Habit and Routine

Some of the best advice I was ever given is that “routines are just habits with a fancy name”. It’s been on my mind recently because I apparently am very into routines and I’ve been getting some shade about how easy this must be to do because I’m single and childless, how difficult routines are to develop and how hard it is for other people to do what I’ve done. I don’t have kids or a partner but I do have chronic sleeplessness and SAD and in winter my mental health is not great. But this is a criticism that really annoys me, my mum had a full time job, two kids and a difficult husband, and yet she managed to have a routine and we had a routine as children. So I don’t buy that it’s impossible if you have those commitments.In the winter, I have a pretty epic daily routine because I really need it, because in winter I’m a mess. Routine is my coping strategy, but essentially all it is, are habits I’ve developed to help me cope with the world, so don’t lose my mind/home/job/friends.

It’s very straightforward, we all have habits. The four times you hit the alarm before you get up in the morning? Habit. The coffee you buy on the way to work? Habit. Getting to the train station and checking your phone? Habit. Just think about how many times you do something just because you have always done them. If you have habits, you can develop a consistent routine because that’s all it is, training your brain and your body to get into the habit of doing something.

The first thing you need to do, is identify the problem. Because you don’t need a routine if you don’t have a problem with your daily life. So what is it that you need to change? My example is my daily bath.

The problem is that I still don’t sleep well at night (despite being tired all the damn time!) and in winter I’m miserable and every day I need to be in the office, I never seem to have enough time in the morning (probably because from about 6am to 7am, is when I really want to be asleep).

So for me the solution is having a bath before bed. This can relax you enough to help you get to sleep, consistently raising your body temperature may help depression and having a bath cleans me so I only need to wash in the morning instead of have a shower. I also know that at night it’s best not to use screens before bed and lowering the lights before bed is conducive to sleep and I love to read. So I have a bath for at least 20 minutes at 9pm if not every day then certainly Sunday to Thursday. Yes it does seem like I have an indulgent routine but it’s a solution to a couple of problems that I have, and honestly, many times it feels like a hassle when I could have another hour of Netflix or something else that seems more fun.  The thing is, it does help. The same thing for making sure that I have clothes ready and the house is tidy before I go to bed. Mornings, suck all the time but they are much easier when I get up and can make my coffee without having to have a sink full of dishes or wonder what I’m wearing.  My routine is not about everything in it being things I want to do, it’s about doing things I don’t always want to do to make my whole life easier. Ultimately, it gives me control and the freedom to do the things I want to do because I’m a bit happier and less grumpy.

And all it is is habit. Everything I do as routine is a glorified habit, once I realised that the habits were helping, I did it consciously until I worn down a groove down in my brain. That’s not to say that I don’t get out of the habit sometimes, but it’s easy to fall back into the routine because my brain wants to do that.

That’s all that a routine is. Repetition is habit forming, you train your brain and you have a routine. It’s not rocket science.

So if you look at people like me and think, I wish I could do that. Why do you want to. Have you tried and failed to make a consistent routine before? What is the problem with your daily life now? Is there a problem? you have, a problem that is serious enough that you need to change something. If you are genuinely struggling to form a routine, then maybe you don’t care enough about the problem you want to solve? Or you don’t have a problem. But if you do, just do the thing, make it a habit, eventually, you’ll have a routine.

In the meantime, please for the love of God, stop criticising me or make me feel bad for finding a way to cope with my life because it’s really tiring…

About nicdempsey

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