If you feel you are stuck in a routine you do not enjoy, try altering it in small ways. Before you know it, small changes might carry you into a more enjoyable reality.
We are so entrenched in our routines, often doing the same thing day after day or following the same steps (not always the most effective) in order to complete a particular task. We are firing the same neurons and reinforcing the same neural pathways. Yet we can gain much from altering some of our habits, removing or changing steps, or dropping certain habits altogether.
The patterns into which we fall take many shapes, as each of us has different indulgences, dislikes, and experiences. Some people cannot fathom starting their day without a cup of coffee, others have a sugary snack every time they need an energy boost. Some frequently order unhealthy take-out, others stay up late even when they know they need to be up early, yet others use shopping as therapy. Some turn to pharmaceuticals, street drugs, or alcohol every time they need to alter their state. Some drop their things in random places when they walk through the door, resulting in frantic search for keys or wallet as they are running late the next day. We all know our less-than-optimal habits.
Yet it is at times so hard to break out of our routines. It is daunting to do things differently – change brings with it the unknowns. What if this doesn’t work? What if there are unexpected consequences? What if this takes longer? What if I don’t have everything I need, since this is a new way of doing things? Change is hard. That’s why societies keep trudging along for years under poor leadership, reluctant to attempt changing the known evil/inefficiency for an unknown hazy possibility of a better reality.
Unfamiliar is uncomfortable, often due to our perception of its difficulty and ease of sticking to what we know. Yet the only way for us to learn better ways of doing things, to expand our skill set, and to grow intellectually and emotionally is to change our patterns and try new approaches.
Try starting small and change one thing about your day:
- drive a different route to explore your surroundings;
- move furniture around to change your spacial perception;
- try a new cuisine to expand your palate;
- go to bed early to change your morning outlook;
- dress differently to explore a different aesthetic and observe how other people’s perception of you changes;
- step onto a yoga mat and be present, even for 5 minutes, to see how that alters how you feel in your body;
- listen to a new song to alter your mood (try an upbeat one if you tend to listen to quiet pensive melodies, or vice-versa);
- exchange your coffee for a tea or your sugary snack for scrambled eggs and see how your energy levels are;
- don’t check your email or social networks before you go to bed and see if your sleep is more restful.
If you tend to explode at your children’s noisy pursuits, try taking a deep breath before you let a scream out. You might find that you don’t need to respond in an irritated manner. Perhaps you might even feel that approaching the situation with curiosity instead of anger would help you find out what’s so fascinating about jumping on the bed while holding onto a curtain and singing “London bridge is falling down” in a piercing falsetto.
Change of established routines is recommended as prevention and mitigation for people with multiple sclerosis and dementia: driving a different route, learning words in a new language, doing puzzles, solving riddles, memorizing new things. All of these activities build new neural pathways, keeping the brain active. Looking at your reality from a different vantage point is also a way to alleviate depression and can help when feeling anxious.
What you will often discover is that once you change one small part of your pattern, it becomes easier to do it in another area. This means that in a situation where change is necessary, you will be less stressed, more willing to try new things, and more inspired to find alternative solutions to a problem that might seem unsolvable at first glance. You can feel liberated from artificial constraints that guide your daily routines and shape a better reality.