You’re already exercising regularly, eating your fruits and vegetables (hopefully separately), and experimenting with meditation. Check, check, check. What else can you do to create more wellness (and productivity) in your life?
Here are 5 common lifestyle habits with some tweaks that you can consider adopting for better health, productivity and balance.
Healthy lifestyle hacks
1. Sense organ care
We perceive the world through sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. Think about it: our sense organs come in contact with every stimulus we expose them to, voluntarily or involuntarily. And for this reason, sense organ care needs to be more than washing them daily.
Ayurveda believes that sense organ mis- or overuse is one of the 3 main disease-causing factors. These organs are also the “birthplace” of stress since we perceive all stimuli through them as they make their way to our brain.
Misuse means observing or participating in improper and unwholesome experiences, such as derogatory speech and events. The proper use of our sense organs through pleasant, sattvic sensory stimuli can help you maintain a balanced, healthy sensory state. Sattva is an ayurvedic term used to describe purity- and clarity-promoting habits, foods and practices. Think of listening to or chanting the Om sound or the famous Gayatri (healing) mantra.
Overuse comes from overexposure to sensory stimuli, for example, too much screen time, excessive talking or multi-tasking. Slowing down and disconnecting for a complete digital detox are two ways to help you reset and bring you back to balance.
2. Revisiting your bed time
We all know that sleep is important both in terms of quality and quantity. But how much sleep do we need? And does it matter when we go to bed?
I referenced a study by the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University in an earlier post, which found that the mental and physical performance of research participants who slept 6 hours a night for 2 weeks fell to the same level as if they had stayed awake for 48 hours straight—even though they believed that their performance levels were unaffected by the shorter sleep. For ideal productivity and health, we need more than 6 hours of sleep.
Does it matter when we go to bed? The ayurvedic circadian rhythm suggests that you go to bed by 10PM so you can take advantage of the nighttime digestive (pitta) cycle of the day between about 10PM and 2AM. Sleeping is the time when your body can work to heal, repair and restore. It’s also the time when you’re digesting, assimilating and eliminating things and experiences that were unaddressed during the day. For example, this is the time your brain “takes out its trash”.
Allopathic research is starting to catch on. Neurologist and sleep center director, Nathaniel F. Watson writes that night owl types are more susceptible to a host of illnesses and could benefit from going to bed earlier. Not to mention, that your pineal gland starts producing and releasing melatonin in the evening, an essential hormone for sleep (yes, there are more hormones involved in your sleep cycle but let’s skip those for now). Computer, TV and other screens interfere with your ability to produce melatonin and fall asleep.
So, if you’re a night owl, consider going to bed 5-10 minutes earlier each night and start winding down earlier.
3. Making lunch your main meal
Just like how nighttime is for sleep and restoration, the daytime also follows different circadian cycles when certain bodily functions are naturally positioned to better perform certain tasks.
You already know that the digestive (pitta) cycle at night is between about 10PM and 2AM. The same cycle exists during the day as well. Not surprisingly, the digestive part of the day falls between about 10AM and 2PM when your digestive power is naturally the strongest and your body is more aligned to transform what you take in. This is why lunch is the most important meal of the day and should be your biggest meal.
A cooked, nourishing meal at lunchtime will not only curb your hunger but it will also set up your energy for the second half of the day. Eat mindfully, with no distractions, and chew your food properly until it becomes porridge-like consistency.
Sluggishness, heaviness after lunch may indicate that you’re either eating the wrong foods, eating too much, or your digestive power is suboptimal, or all of the above. Feeling hungry a few short hours after eating or a mid-afternoon energy crash may be signs that you didn’t eat enough or ate food that isn’t giving you enough nourishment. This causes your blood sugar level to destabilize and your nervous system to crave fuel.
When you use your digestive cycle correctly, you’ll be well positioned for the afternoon, which is the creative part of the day. Your nervous system will support you in your brainstorming and other creative endeavors without the need for a mid-afternoon coffee or snacks.
4. Taking micro-breaks
Wellness breaks throughout your day will help you be more creative, think more clearly and make you happier. I’ve compiled 6 surprising ways to build wellness breaks into your packed day, so check them out here.
5. Managing your energy
The idea here is to think of your day in terms of energy inputs and outputs instead of time. We all have 24 hours each day. That’s a constant you can’t change. What you can change though is how you allocate your energy during each 24-hour cycle. Taking inventory of what nourishes and what drains you. Learning tools to minimize and counter the drain.
This energy allocation ranges from creating moments of just “being” instead of “doing” to shifting habits that will allow you self-care time even when you don’t have an hour to spend in the sauna. It also includes things that you’ll choose to stop doing and say “no” to.
Becoming intentional about how you use your energy will help you create sustainable, positive experiences for your body, mind, senses and spirit.
Here’s a challenge should you accept it. Pick a lifestyle tweak from the list above and try it for a month. Let me know in the comments which one you picked and keep me posted on how it goes.
Disclaimer: this blog is not intended as medical advice.
Image by Rodion Lobanov, Pexels