We are constantly given tips on the need for a routine, but how about how to spice up a routine? Why should we form habits or routines in the first place? What about having a routine makes us so much more likely to have a successful day? How can we play with our routines to not only make the day successful, but to have some fun? Let’s explore this further.
Routine as a Means to an End
When we think of routines, we think of people unconsciously going through the motions of life to achieve certain ends. We never really stop to think of the blessings that a routine can bring us. We all have certain parts of our day that we might think of as inevitably monotonous— like the commute to work or brushing our teeth. But is it really inevitable that those parts of life have to be monotonous just because they are routine?
Benefits of a Routine
There are many benefits that having a routine can actually give us. Normally, people relax their brains and go on autopilot while doing a task such as preparing breakfast. You brain doesn’t need to work as hard to make decisions or analyze the situation when you’ve done the same action many times. This predictability brings a feeling of safety. The structure allows for certainty.
The Brain Without a Routine
One of the main causes of anxiety is uncertainty. If we have no habits, no sense of routine, no structure in our life, every moment we are faced with uncertainty. Our brain has to constantly make decisions and analyze the best steps to take within this uncertainty. This process takes energy. This process takes time.
If we don’t have a “breakfast routine”, we might have to stop and think: “Well what did I eat for dinner? What am I eating for lunch? Will these chia seeds get stuck in my teeth before my morning meeting?”. If we already know what we eat every morning and afternoon, the brain doesn’t have to spend so much time and energy planning out every move. Our brain can relax, and habit can take over. When we let habit take over, we are free to enjoy the decision-less routine and really soak into the moment. We can find comfort and joy.
Tips to Spice Up a Routine
On the other hand, a life completely full of habit and routine with no spontaneity or spice can leave us feeling like zombies. Like many things in life, it turns out to be a balance. The brain is much more comfortable in routine, but it also craves variety. When we do the same actions every day with no variety, the pleasure we receive from them decreases over time. The neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for this phenomenon. The same, predictable sources of pleasure no longer feel that great anymore. But what are some ways we can maintain a routine that we love while also spicing it up to avoid monotony? How can we add just enough variety in our life without having so much uncertainty that it makes us anxious? How can we optimize the pleasure we experience within a routine? Below are some tips for achieving this balance.
1. Add a new fruit to your morning yogurt parfait
(…or whatever else you eat for breakfast). Let’s say every single morning we have yogurt with granola, banana, and strawberries. Why not stop at the farmer’s market this weekend and pick up some fresh raspberries? Why not add an egg to your avocado toast? Throwing some variety in that morning breakfast is bound to excite your brain and bring a little excitement within routine. It’s the little things that count!
2. Listen to that exciting, new podcast your friend has been telling you to listen to during your commute to work.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Americans spend approximately 4.4 hours a week commuting to and from work. That is nearly four and half hours of your life every week sitting in a car. Will you spend it complaining about the traffic, or learning about how in God’s name the sloth hasn’t been naturally selected out of existence? We prefer the latter.
3. Schedule a random 60-minute massage after work
Maybe even leave an hour early to attend said massage. What better way to add a little spice to a routine than to randomly treat yourself to an hour of deep relaxation in which you don’t have to do anything but lay on a bed like a sloth.
4. Play Brazilian Bossa Nova music while showering or brushing your teeth.
You would be surprised how incredibly useful music is when trying to spice up a routine. Try listening to another country’s style of music to really throw your brain off and get that dopamine pumping.
5. Switch up the type of milk you order in your morning latte.
Oat milk? Almond milk? Macadamia nut milk? These days our society is going crazy over milk alternatives. Try that new milk your coffee shop has been advertising as a way to shake things up a bit before heading in to work. If you hate it, you now have another excuse to leave the office for lunch.
6. Take your kids out for frozen yogurt after dinner.
Let’s be honest, we don’t recommend this because of your kids… it’s really for you. We know you love a good cake batter froyo with Nutella and sprinkles. Try going out to get some on a random Tuesday night. We promise it won’t un-do the effects of your morning spin class.
The Little Things in Life
Overall, there are many different little ways you can add spice to your routines in life. Routine doesn’t have to be monotonous — it can afford us a comfortable and safe space to grow and explore the details of life. So, try some of these tips. Spice up your routine. Enjoy life because it really is all about the little things.