Biological rhythms both drive and reflect our physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, one of the most crucial series of interventions you can offer clients to improve their health is to restore and balance their biological rhythms, including their circadian, ultradian, and hormonal rhythms. In my clinical practice, I have found time and again that balancing these rhythms brings about foundational and lasting change.
As humans, our well-being is entrained by the rhythms of the natural world, especially the light of the sun and the dark of the moon, called the circadian rhythm. It is scientifically well-established that the symptoms experienced in bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, insomnia, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are rooted in circadian rhythm imbalances. Because many other rhythms are driven by the circadian rhythm, the clinical term for this emerging field is chronotherapies. Our circadian rhythm—has a large impact on your physical and mental health. Teaching clients to understand their personal circadian rhythm is a good ﬁrst step for recovery from depression, PTSD, and more.
An additional layer of rhythm was recognized first by yoginis and yogis, who discovered that we alternate brain hemispheric dominance every 90–120 minutes. Modern science calls this alternation ultradian rhythm. This alternate brain dominance also reflects contralaterally in nostril dominance. Clinically, this provides us with insight into how specific breathing exercises can be used to affect the function of our right and left brain hemispheres, leading to changes in mood, relaxation, and sleep. Cognitive function and focus are also rooted in brain hemispheric dominance and respond to simple methods that anyone can use.
Use this FREE intervention
to help your clients identify which side of their brain is dominant at any given moment. They can also intentionally activate either side of their brain, giving them more control over consciousness, mood, and energy level.
Finally, hormonal rhythms also affect our physical and emotional function. Hormones flow in cycles; the most well-known are the 28-day menstrual cycle and the 24-hour cortisol cycle that links to our circadian rhythm. Even vitamin D, a hormone, has cycles in the extreme northern and southern hemispheres, where it is higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Hormonal excesses or deficits contribute to various imbalances, including endometriosis, PMS, fibroids, insomnia, and depression. Our thyroid hormones can contribute to anxiety (if too high) or fatigue and depression (if too low). The flow of oxytocin—the “love hormone”—appears to be reduced in people with complex trauma; the administration of oxytocin is a promising intervention. The natural shifts in sex hormones as we age (lower testosterone in andropause or lower estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in menopause) are treated integratively with diet, herbs, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
In short, most mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and seasonal affective disorder, are a major response to the disruption of these biological rhythms. Understanding, identifying, and reestablishing these rhythms are essential tools for our clients to restore their mental wellness.
For more handouts and worksheets like this, including exercises, recipes, client stories, and more, check out my new book, The Brainbow Blueprint: A Clinical Guide to Integrative Medicine and Nutrition for Mental Well-Being
, available now!