Learning to rest like a lion
"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."
Even the lion, the king of the jungle needs rest time. Interestingly the lion sleeps between 10-20 hours a day. Isn’t it quite astonishing that animals know instinctively how to project manage, how to conserve energy and how to make the best use of their own personal resources. We, on the other hand are inclined to forget to bring the concept of rest into our lives and in our modern day 24/7 culture, real rest has become elusive. We may think we are resting when we are sitting on our bottoms. However, with the television in the corner of the room, a laptop on our knee, a phone in our hand and a mug full of our chosen caffeine or other stimulant, are we really resting in the true sense? Is it any wonder therefore that we can’t even sleep properly these days? Most of us will have experienced difficulties with sleep onset and also getting good quality continual sleep. Sleep problems are becoming a bit of an epidemic across the western world. You can read some of our top tips for a good night's sleep here.
Working under the functional medicine umbrella, we recognise sleep as one of the fundamental functional pillars when it comes to health. Sleep is when our bodies heal, repair and are restored. During the day, our cortisol levels should change with sunrise and sunset. Ideally, they should be higher in the morning and gradually come down across the day with lower levels in the evening to prepare our bodies for sleep. However, imagine a body which is out of balance and which is producing too much cortisol in the middle of the day and/or in the evening. This is becoming all too common a problem these days as we are overstimulated, not just from our exposure to electronics and the internet but being part of a culture that puts pressure on us to work in the evenings , checking emails etc. So we feel we have to keep going when our natural rhythms need to prepare the body for sleep.
Imagine what would happen if lions lived their lives the way many of us do, without adequate time of rest. There would probably be a lot of hungry and angry lions wandering about and let's face it we don't want to come face to face with a 'hangry'l ion!! Lions spend the majority of the day resting which in terms of their survival makes perfect sense. They expend a lot of energy when they hunt so if they were to move around during the day when they don’t need to they would waste a lot of their energy and end up creating more work for themselves by having to hunt more regularly. Lions rest because they know they need to. So what can we learn from lions?
Lions teach us that periods of rest can help us to be productive when we need to be. A lack of rest and adequate sleep impacts our work lives, relationships, mood, hormone balancing, blood sugar, libido, adrenal and thyroid function, immune system and so the list goes on..... in other words every aspect of our health. It is as necessary for our own survival as it is for lions. So how do we find rest in the modern world?
Our top tips
Finally, do whatever you need to, to incorporate patterns of rest into your day. What you find restful might be completely different to another person. Whether you find rest in a hobby like knitting or singing, do something that helps you relax. Your body will thank you for it.
This is the time of year for us all to panic and feel overwhelmed as we make new year's resolutions which are often re-scheduled to the following year before Burn's night! This is largely because we make a plan to deprive ourselves of all the things we like and not only that but we actually make the mistake of assuming that we need to deprive ourselves of the very things our body needs e.g. fat!
Living well is not about deprivation. It's about recognising what's good for us and having more of it! When we seize with both hands all that is good for mind body and soul, we look better, we feel better, we think better, we love better.
The wonderful thing is that to enjoy all of these simple but proven health tips we don't have to spend lots of money joining expensive clubs. Nor do we have to count anything, unless it's your blessings or the number of colourful veg on your plate!
Life is for living. Give it your best shot and choose habits that bring nourishment to both body and soul. A body that is deprived of neccesary nutrients will find itself hungry for anything it can get its hands on. This is nature! My clients are always delighted when I ask them to eat more in order to find their way to a body weight which is ideal for them. We can't boost our metabolism by eating foods low in calorific value, we boost metabolism by eating Nutrient dense foods which nourish us! The bottom line is, if we support our natural physiology by enjoying all the good things nature provides, it will support us! If we try to go against nature, our body will let us down.
So, go easy on yourself this year. Love your body, love your mind and replace deprivation with indulgence of all that is good. The rest will take care of itself!
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