As humans we are part of a beautifully complex and interconnected web of nature, we are nature in fact, and just as we know nature moves in seasons and cycles, so do we. There is a rhythm that ebbs and flows with all of the interconnected parts of the wider system.
Taking a rhythmical approach to our lives creates a sense of order that is beautifully aligned with what is natural for us and, when it comes to wellbeing, approaching it in this way this makes a lot of sense. It can create more ease and less pressure, more flow and less force and, perhaps more inspiringly, can create space for more ritual and more meaning.
When we think about creating the conditions for keeping us well, it can be so easy to get pulled into thinking we need a schedule of things to do. Lots of great stuff with really good intentions that, if they all get ticked off, create the picture of health and wellbeing. We might set goals for ourselves with very targeted points to hit, perhaps around what we’re eating, the exercise we need to do, the amount of sleep we need to get, and so on… soon we can find ourselves wedded to a schedule that, if we can keep on track, will keep us going in the right direction and achieve that end result of being well…but if we can’t well, we all know what that feels like.
The only challenge with a schedule as an overall strategy for approaching life, particularly wellbeing, is that if it just focuses on what we need to achieve it doesn’t allow for the human element. Goals and specific things to aim for are of course all wonderful, but can mean that if we don’t hit a milestone at the right time on the schedule the whole thing risks getting derailed and we can end up with a demotivating sense of missing the mark or worse still failure. It also potentially misses an opportunity that the very concept of wellbeing draws us naturally towards…and that is how it feels to be well. With demanding goals or a disjointed approach to health and harmony we miss the opportunity for flow.
Just so in nature, there is a flow rather than a schedule… snow drops don’t all spring up at 6am on the first of February, they appear when the conditions are right and all the other parts of the system of which they are part let them know it’s time.
Creating rituals and rhythms around our wellbeing can be a delicious and highly beneficial thing to do and is a more human way to approach this concept of wellness. It is a little more spacious than a schedule and creates opportunities for delight and deep connection, to ourselves, to nature and what really matters.
A rhythm has some key features, like a beautiful piece of music it has a pulse or a theme that runs through and keeps bringing us back to what’s important, it has a beginning a middle and an end, it’s punctuated by rests it might even build towards a stunning crescendo.
So too, our daily rhythm should have structure with a specific purpose but leave room for choice.
When I think of rhythms I like to think of nested rhythms inside the wider cycles of life. If I was to consider a new rhythm for my wellbeing I might first look to the wider arc of the year and the seasons. The rituals I have in place in winter, differ from those in spring but they are all pulling in the same direction, towards a beautiful synergistic flow of health and vitality. A simple seasonal rhythm for the year might look like: rest, restore and reflect / reorientate & revitalise / create, cultivate, celebrate / lean in, learn…
And no it doesn’t always have to be alliterative …that’s just my own proclivity. A one word seasonal theme might also work to carry you through the year.
I then think of the smaller cycles perhaps of a day and how my energy rises and falls naturally with my circadian rhythm and how the demands of my daily doings need to shift accordingly. So a daily rhythm could be as simple as: wake, orientate, move, nourish, focus, rest, create, nurture, play, reflect, give thanks…
When I set out to create a new rhythm for health, wellness and vitality that is a little more specific I find it really helpful to orientate myself towards what I’m wanting to create.
What are you hoping to gain from your new rhythm? What feeling would you like it to evoke? How is that going to support your wider aspirations? Build a compelling image in your mind, go further if you like, take a little time to capture the essence of it in a vision board or other tangible reminder of your intention.
Then you might look first at the rhythms already in place for you, how does your day, week, month, year currently flow? What naturally happens when for you and how can you build on that to make it easy and relevant to the season and your energy?
We are, hopefully, not isolated individuals, so our rhythms impact and are impacted by those around us, consider then who else shares your daily life and how any shifts you’d like to make may affect them. If your new flow takes these dynamics into account, embedding and keeping to the rhythm is likely to be more successful.
Remember a rhythm however is not rigid, it doesn’t hold you to timings but rather to a sequence that works and has flex and give built in so this will naturally account for other factors out of your control without meaning you need to abandon your whole practice.
What values do you want at the hearts of your practice? Does creativity, feature? Perhaps focus, inspiration or motivation is something you’d like more of…What are the activities of mind and body that you can incorporate to bring those qualities?
A delightful dancing partner to rhythm is ritual. Rituals can help anchor your new rhythm in place and make it even more enjoyable to move through. Little rituals, repeated throughout the day, month and varied according to season will add colour and light.
Rituals are simple but have certain qualities, best when they engage all the senses, they are also an opportunity to be very mindfully present in each moment.
The ritual of preparing a beautiful jug of water with fresh lemon, sprigs of herbs pairing it with your favourite glass and setting it out on your desk ahead of the day's work acts as not only a reminder to hydrate, but makes it an intentional and supportive act of for your body rather than a chore.
The act of bathing and dressing can be turned into a ritual by the addition of music, words of thanks or intention as you lovingly apply your favourite, beautiful scented, oil or cream. Dressing or adding jewellery is an opportunity to practice the art of adornment where each piece is added with mindful attention and intention rather than just a mindless function of necessity.
The whole process of creating new rhythms and rituals is limited only by your imagination, it’s a beautiful opportunity to slow the pace of life, be more intentional, celebrate the simple things and bring a sense of wonder and meaning to our days.
With special thanks to the wonderful Elizabeth Cairns for writing this article for us.
Elizabeth is a coach, facilitator, writer and holistic therapist, Elizabeth has worked closely with thousands of entrepreneurs in the last 20 years. She understands just what it takes to create a thriving business and live an empowered life.