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How to optimize your lifestyle by aligning with the circadian rhythm

Our bodies are designed to live harmoniously with nature and follow the circadian rhythm. Illnesses happen when we disrupt this flow

To have a good start to your day, wake up with the rising sun and avoid using gadgets immediately after you open your eyes(Unsplash/Bruce Mars)

By Luke Coutinho

LAST PUBLISHED 10.12.2023  |  08:00 AM IST

Human beings are products of nature, and regardless of how advanced our lifestyles are or how fancy our wardrobes become, the only way for us to thrive is by living under the cycles of nature.

Present-day social media deceives and manipulates us into believing that a particular lifestyle is essential for success: sacrificing sleep, relying on caffeine, working through nights to achieve targets, and more. Unsurprisingly, humans are the only species sacrificing health and sleep for productivity. In our pursuit to define success by titles, income, possessions, and extravagant vacations, we overlook that we are disrupting our biological clock. Racing ahead of nature can slow us down, often resulting in illness.

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Our bodies are ingeniously designed to operate according to the circadian rhythm—a sleep-wake cycle that governs various sensations like wakefulness, sleepiness, hunger, and satisfaction over 24 hours. Everything we do, from sleeping and eating to hormone secretion, digestion, and detoxification, aligns with this rhythm, dictating how our body functions at different times.

Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter, worked late shifts, or travelled time zones understands the repercussions of disturbing this biological clock. It affects the body, causing irregular bowel movements and disrupting sleep patterns.

When we challenge natural laws and oppose the circadian rhythm that governs thousands of bodily functions at a cellular level, even the best fitness regimes, treatments, medications, doctors, nutritionists, spiritual practices, or yoga lose their significance.

Consider this analogy: you can prepare the finest dough, but if the oven's environment is poor—damp or with incorrect temperature—the bread will not bake or rise. Similarly, our internal and external environments significantly impact our well-being. Providing top-notch medicines and lifestyle adjustments will not aid someone's progress or well-being if they inhabit a toxic, unhealthy, unsupportive, lonely, or damp environment.

In my 13 years of experience, dealing with end-of-life patients and those with terminal illnesses like cancer, rare syndromes and hormone disorders, one powerful factor, surpassing medication and treatment, is coaching them to synchronize their lives with the circadian rhythm. Aligning with this rhythm activates the body's intelligence; it repairs, identifies, and restores.

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I term this “The New Way of Living". It does not mandate forsaking enjoyment; you can maintain a vibrant social life while adhering to it. Truthfully, this “new" way of living is not new at all. Generations have lived harmoniously with nature, participating in rituals, and celebrations, and leading healthy, joyful lives. You can do it too!

If you are wondering whether living in sync with the circadian way incurs costs—it does not. You can achieve it by collaborating with nature and the circadian rhythm. The transformation will be immediate. Your energy levels will soar, sleep will improve, and digestion and water retention will enhance. Imagine waking up with a flatter stomach, radiant skin, and fewer cravings! The benefits extend beyond these.

Here are 9 simple circadian rhythm rules for alignment:

1. Wake up with the rising sun. 
2. Avoid using gadgets immediately upon waking; connect with nature and clean your bowels within an hour. 
3. Refrain from eating until after sunrise. 
4. Wait three hours after waking before consuming coffee or tea. 
5. Establish consistent timings for eating, exercising, sleeping, and waking. 
6. Consume the most calories during breakfast and lunch, minimizing intake at dinner. 
7. Conclude eating before or during sunset and fast overnight (dry or intermittent) until the following sunset. 
8. Maintain a 2- to 3-hour gap between dinner and bedtime. 
9. Avoid blue/artificial light close to bedtime, as it suppresses melatonin secretion.

This routine aligns with nature's rhythm. Does it sound overly simple? Yes, and that is why many do not follow it, believing simplicity does not work. Instead, they chase complexity without fixing the fundamentals first. Maybe in a few health conditions, we need complex procedures and methods, but even then, fix the fundamentals first.

Remember, the circadian rhythm is crafted by the ultimate expert—nature. Even if it seems challenging or incompatible with your preferences, extract what you can and construct your lifestyle. Times may change, but our bodies and their functions endure. So do the fundamentals and principles of nature.

Would you be willing to practice this for five days a week and notice the change? Here is to wishing you good health, happiness, and a life abundant in harmony with nature.

Luke Coutinho is a Goa-based holistic lifestyle coach – integrative and lifestyle medicine and founder of YouCare – All about YOU. 

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