5 Ways a Routine Benefits your Mental Well-being
Research proves that everyday routines help us find purpose and make life more meaningful. Read on to find out how sticking to mundane habits and deriving value from them can boost your mental health.
In a study presented at Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Missouri, USA, in 2015, researchers spoke about the surprising connection between people finding life meaningful when they found coherence around themselves. Subjects who were studied under the research found meaning in everyday mundane habits and patterns. But naturally occurring order in life is hard to find. Dr Shreya Chakravarty, psychologist at Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, says “Life is dynamic in nature with constant changes, growth and progression. To cope up with the changes and progression, we are constantly making decisions regarding our daily activities which, whether personal or professional, are overwhelming.” Her answer to finding order and meaning in our everyday life is through a daily routine.
“A daily routine supports mental health by providing more control over life, helps in coping with change and feel less stressed” says Dr Chakravarty. Setting a routine is a great way to start new and healthy habits, improve interpersonal relationships and self-care, every day. Examples of routines can include regularities of daily or weekly living, such as one’s morning regimen, daily visit to the gym, or a fixed outing with your family on the weekend.
Benefits of A Routine
- Routines can become an anchor.
Routines are reassuring, and create a sense of stability in your daily life. “Following a set daily routine, gives the mind the structure it needs to keep one happy, healthy and moving towards goals”, says Dr Chakravarty. A healthy daily routine includes proper exercise and a healthy sleeping cycle, which helps in minimising the risk of developing emotional difficulties.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017, sleep plays an influential role in maintaining mental well-being. We often find ourselves using up our sleep hours to do pending work, and this causes an endless cycle of trying to function while sleep-deprived. Allocating a fixed time for going to bed and waking up, and making sure that you finish your work before that time, can help you fall asleep more easily, and also get better sleep.
- Routines reduce stress.
Stress is being increasingly recognised in research as an important risk factor in declining mental health, as published in a 2018 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Our ever-growing to-do lists for work and home can be stressful to remember, and any new additions can create further disorganisation and chaos in our mind. A routine can help you keep track of everything that needs to be done. It can aid you in time management, reduce the number of decisions you have to take in a day, and help you feel on top of things, which will naturally reduce stress.
- Routines can alleviate anxiety.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is the fear or apprehension that is caused by uncertainty or challenging situations. Changes always bring us sudden surprises for which we are often not prepared. What helps is a routine which gives a certain amount of stability and a sense of control over sudden changes. “Setting a healthy routine creates predictable structures through habits that allows the mind to adjust, understand what to expect, and this in turn reduces anxiety,” says Dr Chakravarty.
- Routines give you time for self-care.
Creating a routine will help you to slot in definite hours that you can reserve for yourself. Take the time to do some meditation or yoga, or pick up a fun hobby that adds some enjoyment to your life as a part of your routine. If you have a busy daily schedule, you can also save this time for weekends. Structuring your day to include some downtime will help your mental well-being.
- Routines contribute to finding a higher meaning in life.
Experiencing life as meaningful lays the groundwork for a successful and happy life. According to a study by psychologists Samantha J. Heintzelman and Laura A. King published in 2018 , living a life characterised by routines was found to be associated with higher meaning in life. Life is not only made meaningful through extraordinary experiences, but also in its daily living. Their research showed that routines add to our sense of self. They contribute to a continuous sense of self that is created and reflected through everyday practices.
What Should A Functional Routine Look Like?
Humans are creatures of habit, and it has been scientifically proven that adopting healthy habits do not take us a long time. Yet some of us might struggle to follow a routine because of its time constraints, or be unable to understand what to prioritise in a day. Dr Chakravarty recommends dividing your routine into the following categories so that you can understand what to give importance to.
- On a personal level: List out activities you personally want to engage in, which should comprise of exercises, quality sleep, healthy diet, reduced screen time, and some “me time” to nurture yourself. It could be meditation, pursuing your interests or pampering yourself with massages, etc.
- On a relationship level: List out activities where you can spend time with your family and loved ones. It could be making a family meal, going camping, game nights, or enjoying an outing with friends.
- On a professional/work level: Organise work related activities by maintaining a planner. Keep track of deadlines, and prioritise work based on their urgency and importance. Make a workplace network and connect with colleagues through organising staff lunch or dinner at fixed intervals.
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