I have been taking about routine with a lot of my coachees recently so I thought that today would be as good a time as any to share with you how routine helps you to be happier – and to share my experience of being using routine to help me through depression and anxiety.
I know that routine comes with connotations of being boring, monotonous and trapping and I will admit to having been on that wagon too in the past. I thought that routine was something that was instilled into us at school, in the army or even by our parents as a means of punishment to make our lives boring and dull. That was until I began putting routine into my own life when I was in the dark depths of depression and anxiety.
One things that I know from suffering with anxiety and depression is that every day is completely different. Some days we feel like we can do stuff and others we pull the covers over our heads and stay in bed until the afternoon. I know from my experience that my sleep pattern was shocking (up all night, sleeping during the day) and not really having anything to keep me on an even keel.
And that was when I decided that routine would be useful. I had two cats (wow, that was a long time ago!) and I realised how much routine helped them and enabled me to train them. They were more responsive to the things that I would do with them and they seemed to be a whole lot happier for it. As such, I would set a regular time to get up every day to ensure that the cats were fed on time. (by the way, I’m not suggesting you have to get pets to do this, doing it for yourself works great too!) I would then make some tea and take a shower which automatically started to get me feeling a bit better. I began going to bed at a set time and although it took a long time to kick in, my sleep patterns started to return and that in turn made me feel a bit better too.
Stemming from that start in creating routine, I was able to build on it and get things done. It enabled me to free my mind from worrying about having to do things and gave me a sense of purpose, even if it was just small things like washing the dishes, putting washing in the machine or dusting the surfaces.
I then decided to take things further and to build more routine into my life, a kind of ritual to get me going in the morning and it goes a little something like this:
Wake up and before doing anything, note all of the things that I am grateful for.
Go downstairs, open the blinds, feed the fish, nip to the loo, pop the kettle on (with the mugs readily prepared for the teas), feed the cats (whose bowls and fork are ready from the night before), make the tea, pull the lunches together, make breakfast and set down to drink my tea.
Now that looks like an awful lot of things to do, especially in around 25 minutes, but because I have set things up to be easy in the morning and I have made it a kind of ritual, it makes things simple, easy and smooth to carry out. And what’s more, it only took a tiny bit of planing the night before, which meant that my day would start well very day.
So you might be wondering how routine makes you happier, and that would be because it frees your mind and your time up. Where you would have spent the morning rooting through the cupboards, getting stressed about nothing being in its place or running around trying to get lots of things done or even lying in bed wanting to just give in, it gives you a focus and an aim. Something to work towards that you know will set you up in the right way.
I suggest that you think of your mornings as the start of your day and a decider on how it will flow. If you integrate routine into the morning and make it go easily and enjoyable, you can set yourself up for a good day.
Even the smallest of routines can make things go smoother in life – think of the things you can set up the night before, the things that you can set aside that make the boring tasks go quicker and implement them.
Think about areas of your life where routine could help speed things up, get things done and free your time and mind for the things you you’d rather be doing. Write a simple list of the things that you need to do to, and in which order, to create that routine and then finally implement it!
And that is how routine helps you be happier.
You can do this!