In school for Occupational Therapy, we had an entire semester dedicated to learning about the importance of Habits and Routines on human well-being. Who knew it was so important! Today I’m going to define what habits and routines are and why they have an impact on mental health and how to use them to de-stress.
What is a Habit?
A habit is an act we do regularly. This can be brushing your teeth in the morning and evening, taking a shower in the evening or reading a book before bed.
What is a Routine?
A string of acts regularly completed in a particular order. An example would be waking up to an alarm, getting in the shower, eating breakfast and then reading the news.
Why are Habits and Routines Important?
It gives your brain a rest.
When your body and brain know what to expect, it can go into a state of autopilot; no extra thinking is required to learn something new. There is an element of relaxation evoked when the brain is in this state.
You know what to expect.
You consciously know what comes next, so stress is minimized. Some of the most stressful situations occur when you don’t know what to expect or what is coming next.
What does a routine look like?
How do you implement habits and routines in your life to minimize stress? From the moment you wake up, you are very intentional in developing a routine that serves you. Here is an example of a healthy morning routine:
- Wake up at 5:00
- Meditate for 15 minutes
- Exercise for 30 minutes (maybe even listen to a mind/body growth podcast)
- Journal for 10 minutes
- Brush teeth, shower, etc.
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- NOW you can check your phone, etc.
One of the most unhealthy things you can do to your brain is wake up, roll over and check your phone. Trust me, I know it is hard not to do this. I did it this morning and now I’m in a terrible mood. It is a hard habit to break, but it really can ruin the day. If you teach your brain to be reactionary (by looking at your phone, checking your email, etc.), then that is how it will operate all day long, every day. It is miserable.
It is important to feed your brain a healthy routine in the morning. I still struggle, as I continue solidifying my morning routine. It is a work in progress, and you have to give yourself permission to mess up once in awhile. Putting pressure and guilt on yourself does not serve you, either.
An evening routine is just as important as the morning. Turning off media at least an hour before bed is essential, as well as feeding your brain sleepy signals. This might mean a cup of night time tea, reading a book you enjoy, then journaling and setting 2-3 goals for the next day. Again, the goal is to feed your brain a routine that serves you (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually).