Life can be the simplest of joys or the hardest of tasks. Sometimes it depends on the time you have, the company you share, or if you’ve yet to find what you’re looking for! One aspect we often over-look as we hurtle through life at an increasingly busy pace – is our own body.
You see our body, like our lives, has its own in-built, stead-fast, 24 hour body clock. It’s called the circadian rhythm and it has a lot to answer for. This clock, which sits nestled in our brain in an area called the hypothalamus, is partly responsible for the daily change in how we think, feel and even act.
So how does it do this? Well, for starters, it takes information about how light it is through our eyes to work out the length of day (and when it’s night) and then helps to regulate the release of lots of hormones and processes that go on in our body. It is these commands to processes and hormones that contribute to making us energetic, sleepy, and perhaps, how physically and mentally ready do take on the next 24 hours. So let’s have a look at 5 ways that we can tailor our hectic lives to it….
1. Best Time to Active and Alert
At 9am there is a stress hormone called cortisol that is at its highest natural level in the day time. Now this hormone is central to our ‘fight or flight’ response as it prepares our body to perform periods of physical activity, for example, by ensuring there is plenty of available energy to fuel our cells. So if you are planning some energetic play-time with kids or a long, enjoyable stroll in the park, or that big shop and want to be at your best, then perhaps the morning is best for you! Don’t forget the value of a good night of sleep since ‘sleep debt’ is linked to a lower ability to think more clearly.
2. Best Time to Exercise or Play Sport
Ever noticed that the Olympic sprint finals are around the early evenings? Well, it is because our core body temperature rises to a peak at around 6pm as kindly arranged by our circadian rhythm. This evening temperature peak helps to boost our energy metabolism and improve muscle function. This is therefore the second bite of the apple for showing some sporting prowess, gym workout, or even your big energetic shop completing all those tasks you couldn’t get around to in the morning!
3. Worst Time for Focussed Thinking and Energy
At lunchtimes, many of us slip into the physical and mental trough known as the ‘post-lunch dip’! We often experience this after lunch and attribute it to ‘digestion’ diverting all that much needed blood from our brain as we think – but it’s also because our circadian rhythm naturally produces a dip in our core body temperature that is linked to our increased propensity to feel sleepy and want to nap! Some even experience this even if you don’t have lunch or even know what time of day it is! If you need to really concentrate on a task or rush around doing the hard-choice shopping – get it in before lunch and then enjoy a relaxed lunch, a catch-up with friends, or maybe even that afternoon movie!
3. Best Time to Share that Good Mood
Now this may come as no surprise but we are often in our best moods on the weekends! Interestingly though the same goes for first thing in the morning. After that though, we sadly seem to decline in mood during the day. Although impossible to separate the effects of the daily grind of a tough, tiring day at work, and the circadian rhythm that controls our level of sleepiness – the two both have a part to play. So share those good times on the weekend with friends and family but be mindful of those weary evenings when arguments may be more common as we get craggy!
4. Best Time to Be Creative
Our circadian rhythm largely helps determine if we are a ‘morning person’ or an ‘evening person’. It does this by optimising various hormones and body processes at different time points, and even helping us to focus. But your creativity is not where you think it is! You see if you are a morning person you may actually be more creative in the evening – and visa a versa for an evening person. The reasoning is that when are in these ‘off peak’ thinking times and less focused, our minds are more available to ‘outside the box’ ideas and possibilities and hence more creative! So if you are planning that surprise birthday gift, or new wallpaper design, think about when the best time is!
5. Best Time to be Mentally Focussed
Now unlike your best ‘creative’ free thinking time, your circadian rhythm sets your best thinking time to a slightly different point. This IS based on if you are a morning or evening person, as determined by your circadian rhythm. It is here that you are most task-orientated having filtered out any distractions and ready to tackle specific challenges like your accounts, those bills or that recipe!
So there we have it, a brief guide to your circadian rhythm and all the highs and lows (emotionally and physiologically!) that it brings you in a day. When you are charging about in your hectic lives maybe try to take a minute and plan when the best time is to do all these things. After-all, you might discover a hidden energy, creativity and mood that just required a little reshuffling of your day.