The Benefits of Routine
We’ve all had them in our lives, the friend, colleague or partner who seems to have it all together. Their organised, involved in lots of activities and just seem to have everything run seamlessly. You ask them how they do it and they reply something along the lines of “oh I’ve just set up a good routine”.
Urgh! They’ve lost you. You can think of nothing worse than waking up to an annoying loud alarm clock the same time each morning, shovelling in the same bland breakfast down each day and living your life basically like a robot.
Getting into a routine might sound boring to some, but it doesn’t have to be the bland existence often seen in sci-fi movies (you know the ones where everyone wears the same thing, have all got assigned jobs and take special medication so they don’t have any feelings?). If you can find a routine that works for your life, not only can it help you become more organised, it can provide some surprising health benefits.
Not the organised type? Read on as we discuss the benefits of routine… we might just change your mind.
Routine encourages healthy living
When we’re feeling rushed or have to make last minute decisions, we often don’t make healthy choices. Think of this for an example, when do you tend to order takeaway food? For most people, it’s at the end of the week when they’re exhausted and truthfully just can’t be bothered thinking up and cooking a healthy dinner. So if you’re feeling this way all the time, it can be very hard to make healthy choices in day-to-day life.
Now we’re not saying that takeaway is completely out of the picture, but the food that we put into our bodies can have a huge impact on how we feel. Unhealthy food full of bad fats and minimal nutrients can make you feel sluggish, bloated and unmotivated, and provides you with little energy. So it’s not something you’d want to aim for every day. Creating a daily routine gives you the opportunity to build in time specifically for preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals. You may not do this every day (we all need those easy meal days sometimes) but by building this time into your routine, you have the opportunity to choose a healthy option if you feel up to it. It you’re someone who takes almost as long to decide what to eat as it takes to actually cook the meal, then it can also be helpful to plan your meals in advance. Spend some time while you feel relaxed (perhaps a Sunday afternoon) and choose a healthy meal for each night of the week. You might not follow through with every night, but this way it takes away some of the added pressure of deciding what to have for dinner after a busy day. It also helps with budgeting too!
Exercise is another healthy choice that can be built into a routine. Not everyone enjoys exercising, but it is something that can benefit everyone. Something as small as 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can release excellent stress reducing and mood boosting hormones as well as keep us fit and healthy. When we feel very busy, it can be hard to prioritise exercise (especially if we don’t generally enjoy it). By building it into your routine, it makes you more accountable and removes one of the biggest barriers to exercise (not having enough time).
It improves your zzz’s
We all know just how important sleep is to both our physical and mental health. Not only do we feel pretty grumpy if we don’t get enough, a lack of sleep can also impair our concentration, judgment, physical and cognitive capabilities and lower our immune system. So why wouldn’t we want to do everything we can to improve our sleep?
One of the benefits of a daily routine is that it encourages you to wake up and go to sleep at a similar time. What this does is it helps cement your sleep-wake cycle. By strengthening this cycle, it makes it easier to fall asleep at night and actually encourages better quality sleep once you are asleep. To get even more out of your sleep, it can be helpful to create some time for a “wind down” routine before bed. This is where you have a few things you do before you go to sleep such as read for a short time, have a warm shower or a warm drink. By doing similar things each night, you create a pre-bedtime routine that once recognized by your body, will send signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep when you start these activities. That way, when you do hop into bed to doze off, your brain is already prepared, relaxed and ready to help you go to sleep.
PS: For ideas on how to improve your sleep, check out our recent sleep blog here!
It’s good for your mental health
Routine provides you with a point of reference, it grounds you. No we don’t mean grounds as in the punishment “you’re grounded”, we mean it gives you some reliability in your days. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or overstretched, this can be extremely helpful in relieving some pressure. There will always be things that you can’t plan for (and that is simply life!) But if there is some predictability in your day-to-day life, then it can provide you with the headspace to be able to navigate the less predictable parts of life when they occur.
Routine reduces stress
One of the ways that routines relieve stress is by reducing the number of the things you have to remember. If you organize all the non-negotiable tasks on a set schedule (like paying bills, doing paperwork and chores) then they eventually become part of your normal routine. Once this happens, it begins to become a habit and you tend to do it automatically. This means you don’t have to worry about forgetting something and it stops little tasks compiling into seemingly unachievable mountains of work.
A routine also allows you build some reflection time into your day. This gives you the time and mental space to sort through your thoughts and feelings for the day rather than bottling them up to boil over later. This reflection time might look like 30 minutes to just sit quietly and think, it might be a conversation with a friend or family member to “debrief” or it might be quietly journaling. For those who can sometimes get caught in a cycle of worry, it can also be helpful to plan time for an enjoyable or relaxing activity after this reflection time. This not only puts a limit on your “worry time” but also helps you clear your mind afterwards.
You always have time for your favourite things
One of the benefits of creating a routine is that you have control. Have you always wanted to attend dance lessons? Well you can, just plan some time in your week for it.
Do you have a DIY project you want to finish? You’ve got the time there; you just have to find where to fit in into your routine. You truly are the master of your own time. Putting it this way, you can see that a routine doesn’t mean leading a boring life, it actually opens up new opportunities. It’s just all about how you choose to prioritize!
So perhaps it’s time you try a routine. With better eating, sleeping and exercise habits, time for the fun things and less stress, we promise you won’t look back!
Feel like you’d benefit from some support getting your life into a routine? Get in touch with one of our friendly Therapists today.