How often do you find you’re forcing yourself to just keep on going because ‘this has to get done’? How regularly do you put something in your diary at a time that works for others, but when you get to it doesn’t feel so great for you? Have you ever really stopped to consider whether the way you are living your life, and scheduling your time actually feels good?
I have been guilty of all of these, and never considering my rhythms. Recently I had an appointment where I was asked what day of my monthly cycle I was on, and I didn’t know. I was quite shocked by this. How can it be that I, as a woman who naturally lives by a regular cycle am completely out of synch with that? I’m in tune with when a new series of a favourite Netflix show is starting, but not with my natural rhythms.
October’s Happiness Project theme has been like a great big facepalm, as I’ve realised the beauty and importance of paying attention to our own rhythms. As a society that has largely become out of synch with the rhythms of nature we have, in turn, de-synched with our own natural rhythms. But what I’ve realised this month is that our rhythms and cycles affect us because they are part of us (duh!), and those in nature affect our personal rhythms. Our body is not some separate entity but a huge part of what makes up the whole of who we are. I feel like I’ve been ignoring a massive part of my life.
I’m not saying living by your own rhythms is easy, mind. It’s like being at a party and everyone’s dancing, but your body wants to move to a different tempo and do different moves to everyone else. It’s hard. Moving to a rhythm against the leading one is difficult to sustain and takes practice. Even noticing your own rhythms when there’s a really loud alternate one beating away is challenging.
The norms of our society (such as a 9-5 work week; stress, overworking and tiredness being badges of honour) create an army of ‘should’ gremlins that do not want to dance to your rhythm.
So what do we do?
Start by making notes of your rhythms. For October’s Happiness Project theme I just started to write down how I was feeling at different points throughout the day. Then I noticed when patterns started to emerge.
I’ve made some interesting observations about my rhythms. Stuff I already knew deep down, and instantly recognised when put on paper but that I hadn’t spent time considering before. Stuff like:
- I am most productive in the mornings. If I have a meaty/difficult task to do, it should be then.
- If I’ve been working all morning, I have a big slump between 2 – 3:30ish.
- I prefer variety, and am easily exhausted/loose focus by too many hours spent staring at a screen non-stop.
- I should NEVER schedule 3 1hour+ Skype meetings in one day ever again (like seriously, never ever).
Morning and evening rhythms
Using exercises from Brooke McAlary’s Destination Simple to figure out my morning and evening rhythms has also been useful. This method involves writing out how you want your morning/evening to feel, compared with how it feels now. Creating lists of everything you need to get done in that time, and everything you want to get done then choosing which elements to include in your rhythm. Brooke recommends including at least one ‘want to get done’ item in each list, because doing something for ourselves in the morning and evening is really important – totally agree!
Doing this I’ve figured out that I can do things in the evening to help me in the morning, such as plan/prepare lunch and prepare my to-do list and workspace. My morning rhythm is something I’m playing with to find the best way to set myself up mindfully for the day.
So it’s a work in progress, and figuring out how to work, live and play within my rhythms will take time. It’s something I’m also working on in my coaching sessions with Jen Carrington. But I think simply stopping to notice our rhythms is the first, commendable, step. So join in and let me know how you get on!