By: Dani Kessel
Routines are extremely difficult to build, but they can make all the difference to a person’s well-being. Creating this kind of structure decreases extra mental energy in your day. It saves time, makes structure, reduces stress, and helps us succeed. But, even if we have a routine, often we aren’t making the most out of the practice. Don’t be afraid to restructure your time to improve your quality of life.
Here are 7 changes you can make to your routine which can improve your life long-term:
1. Read 30 minutes every day
Reading has many health benefits. Your brain is a muscle, and reading exercises your mind. Activities like reading and writing can decrease mental decline by as much as 32%. It also decreases stress, on average, by 68%. In a University of Michigan yearly study and a Yale study review, reading 30 minutes a day for at least 12 years was also linked to a 2 year increased lifespan. It also boosts your IQ and EQ. There are numerous documented health benefits; plus, reading is fun! All it takes is 30 minutes each day.
2. Write down 3 things you are grateful for.
UC Davis studied groups of individuals: one who wrote gratitude journals, one who wrote negative journals, and one who wrote neutral journals. After 10 weeks, those who did gratitude journals were 25% happier than those who didn’t. The small mindfulness practice shifts our attention from sad and negative things to the small, positive parts of life. Though one study indicated that this is just as effective as any other exercise focused on positivity, it does not take anything away from 3 daily gratitudes’ meaningful impact.
3. Go to therapy.
There is a misconception that therapy is only for people with severe mental illnesses. And yes–therapy is an effective tool for folks living with mental illnesses; however, therapy is something that everyone should feel safe and welcome doing. Everyone can use an impartial person to talk to who has your best interest in mind. It’s helpful when you’re stressed and upset to have a trained professional who can teach you coping skills and assist you in building a plan for your situation. Going to therapy when you’re agitated and sad should be like going to the doctor when you feel sick. Don’t let the stigma stop you! (Mind you, I know this isn’t a feasible, financial option for everyone. Just do what you can for your mental health.)
4. Set a few goals each day and write them down.
Putting together a to-do list with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals takes away so much stress. It turns abstract ideas into concrete, written objectives. Even if you do not achieve everything on your list, setting the goals helps your brain practice chunking. Plus, accomplishing even one thing releases a dopamine boost that trains your brain to succeed on future to-do lists. It’s a huge confidence boost.
5. Make the bed.
Clutter and mess can unconsciously increase anxiety. It takes maybe 2 minutes to make your bed. Just make the bed and save yourself the extra stress!
6. Meal prep.
The common excuse for not meal prepping is that people don’t have time. However, putting aside time to meal prep every weekend will free up time during the week. You have a plan resulting in minimal preparations when you’re multitasking work and lunch or you are cleaning the house and trying to put dinner on the table. You won’t have to put mental energy into deciding what to eat every day. This is one less thing to stress about. That is important because stress hormones disrupt digestion and restful sleep. Furthermore, meal prep can enable you to eat more balanced meals, providing the vitamins you need. (Note: Weight is not a proper measure of health! Please pay more attention to the nutrients you’re putting into your body and less attention to how much you weigh.)
7. Schedule some quiet time.
Clinical health psychologist, Dr. Amy Sullivan, detailed in an article nearly a dozen reasons why quiet time is important for your mental health and physical health. It combats life’s stresses. It decreases blood pressure. It increases mental sharpness. Plus, it can provide you with better communication skills and increased creativity. All of these things can help us regulate our emotions, cope with daily obligations, and get through our day. While it may be uncomfortable to start off with, try to carve out 15 to 30 minutes that you’ll dedicate to quiet time. No music, tv, or talking/texting on your phone. It’ll really make a big difference.
Overall, if you’re looking to introduce new activities to your routine that will actually help in the long-term, every one of these is a positive option. All of these practices can hugely contribute to your overall wellbeing. They’ll help free up time, decrease stress, and open your mind.
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If you incorporate these things into your schedule and find them to be helpful, tell us why in the comments section below. Also, tell us what other things you do on a regular basis to manage stress and improve your quality-of-life!