Most people are familiar with the term “circadian rhythm”, that daily rhythm that your body lives by.
Each individual has their own rhythm, with some generalizations like during the day humans are awake and we sleep at night. That is how we were made, and typically it is only by human intervention, like a work schedule, that we do not naturally follow that rhythm.
But humans are not the only organisms to have circadian rhythms. Did you know animals, plants, and even microorganisms have such rhythms?
It appears that all living organisms have some sort of circadian rhythm, but the time scale is not always 24 hours, like it is for humans. That is because for some organisms, 24 hours is more than their entire lifespan!
Microorganisms, like some bacteria, live for only 12 hours, so their circadian rhythm is based on an entirely different timescale.
Interestingly, natural light is the typical or usual dominating environmental factor from which circadian rhythms derive their cyclical nature.
But, but for organisms that are not exposed directly to sunlight, due to their physical location in your gut or at the bottom of the ocean, other environmental clues are utilized, like a change in hormone level or protein level due to metabolism-related activity.
Why are circadian rhythms important? Because without them living organisms are a mess! Without circadian rhythms, the high priority items, like sleep and digestion, that support the most basic purpose of living, to survive and reproduce, are hindered, which decreases the likelihood of survival and reproduction. If this decline continued for too long, species would vanish.
In humans, we often times observe the dysfunction of our circadian rhythms through physical and mental health illnesses that we work to treat with a variety of other solutions instead of working to reset to our natural and intended rhythms.
Modernization (electricity), technology (screens), and urbanization (social pressure) along with school, work, and family schedules and commitments, continue our consistent disconnection from the natural rise and fall of the sun. In the United States, the battle is real!
What might be a possible piece in the solution? Simply put, get outside! Get outside on a regular basis.
Evidence continues to mount that simply being outside for at least 5 minutes a day can help begin to combat complex disease like insomnia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as many mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder.
Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, each that contain nuclear material that controls how that cell will ‘behave’. More and more researchers are finding that cellular behavior is based on a given a point and time inside the circadian rhythm, for your optimal health one must be in natural rhythm.
Getting outside will not solve all your problems, and you may still need to use prescription medication to treat complicated conditions, but it certainly will not hurt your quest for health.
At Nevada Outdoor School, we too, when off the Nevada Outdoor School clock, sometimes struggle to make outside time a priority.
But, we do notice as a staff that when we are intentional about spending time outdoors doing what we love to do, from painting, to walking our dogs, to practicing our archery skills, we sleep better, are more productive, and are easier to get along with. That change in behavior is an effect of a human body working inside a healthier rhythm.
Do you need help getting outside? We can help with that!