I’ve been given lots of advice in my life, some of it from the star gurus of the alternative health world. But possibly the piece of advice that’s proven most useful is from a taciturn old man from Glasgow who was born in the countryside. Simply this: go to bed when the sun sets, get up when the sun rises. In summer, you socialise and have long, sunlit hours to pack with activity. In winter, you rest – a lot. Until gas and electrical lighting, that’s how humans lived for dozens of generations.
No-one is saying that this is strictly practical in our 24/7 society, but next time you’re exhausted, frazzled, low (or all three) try going to bed no later than 8.30pm. If you can’t sleep, rest, read or listen to music. (But don’t watch TV, that’s self-defeating.) A week of this and you’ll be amazed by its restorative power.
Electricity is one reason we’ve lost touch with our natural rhythms. Another is work. Most of us pass through the four seasons half asleep, barely registering changes unless the weather is particularly grim – or sunny. That’s not our fault.
In order to put in our 12 hours of wage slavery, we need to be inured from the hassles of the weather in our cosy cars and air-conditioned offices. If we’re lucky we get half an hour pottering in the garden before bed on a couple of evenings in the summer. It’s modern life, but it sure isn’t natural.
As we go into winter, you might find this suggestion eccentric, to put it mildly. But try to get outside for half an hour a day somewhere you can see a tree, or otherwise get a sense of yourself as a living organism in a natural landscape.
It will rest your eyes, calm your mind and be good for your health (we need sunlight all the way through winter, even if it’s hard to find). And come spring you will get a natural kick like you won’t believe. This sounds simple but it’s life changing. Thanks for the tip, Grandpa.
Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor and author of Stress-proof your life and Boundless Energy (both from Infinite Ideas, £12.99)