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Doing What Comes Naturally

This waking:sleeping ratio, each portion in its desirable time-slot, is so essential to whatever else we do. When it's out of kilter we find it harder to cope. In the previous issue I mentioned series television programmes and these contribute greatly to the disruption of a healthy routine. Many households will re-arrange their evenings around them. Conscientious parents mindful of the health of their children will insist on a specific time for bed, and no amount of pleading will sway them because they know kids need their sleep. Typical of the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do philosophy, they will then stay up all hours to watch the latest episode of their favourite drama and the following movie that doesn't finish till gone midnight! Don't they think they need their sleep too - all of it and at the right time? Unless it's the weekend, they won't try to catch up on what they've missed: it's impossible anyway with all that has to be done during the day. So, they soldier on, cranky, forgetful, unable to give their undivided attention to important tasks. You'd think the way they feel would tell them something but, like the night-owl teenagers, they repeat the mistake that same night, and again the next evening. Before they realise it, they've changed the ratio and are having to manage on six hours of sleep instead of the eight their bodies need; all courtesy of a TV they can switch off whenever they want. If they bought themselves a digital recorder, or used the one they already have to advantage, they could watch everything they fancied, but at a time better suited to their health - and the programmes wouldn't have to last as long if they fast-forwarded through the commercials.

A healthy routine is about repetition and consistency, doing the same things in the same order, over and again. The body gets used to it, telling us when it is tiring and especially when it needs feeding. Having the right type of food at designated times not only fits conveniently into the rest of the day, but also provides essential fuel to keep going. That feeling of satisfaction following a meal is an extra boost, confirmation that, so far, the routine is working well. Change the established pattern and the body will complain, producing anything from a growling stomach to irritability and stress. If the change is temporary it can usually be tolerated, just briefly; made permanent, however, there will need to be a settling-in period before the new regime is accepted. On occasions, for one reason or another it won't be. Dieting can have this effect. It may seem to be the healthy alternative, but the metabolism won't think so and is likely to rebel, demanding its old routine back - cakes and cookies mid-morning, pie and chips for tea. For this reason, a sudden drastic switch in eating habits can result in physical discomfort and mental anguish that frequently sound the death knell on the new diet. This is unfortunate, especially when individuals really must change their eating habits. Then, the wisest choice is to persist until the amended routine is finally taken on board as part of the new day that simply has to be.

The patterns of daily living are established early on in the piece. Children have no option but to fall in with the routines of parents and carers, which can be good or bad, depending how they are brought up. Getting them used to doing certain things at specific times may cause a fair bit of whingeing to start with, but once they've realised that's the way it's going to be, they generally concede and, nine times out of ten are better for it. So is the rest of the family and society in general, provided they continue to adapt and fit in with others as they grow. Adults are just bigger versions of ankle-biters and really are no different. Although every person is a unique individual, most seem happier and more comfortable going with the flow. Civilisation thrives on routine as do those who embrace it. And if repetition and regularity seem a bit of a bore at times, just be happy doing what comes naturally – at least you won’t have to think about it.

Next issue:   Your Goals, or Someone Else’s? - discover who you truly are

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