We are all creatures who function best with routines. Routines provide stability, predictability and comfort. They allow us to know what is next, what to expect, and they keep our emotional brain on an even keel because most of our routines are accomplished on autopilot.
What are your routines? Think of your mornings. Do you do the same thing each morning? Are you the wake up, hit snooze, roll over person? Are you the get up zip out of bed, put the coffee on early riser? Maybe you take the same route daily to work or school or shopping. What has become routine for you?
Obeying the lure of routines has benefits for sure, otherwise we humans would not engage in these repetitive behaviors we call routines.
This kind of autopilot gives our brain a needed break. Imagine if we had to think about every time we brush our teeth, or decide the 100 of things we naturally do in a day that are already well established in our brain and behavior. We would be even more exhausted if we had to add in all these other thoughts and decisions as well.
Routines and the predictability and comfort they bring, if overutilized, can also have a cost to them. The cost can be burn out, drudgery, anhedonia (mild depression or the inability to enjoy simple everyday pleasures) as well as boredom.
Changing up some of our routines is also good for our brain. So really the trick is to find a balance between the comfort and predictability we naturally seek, as well as the moments that break up the hum drum of roles and responsibilities that put us on mindless autopilot.
Here’s 25 quick ideas for home and work. Most of these are not rocket science, just little ways of adding some zip to your days and spicing up your life.
Drive to a park in between work and home. Walk, hike, smell some flowers, watch some kiddos laugh and play, and just breathe in fresh air.
Take a different route to school, work, shopping or wherever you are going. Notice the different scenery along the way.
Consider one thing you used to do that you miss since…. (you had kids, started work again etc.) and schedule it.
Plan a date night with your spouse, sweetie, friend or special time with one of your kids. Go somewhere you have not been to in a long while.
Have the kids cook dinner one night and give you a break. (They learn life skills, and you take the time to relax).
Read a book or magazine on a topic of interest.
Schedule some “me” time and get a massage, facial, or other spa treatment.
Take a walk in the rain, solo, or with a friend.
Engage in prayer or meditation
Draw, Sketch, Paint, or Dance
Sign up to take a new class that you would look forward to.
Learn a new language.
Engage your partner in turning off the TV, playing a game, or just taking a walk
Get the kids off screens and everybody walk, jog, play outside
Drive yourself somewhere away from your usual neighborhood, shopping etc. and explore a new area or community.
Make a new friend or call a friend you have not talked to in awhile.
Try a new sport or engage in one you have not done in awhile
Next trip to the grocery store, replace your typical 3 staples with a healthier alternative
Change up the genre of music you listen to
Start a gratitude journal
Talk to the newest person at work just to get to know them as a person
Give someone a genuine compliment or appreciation, at home or at the office.
Plan a long weekend trip that you will look forward to for some rejuvenation
Buy yourself or your partner some flowers or dark chocolate for a treat
Find out who needs your help at work and offer to assist them or provide support
Routines help us survive and thrive especially in challenging times or times of change and transition. We would likely be exhausted and anxious if we had no routines incorporated into our days. Now, at this stage of the pandemic is a GREAT time to consider which routines serve you well, which can be improved upon, and which ones you should nix.
Going back to “normal” does not have to look like your past- find ways to be intentional to make roles and responsibilities work for you so that you can mindfully enjoy the balance and predictability that routines bring, along with the joy and contentment that come from spontaneity and spicing things up!