One of Ayurveda’s powerful tools for healing and change is healthy daily routine, also referred to as dinacharya. A healthy daily routine may help correct physical and mental imbalances, but a less obvious benefit is its effect on the phenomenon of “decision fatigue.”
Our brains use more than half of the glucose available to us for functions such as thinking, memory, and decision-making. And like physical exertion, there is biological fatigue that sets in after a strenuous bout of decision-making.
Excessive decision-making may lead to a decreased ability to make appropriate or good decisions and choices.
But does this phenomenon really apply to us? Do we really have to make so many decisions in a day? When we consider carefully what decisions are, the answer probably is yes.
Generally, when we think of decisions, the bigger ones come to mind: Should I go to school? Should I become a carpenter or an engineer? Move? Marry? Divorce?
But many decisions aren’t so easy to identify as decisions, and yet we encounter them on a daily—sometimes minute to minute—basis, especially when we consider that the act of decision-making is intimately connected to exerting willpower.
Such decisions might take on an inner dialogue: Should I meditate today? Should I walk or do yoga? When should I walk or do yoga? When should I eat, and do I have to cook? Do I need to shop?
Should I or should I not eat that tasty ice cream, buy that shiny thing, check social media, say what’s on my mind, show certain emotions, eat alone or with my co-workers? Each decision made, or act of willpower executed, contributes to decision fatigue.
Some activities require us to make a surprising number of decisions in a short time.
With an average computer-user looking at over thirty-six websites per day, online activity is very decision-making intensive.
Studies show that when we use willpower to avoid buying or eating impulsively, our willpower becomes fatigued. Studies also show that when we repress tears, emotions, and natural urges, our willpower also becomes fatigued. As with other forms of decision fatigue, when we repeatedly exert willpower to repress urges, at some point the dam gives way and we begin to make poor choices.
So how do we walk this world when we are required to constantly flex our willpower under an inundation of decisions each day without wavering, without throwing our hands in the air and shouting “I give up!” as we dive headlong into our impulses and cravings?
Conserve Your Energy with a Daily Routine
Thankfully, we have a simple remedy through the practice of dinacharya.
Studies show that people who have an established healthy daily routine, make better life choices and suffer less from decision fatigue.
Use a daily routine to direct many important elements of their day, and save decision-making energy for other important things. Have a fixed schedule for self-care and are careful about when they make the other necessary decisions. Schedule important meetings and make important decisions in the morning, after breakfast, or just after lunch when glucose levels support healthy decision-making and avoid making decisions when you are tired, or on an empty stomach. Give yourself reasonable deadlines and achievable goals. Set aside some time, preferably at the same time each day, to engage in a form of exercise best suited to your constitution. Eat meals at the same time every day.
Engaging in these habits helps us make better decisions more regularly.
Once we adopt a routine that makes sense to us and serves us well, and discard habits that do not, we corral our daily activities and behaviour onto a track we have previously decided upon.
Thereafter, routine becomes a discipline. Discipline becomes habit, habit eliminates the need to make decisions, and our mental resources are freed up for new possibilities.