choice and decision that you make comes with a reaction. There is a law of physics that states for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. With certainty, the choices you make with regard to your health will impact your healthy dramatically. One unfortunate things is that we often miss the impact of our choices. We do not associate our decisions with the impact on our health. This allows burden to accumulate in the body and physiologic changes to take place, which leads to signs and symptoms of disease. And remember, DO NOT SUPPRESS THESE WITH MEDICATIONS! Use the feedback that you get from your choices to make informed decisions around why you are choosing to do what you do. The routine that you create will either help you move in a direction of health, or disease. The simplicity of getting to bed every night at 10pm, eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (every 2 hours), moving/exercising on a consistent daily basis, breathing 10 deep breaths every hour, can and will allow you to move towards health.
If what you’re doing is working for you, then keep doing it; but if you’re struggling with health concerns, then you have to begin changing things, and routine is at the top of the list. The great part about establishing new routines is that the principles are simple. It can be hard at times to execute it. But difficulty in execution is not related to the act of “doing.” In my experience, difficulty in execution is related to the lack of understanding regarding the anticipated outcome of your choices. For instance, I do not want to eat at my scheduled time because I would rather focus on my work that I’m finishing. Thus, the outcome of my work is more relevant than the benefit I will receive from fueling body. Or: I don’t want to go to bed right now, because my favorite TV program is on. Thus, the outcome of the pleasure I will receive from watching my TV program is more beneficial than the rest and repair my body will get from sleeping instead. In my experience, most people are not consciously stating these connections to themselves. Rather they are just sticking in their routine that is consistent. So you must build a new reference and purpose of why you will be choosing to pause from your work to eat, or go to bed rather than watching your TV program. This is the key to building a new routine and being consistent with it.
So take action, build a lifestyle routine that supports your vision and purpose for your health. You have to maintain consistency to learn the benefit and impact of this new routine. Otherwise it is to tempting to fall back into your old habits and patterns. You can do this! I believe in you.