There are two sides to most things. A rainy day is a bad thing for a 11 year old looking forward to a little league game, and a great thing for a farmer dealing with a drought. And then there are things like kindness, compassion, and love. These things, in and of themselves, have no down side.
And then there is routine. A pretty modest word, right? There are routine traffic violations, routine fly balls, and coming up for many parents, “getting into the routine” of the new school year. It is often lumped with regular, normal and typical.
However, when it comes to our health and wellbeing, routine is anything but middle of the road.
On the upside:
In starting and maintaining a practice like meditation it is imperative that we create a routine around it. This helps spare our will power from having to do all the work. If I create a routine of meditating as soon as I wake up or as soon as I go into my office, I have a greater chance of sticking to it. Starting a routine of expressing gratitude right before each meal is a great way to establish a gratitude practice. Getting into a routine of cooking for ourselves 3 or 4 days a week with fresh ingredients will lead us to the healthful benefits of eating whole foods. And many sleep experts recommend sleeping in the same time cycles to maximize the benefits of this key time of healing and rejuvenation.
On the downside:
When our workouts become routine (in my case doing the same run every day and doing the same weightlifting routine every other day) the benefits of these workouts nosedive. I was talking to my wife’s kickboxing teacher Amir today, and he gave me a whole new outlook on the importance of varying my workouts, even drastically. I had heard all the hoopla over the “confusion” workout method but had not applied it to my own routine. I will now.
When we get into a routine of eating the same things, even good things, we are leaving valuable nutrients out of our diets contained in the foods that are not part of our routine.
Everything from brain power (memory research is filled with data touting varying our routine) to spirituality (think Carlos Casteneda’s shocking our tonal) to sex (you know what I’m talking about) is dramatically enhanced by not falling into a prolonged routine.
And the most important upside is in a little know medical term called “heart rate variability”. This is a good description from the website Strongwomen.com
The term called “heart rate variability” means that minute-by-minute (or even second-by-second) your heart rate fluctuates depending on internal and external stimulus. If your resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute, it makes sense that your heart would beat 600 times in 10 minutes. While that translates to one beat per second on average, in reality, it may be that over a 10-second time period, there are five beats in three seconds and then five beats in the next seven second. When we are young and/or more physically fit, we have greater heart rate variability, which means that our cardiovascular system is responding to various stimuli and is being appropriately controlled by several different neurological factors. As you age, there is a decline in the plasticity of the heart to react moment by moment to any changes in the need for blood flow and oxygen to the rest of the body; physical inactivity has a similar effect. Therefore, sedentary individuals and older adults usually have low heart rate variability. Low heart rate variability is associated with greater risk for cardiovascular events.
So, heres to varying our routines AND establishing routines!!! Our health and wellbeing depend on it.