Alan Burdick is a time researcher and the author of Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation. In a recent interview with Gretchen Rubin he was asked what was his most significant finding. His reply:

Until I began working on Why Time Flies, I hadn’t realized how deeply time is embedded in us. Each of our cells is basically a clock that beats out a firm twenty-four-hour rhythm; together these form bigger clocks — the liver, the kidneys — that also keep a twenty-four rhythm, and as group they’re responsible for running our physiology.

Basically, the sum of me, and you, is a clock, and respecting its rhythm is essential to one’s health. So, for instance, I’ve stopped eating late at night, as that’s the least efficient time of day to metabolize food. And I try to get outside for at least a few minutes every morning, because exposure to daylight at that time of day ultimately helps me sleep better. It’s a matter of listening to the clock that is me.

God has not only put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11); he’s put time in our cells!

When I counsel depressed people, one of the first questions I ask is, “Tell me your daily routine.” In many cases the answer is, “I don’t have one. Every day is different.”

Now sometimes there’s a good reason for that—perhaps it’s shift-worker or a mother nursing a baby. But these are rare exceptions. Usually there’s no good reason, which means that it can be rapidly fixed by establishing a do-able daily schedule—often with rapid improvements in mood.

Another article over at Mashable, How Weird Sleep Schedules Can Affect our Mental Health, notes how a growing number of studies in recent years indicate that maintaining our internal rhythm is important for our overall health. This has spawned a new range of depression treatments in the field of chronotherapy, which tries to help depressed people align their 24-hour circadian rhythm with the solar day.

This “natural” truth also transfers into other areas of our lives. My wife and I have often noticed that our marriage and family life goes best when we are all in a good routine, when life is predictable and ordinary. Boring is best!

It’s also true in our spiritual lives. The most holy Christians I’ve known are men and women whose spiritual disciplines are the most rhythmic and routine. “Routine” here does not mean formality. It means regular and predictable times of prayer bible reading, family worship, and church worship.

God is a God of order not of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), and, as his image-bearers, we flourish when our lives reflect God’s orderliness.

  • Susan

    This is great insight. Any practical suggestions for designing a do-able routine?