We are aware of the benefits of routine in our lives, but our health and happiness need change and variety to flourish, here’s why.
Having been, or currently experiencing, a time in our lives where routine may have changed somewhat (but may also be the only consistent thing we have right now) – the global pandemic, and lockdown laws, have restricted our daily lives to the extent that new routines are the very things that feel grounding during a time of such uncertainty. We have all been advised that a daily rhythm that we still to keeps us centred and balanced as well as keeping our anxiety levels in check. A morning ritual, set mealtimes, exercise schedules, health and hygiene routines, work, play and sleep times all laid out so that we more or less ‘know’ what is going to happen, and when, during our day. This prevents surprise, shock and stress and helps us to prepare and plan ahead.
Recent studies have shown that in actual fact our emotional states are more positive when we have variety in our lives. So which is it? Planning, routine, and order, or spontaneity, surprise and variation? A combination of the two perhaps?
One of the main outcomes from the study I refer to, is that new experiences are a great influence on our wellbeing. The study pointed out that the people who were exposing themselves to a variety of environments, during a day, were gauged as being happier and more positive than those who remained in one or two for the entirety. Not just different environments but new ones, were those which inspired a stronger impulse of positivity and even left the subjects feeling more at ease and relaxed at the end of the day. So the wider variety of new and unrelated experiences we encounter throughout the day, the more positive and happy we are? I think there must be a limit to this as if we are constantly on the go and moving we can become tired and stressed. Just thinking about it can make us stressed!
However, the suggestion is really that if we change things up a bit and get out there a bit more, try new things, take more from life than a simple daily routine, we will encourage our spirit to find happiness in diversity. It is a rewarding feeling, and one which we may begin to crave once we start to incorporate it into our life. The more reward we receive from positive experiences, the more we desire them; as our brain associates these moments with novelty and reward it is natural that we will want more. These associations make us feel better, and are beneficial to our overall well-being.
This is not to say that we ought to disregard all concept of routine and rhythm in our lives, and rather head for the hills at breakfast time, or not fulfil our responsibilities; this is not to throw caution to the wind, but rather incorporate more of a varied lifestyle within our regular routine. Break the mould a little, be adventurous, and not shy away from the diversity and incredible things that life has to offer.
Obviously during a lockdown situation, mixing things up is a lot more difficult. Life can become monotonous and trying when your options are limited. This only goes to prove the point that variety really is the spice of life! Perhaps try a new type of sport (Covid permitting of course), walk new paths in your surrounding area, or go off the path altogether! Try out new shops, avoid the crowds by researching quiet areas of nature nearby, start baking, learn a new language, start doing crossword puzzles, find new apps to play around with and explore, or explore a whole new cuisine in the kitchen, spend time in all the different areas of your home, and just keep trying to avoid doing the exact same things in the same places, each and every day.
Bottom line: Variation is good for us to inspire our positivity. Routine is also good for us to find clarity and reasoning. Both contribute to our overall wellbeing, so a healthy balance between the two could be the way to go!
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