Did you know your body has its own internal clock? Not just metaphorically speaking. Your physical body moves through a clock-like cycle of energizing certain organs at certain times each day.
And when you’re aware of this body clock, which was distilled from traditional Chinese medicine and has been used in practice for centuries, you can better understand your body and its rhythms and how to support its vital energy each day, rather than doing things that are in detriment to it.
This ancient tool can help you organize your day in relation to the natural cycles of your body, allowing your internal energy to flow freely, creating more homeostasis in your body and a feeling of more balance, centeredness, and harmony.
So if you’ve been feeling off-kilter, overwhelmed, or imbalanced in your life, learn more about how to align with your body’s energy clock to help relieve stress, stagnation, and struggle in your days.
How does the body’s energy clock work?
In traditional Chinese medicine, it was discovered that our body spends the majority of its energy in different organs throughout the day.
This can be organized into a “clock” that spans a 24-hour cycle, as most of our body’s energetic functioning is directed towards a particular organ during every two-hour period.
When you know what your body is up to, you can use that knowledge to best utilize the energy of each organ as it’s functioning at its peak time each day.
For example, when the stomach is most active is when it’s suggested to eat breakfast, sparking your metabolism and peak digestive processing.
So let’s look at the breakdown of the body’s organ clock over a 24-hour cycle, and see which activities are suggested at different times to better align with your own internal rhythm and the rhythms of nature all around you.
Planning your day around your body’s energy clock
The body clock’s cycle begins at 3 am and goes through a 24-hour cycle activating the dominant organs.
- 3am – 5am: Lungs
The beginning of the cycle starts in your lungs, as you are hopefully sleeping peacefully, you’re also breathing deeply as your lungs perform their self-cleaning routine and you come to finish your sleep cycle.
- 5am – 7am: Large Intestines
As your energy moves into your large intestines, this is the ideal time to wake up, drink some water and move into elimination, letting go of all the metabolized waste from the day before. When you have a bowel movement during this time, it’s a signal of good chi flowing through your body. This is also a good time to stretch and do some subtle, gentle movements to start to wake up the body.
- 7am – 9am: Stomach
During this time, your stomach is fired up and ready to digest, signaling time for breakfast which, in traditional Chinese medicine, is supposed to be your largest meal of the day. So if you’re the rush around each morning and just grab a bar or something easy type, try sitting down and having a real, satisfying breakfast during this time and see what sort of difference it makes in your day as a whole.
- 9am – 11am: Spleen
After breakfast, your spleen and pancreas start to metabolize and absorb all the food, giving you energy for your most intensive tasks of the day. This is the time to work, be active, and do the hardest things you need to do that day. If you’re constantly sipping coffee during this time to find energy, it means your natural energy hasn’t been stimulated or may be fatigued and it’s time to get yourself back into rhythm.
- 11am – 1pm: Heart
At this time, the “king of the organs”, the heart, is working optimally and pumping blood throughout the body, stimulating chi and good energy flow. The heart is connected with the spirit, and this is a great time to nourish both the body and spirit by eating lunch, socializing, working with others, communicating, and reaching out.
- 1pm – 3pm: Small Intestine
During this time, your small intestine is active completing the digestion cycle and absorbing all the nutrients from the meals you’ve had so far during the day. This is a good time to get organized, sort out issues, figure things out and “metabolize” your thoughts and experiences from the day so far.
- 3pm – 5pm: Bladder
Your energy enters the bladder during this time, signaling the liquid detox process for the kidneys to begin. This is a great period of time to drink more water or have a cup of tea, to facilitate the bladder’s functioning. Use this time to work, study, and finish up the main tasks of the day.
- 5pm – 7pm: Kidneys
During this time, the kidneys are actively restoring their energy and are responsible for building blood in the body, for healthy respiration and sex drive, for bone development, and much more. This is the time to have a light dinner and do some light physical exercise, like going for a walk, yoga, or qi-gong, to foster circulation as the kidneys filter the blood.
- 7pm – 9pm: Pericardium
This accessory organ system that protects the heart is active at this time, calling for relaxation and a settling down of the body. This organ is connected to your relationships with others and the emotional experiences of the heart, which makes this time excellent for getting intimate, romantic, cuddling, or bonding with those you love.
- 9pm – 11pm: Triple Warmer
The “triple warmer” is not a single organ but rather an accessory organ system that regulates and repairs the endocrine system, which affects our entire body, and helps regulate sleep. This is the time to go to bed, all you night owls, as the triple warmer kicks off all the repair functions that happen as you sleep.
- 11pm – 1am : Gallbladder
With a close relationship with the liver, the gallbladder stores and excretes bile and has an influence on the quality and length of your sleep. Also emotionally linked to decisiveness and drive, weak or unsupported gallbladder energy (say, from staying up and snaking til midnight) can decrease your courage and confidence the next day, and have you waking up with aches and pains.
- 1am- 3am : Liver
This is when you need to be in deep sleep and dreaming, as your liver works to cleanse and detox the blood and restore the body’s energy. The liver is also where anger, frustration, stress, and worry are held energetically, so if you aren’t sleeping during its important cleansing process, you can retain some of that stress and carry it into the next day, and the next!
Use this as a guide for how to plan your days, and you’ll start to see the benefits that come from aligning with your body’s internal clock, such as more easeful rest, higher energy throughout the day, more overall health and vitality, more confidence, clarity, and a sense of balance that comes from within.