For many of us, consistency is our baseline. Routine becomes a mechanism for us to fall back on when we run into challenges in daily life. Our baseline is incredibly important. Knowing what works for our health and what keeps us on the right path is invaluable to knowing how to improve overtime. As we continue to build this baseline we find that it can become a rut to fall into. Days become long and blend together, and the excitement that used to surround aspects of our life have faded away. So how do we ignite this fire that forces us to try new things and look forward to each new day, but still maintain a consistent routine?
The tasks and activities in our routine become mundane as we go through them over and over, making us feel like we are just going through the motions. In many ways, you're correct in feeling that going through the motions is a good thing. There is no way to stress the importance of being able to just DO something, regardless of how much you want to do it, or how you feel, but is that how we should approach everything in life? Should we look at each new thing we do as something that we will eventually dread, or feel forced to do? This is where we enter into the grey area. Yes there are things that we will always have to do, no matter how much we dislike it, in order to improve our health, but not always. The idea is to find what works for you the longest. Even if it isn't going to work forever, trying new things and seeing if they work for you is beneficial.
It is important for us to constantly find new things that we can add to our lifestyle. Some of them may interfere with what we do already. Some you may not enjoy, and get rid of, but eventually you will find something that you can add to the list of things that make up your health and lifestyle. These new activities are key to keeping you on your toes both physically and mentally. Learning new things, changing our schedules, and pushing our comfort zone are ways that we can introduce variety into the way we live. Adding to our current routine will help take the monotony out of our day and bring energy into our lives. It forces us to develop new pathways for muscle memory, problem solving, and happiness. We will feel more content for completing entirely new tasks and being able to add them to our current routine.
Looking at our day to day life as a experiment with in's and out's helps the idea of variety and routine take form. So if our daily life was an experiment we have to look at what we are exposing to our subject (ourselves) and what we are getting in return; our results.
These are the in's and out's. For a typical day lets say our in's are: breakfast, a workout, a work day, lunch, and tv time. (This is a brief list and would only be a part of what someones day would look like, but for the sake of this example we will limit it to that.)
These factors affect our day and the results we get out of it. Let's say that this day yields us: loss of weight, improved mental state, and slight anxiety. There are gains from what we put in, but there are also losses. One of which is: Slight anxiety. Where did this loss come from? What about our day allowed this negative to arise?
If we break down our life, day by day, we will begin to see patterns. One morning you skip breakfast, and later in the day you notice a lack of focus. If this happens on multiple occasions you now know that breakfast is an important meal for you, and adjust accordingly. In the case that you are not seeing stark negatives coming from your day to day, and might only be suffering from boredom, or a lack of motivation, it is time to look at the value of our positives.
Right now you might be wondering what I mean by a gain or loss, or positives or negatives. All I am referring to is that there was either a benefit in what your daily routine has accomplished, or a detriment. For now we will keep it simple with positives and negatives.
If you are someone who is typically healthy and is looking to improve the routine that you already have, it is time to look at this from a more mental perspective. As someone who is taking care of their health, sleep, exercise, and diet are already structured to stay consistent. The issue is not the act of maintaining these things, but rather improving upon them. This is why this is more of a mental issue. We are already motivated enough to manage sleep, diet, and exercise, but we are hesitant to add more. So why is it so important to add more, or change what exists?
For people in this situation, small problems can arise. Boredom, lack of motivation, too much focus on specific muscle groups, or even a small rising sense of anxiety can be signs that it is time to mix things up. Performing the same tasks day after day can allow us to fall into that rut I was talking about. This rut isn't negative inherently, but being in the rut is. Being in the rut is what causes acute anxiety, lack of motivation, and loss of energy. The rut is simply repetition. As we continue to do the same thing over and over again our minds grow used to its surroundings, causing us to feel that lack of engagement. So getting out of this rut is a matter of re-engaging ourselves into the routine that we already have.
What would this look like? Well take for example your workouts through the week. Each week you have a series of workouts that you cycle through to mix it up. You bike, run, and swim, and you have been for the past five years. At this point you've grown used to the routine in place, and begin to check out of your exercise. What can be changed to re-engage? We can replace entire activities, so instead of running you go and lift weights. Or we can change the structure. If you run 3 miles each week, start running 5 miles. Then 10 miles. Each activity that we have in our life can be looked at as a skill that we are trying to improve. Maybe you don't consider something like eating a skill, but if you eat poorly then improving your eating will in turn benefit you.
The more we can look at our daily lives like an experiment, where the goal is to optimize our experience; the more we can better ourselves and stay engaged with the activities and tasks in our lives. Routine and consistency are important aspects to leading a healthy life, but being able to add variety, in all its forms, allows you to excel in living rather than just live. Everything about health and wellness is geared towards creating a better experience for ones self. If we can keep this in the forefront of our minds, our opportunities for improvement are endless.