We live unwisely. Most of my patients come to me with chronic illnesses, and in treating them, one thing has become clear: we know what we should do, but we don’t do it. We know we should eat on schedule, exercise every day, and get at least six hours of sleep, but somehow our lives don’t work out that way. Instead we rush around, gulping down whatever’s handy, avoid exercise by working too hard and too long, and crash into sleep when our energy runs out. Ayurveda calls these “crimes against wisdom,” maintaining that disease is the penalty for committing them. From what I’ve observed in my clinic, it’s all too true.
We know we should eat on schedule, exercise every day, and get at least six hours of sleep, but somehow our lives don’t work out that way.
I tell my patients (and myself) that we need rhythm in our lives, that if we establish a pattern for our key activities, our lives will be more balanced. It’s simple: set a time for sleeping and waking up, a time for meals, a time for exercise, and a time to do a relaxation practice. You might think of these as the four pillars of wise living.
- According to ayurveda, it is best to sleep between 10 p.m. and 4–5 a.m. If we sleep past 6, the earth element (kapha) rises and renders us so inert that it’s tempting to linger in bed until the last possible moment (which causes a frantic dash to get where we need to be on time).
- The entire body benefits when meals are eaten on schedule—the largest meal at midday, with a lighter meal in the evening. And when you’re eating, eat. Don’t conduct business, watch TV, or try to settle a quarrel.
- Aerobic exercise (as we all know) is best done at least five times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, but if you can’t find that much time, all is not lost. Studies show that 10 minutes two to three times a day is fine. So take a brisk walk around the block a few times before going into your office in the morning (or when coming out) or walk up and down the stairs at established times, say 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. It will keep you healthy and it’s a great substitute for coffee.
- Finally, stop and do a systematic relaxation exercise at least once a day. Before the midday meal or after work are particularly good times to step out of harness and let the stress drop away. Five minutes is good; ten is great. And don’t be fooled—the more reluctant you are to take time to relax, the more you will benefit from the practice.
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.