Routines and how to keep them
By Kate Hyland
As the year rolls around to a close, most of us will take a moment to reflect on the year that has been and ponder what the next might bring. For me, the end of this year marks the end of a year spent travelling the globe – an incredible experience that I will surely never forget. But the embarrassing truth is, as much as I love to travel, I really am ready for a bit of normality. The problem with living out of a backpack, changing countries often and never quite knowing where your next meal will be is the lack of routine in your life, and this is what I hope to bring back into my life in 2017.
The importance of routine
The word “routine” too often conjures up images of beeping alarm clocks, defeated workers hunched over a desk; an endless cycle of stress and boredom. But routines can actually be an invigorating part of our lives and are paramount to good health. Just ask the Chinese: daily morning exercises performed in parks (such as Tai Chi) are often attributed to the remarkable good health of Chinese elderly. It is the simple practice of repeating what is good for our bodies and minds that will keep us healthier and happier in the long run.
Routines are important because they build healthy habits. Think of a super healthy person that you know, and ask: how long have they been this way? Good habits are not typically developed overnight; rather they are built over time, through routine. If we can manage to stick to our routine, good habits will gradually become a natural and normal part of our lives, and our health goals will seem that much more achievable.
Maintaining a routine can also be an effective way to relief stress. By adding the right amount of structure and discipline to our lives, we take away the stress that comes from ambiguity. Instead of stressing over what you will cook for dinner in the last hour of work, or feeling like your next exercise class is impossible to get to, plan your commitments in advance, be mindful of what your week looks like and enjoy each day without a scattered mind. By keeping up your routine, you will also save work from piling up and becoming overwhelming.
The best kind of routine
The best kind of routine is a balanced routine that prioritises your health. It is important to factor in work commitments, family commitments and necessary tasks like grocery shopping - but be sure to balance these with other important things. Exercise, healthy eating and relaxation should not be considered as “possibilities”; they should be necessities.
Good routines are also realistic. Over-committing yourself will only lead to stress. Be realistic about what you should do, can do, and when you’ll be able to do it. Be sure to ease into a new routine, or rethink your current one to make it “doable”. Think outside the box a little too: how can you make more time for the things that you love without overloading your schedule?
Sticking to it
This is the tricky part. It is not uncommon to let your routine slip, especially when new commitments appear out of the blue. But remember that it’s a mental game: it may only seem like you have a lot more on than usual. Be honest with yourself: if you think you can make it work, as planned, then do. And do it however you like. Crank the radio if it helps get you motivated for an exercise class. Take a five minute tea break when there’s a lot in your head. Routines get easier to stick to the more you practice.
Sticking to a routine is also easier when you can enjoy yourself in the process. Include things into your routine that you simply love to do, and that you feel the benefits from. Reflect often on your progress and be proud of yourself for what you have achieved in every week.
You might also find that routines are better kept by being broken occasionally. Now, this may seem counterintuitive, but consider this: stepping out of your routine - and doing something different every now and again – will make your schedule seem less restrictive. And then, when you step back into it, you will feel refreshed.
It has certainly been refreshing taking an entire year to travel the world, but now am I starting to think about how I get back into a solid routine and enjoy the health benefits that come from maintaining one. I hope that by building good habits now, I will sustain a healthy, high-quality life as I get older. And so I encourage you, as the new year approaches, do not think “what will my new year’s resolution be?”; ask instead, “what will my routine look like next year?”