Julie Frumin, L.M.F.T
The word ‘routine’ has gotten a bad rap lately. Of course ‘routine’ is the opposite of ‘spontaneity, surprise or novelty’, all of which sound more exciting by comparison. However, human beings have a fundamental need for both sides of the coin. On one hand, we crave adventure and the unknown, but a life without any stability makes enjoying the unknown difficult. Having a daily routine can benefit one’s physical, emotional and relational health by creating time for the daily pursuit of one’s passions.
For example, perhaps you never ‘find time’ to exercise. A careful study of your calendar can show where you might find an extra 20-30 minutes lurking around. Once that block of time is ‘set’ and accounted for (and this means actually adding it to your calendar) it’s yours for the taking!
Adding anything into a routine has to work with your lifestyle; if you’re a morning person don’t save your workout until the end of the day when you’re likely to be running out of gas. Consider when you have the most energy during a typical day and reclaim this time for yourself- whether for a workout, a date with your significant other or for time to write that novel you’ve been contemplating.
Perhaps you’re the type of person who hears the word ‘routine’ and groans as ‘the morning routine’ or ‘the evening routine’ phrase comes to mind. These times of day don’t have to be stressful! In fact, they are our ‘off the clock’ hours and should be as pleasurable as possible. As with any change, small steps are necessary to go from a harried morning to a smooth one. However, taking some small steps to improve your mornings will dramatically shift your outlook on the day.
This begins the night before with a consistent bedtime. Consider what makes sense for you and commit to a time. At first this might feel difficult, but research shows that sticking to a bedtime most nights of the week makes for better overall sleep. If you consistently feel rushed in the mornings, try waking up a half hour earlier. As with any routine, it takes time for it to feel comfortable so give any new plan a couple of weeks before making a change. But don’t be afraid to switch something up that isn’t working. The most important thing is making a commitment to setting yourself up for success by living even the difficult moments (like mornings!) with intention.
Finally- my favorite benefit of a routine- less thinking! Having a routine reduces our need to plan in the moment, giving your brain the space to be present. If you wake up and know that you are having a coffee, a bowl of oatmeal with berries and then going to the gym- no matter what- it really reduces the need to question these things- and the questioning is what so often takes one out of the present moment and therefore out of joy. So the next time you hear someone comparing the word ‘routine’ with ‘dull’ or ‘boring’, you can let them know that not only is a ‘routine’ a tool with which to increase time spent on one’s passions, but it is also a way to increase mindful, purposeful, more deliberate (i.e. pleasurable) living. And that, my friends, is worth investing in.