Everyone follows their own rhythms, consciously or unconsciously. We all tend to have patterns to our days and may even feel out of sorts when something, usually an external force, disrupts them. Jet lag is a great example of this. We might feel off for a few days after catapulting ourselves across several time zones. Less seismic changes might also jar us: rearranged supermarket aisles can leave us discombobulated. The ebb and flow of our days aligns closely with our Circadian rhythms: According to the NIH, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are found in most living things, including animals, plants, and many tiny microbes.”
We tend to feel better physically and emotionally when we follow nature’s cadence. Artificial light from the myriad devices we use often disrupts sleep patterns. Before the advent of electricity, cultures often rose with the sun – some still do. Kundalini yogis, for example, value waking at dawn and capturing the early morning energy with their practice. Practitioners of Ayurveda link diet and yoga practice to the seasons to accommodate how those changes affect our bodies and minds.
During the darkest days of the Covid-19 lockdown, I became even more acutely attuned to the ebb and flow of the day, as most of the artificial cues I normally follow (meeting times, deadlines) had evaporated almost overnight. The sun and the moon alone remained as steady signposts for my daily activities. With most of the scaffolding of pre-coronavirus life stripped away, I took more advantage of the natural rhythms of each day. When this all started, mornings and evenings were still chilly, and it got dark earlier. I gravitated naturally, then, to staying in bed longer in the morning and remaining at home after I finally arose, having a leisurely breakfast and then a full yoga practice as I waited for the sun to warm the air enough for an afternoon walk. Mid-afternoon always found me brewing a “cuppa” – a habit I got into in England, and happily brought home with me, in addition to the requisite PG Tips tea bags. I ate dinner early, as that same orb thought about setting and turned into a couch potato in the evenings, curling up with needlepoint and Netflix.
Now that the days are both warmer and longer – even with more things open and people venturing further afield – I find myself almost imperceptibly shifting my schedule in accordance with seasonal flux, rather than the external “reopening,” I prod myself out of bed earlier, grab something to bolster my blood sugar quickly, and head out to walk before the heat and humidity brutalize me. Midday I hunker down, a la those in the Mediterranean countries I’ve visited, with the shades drawn to ward off the warmth, and curl up to read on that same couch, where sometimes I even observe the time-honored tradition of a mid-afternoon siesta. The longer light allows me to practice another Mediterranean habit: the post-supper walk, when I often comb the beach for coveted sea glass. The tea, although still PG Tips, is now iced rather than hot, and I often don’t succumb to the television until after eight or nine pm.
No doubt we all make some adjustments in response to the changing seasons, but for me, the relative isolation has made the flux much more perceptible. With fewer artificial stimuli competing for attention, I find it more natural to tune into the cues that nature provides. Just as I tend to walk the shore at Compo at low tide because the Sound has inevitably deposited a new treasure trove of colored glass for me to find, I now link my daily activities to the less artificial rhythms, and it feels very right. Now if I could only convince myself to tune in more to the internal cues – like, for instance, only eating when I’m actually hungry, versus when I’m bored.
Photos courtesy of Diane Lowman