• Daily routines can reduce stress, help us break bad habits (and create better ones), and introduce structure to our lives.
  • However, it’s also beneficial to open ourselves to change and new opportunities as they arise—doing so reduces rigidity and increases happiness.
  • The key is finding a healthy middle ground between routine and spontaneity.
  • Additionally, routine plays an important role in recovering from or managing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
  • It’s often difficult for these individuals to perform the basics, but determination and success in doing so can improve their health and happiness.

I was never one to stick to a daily routine. It was nearly impossible in college, considering my classes varied each day, my work schedule changed each week, and my friends were as unpredictable as you can get. But then I graduated, accepted my first “real” job, and quickly realized that a healthy daily routine was helpful—even necessary to having a good day. Not only did it eliminate a great deal of stress, but it made me feel a whole lot happier with my life.

Set Your Sights on Routine… and a Little Spontaneity

Why did adopting a daily routine have such a profound effect on my life? Amelia Kelley, a licensed professional counselor, explains why we tend to thrive off of routine, as well as why it’s important to introduce variety every now and then: “Having a daily routine is a simple—yet at times hard to maintain—way in which to establish a rhythm that can increase the sense of safety and predictability in our sometimes unpredictable lives. In addition to the emotional benefits, a daily routine can make us more efficient by…

  • Reducing the need to plan or prepare under pressure
  • Helping us more easily break bad habits and create good ones
  • Establishing structure that can help save us time

Despite the benefits of a daily routine, it can also be beneficial to be flexible and open to changes that may arise. Not approaching daily life with rigidity can decrease anger and increase creative thinking. Another benefit of slight changes to routine is the likelihood of experiencing flow, which is a phenomenon that can lead to feelings of happiness and joy. Flow happens when someone loses a sense of self-consciousness in order to become fully engrossed and engaged in an activity.

Indicators that someone is experiencing flow is that they lose track of time, have a clear goal they can identify, or may even lose a sense of the self as they become focused on an activity. One simple way to achieve flow is with novelty in experience and slight changes in routine. An example would be if you always run one route, simply changing this route can increase your chance of experiencing flow. Those who can establish a daily routine, as well as be open to change and flexible with what life has to offer, will get the best of both worlds.”

Routine’s Role in Recovery

As many with any given mental illness know, routine plays a vital role in their recovery. While it’s often difficult to perform the basics, their insistence and determination to perform a healthy daily routine can make all the difference. A.N. Gibson, a mental illness advocate and author of 7 Seriously Spectacular Strategies You Need to Thrive with Mental Illness, explains this tricky dynamic:

“Many mental illnesses are overwhelming and cause a certain degree of chaos in our lives. A structured routine, however, runs counter to that and can allow even the most anxious individuals to take back their lives a task at a time. A routine for self-care can be instrumental in ensuring you’re investing the time and energy you need into your own health and happiness, thereby treating your symptoms and heightening your sense of self-worth.

But here’s the thing: life doesn’t care about your plan or your routine. You’re going to face all kinds of challenges that you didn’t plan for, and that’s why working on your wellness on a daily basis is so important—it prepares you for the moments when you’re unprepared! The better you get at maintaining your routine, the better you’ll be at embracing life’s ups and downs as they come at you. Anxiety sufferers, for example, spend hours contemplating potential outcomes whereas wellness routines teach them how to focus on the here and now. The more you routinely learn to live in the moment, the better you get at dealing with life’s little surprises, which in turn teaches you how to live a better, more fulfilling life with your mental illness. If this resonates with you, but you think you could benefit from working with a professional, consider life coaching.