The Happiness Routine
You may hear the word "routine" and think "boring" or "dull". When our lives get too predictable, we say we're "in a rut." But routines are actually very important to our lives and are an essential component to happiness. They can make us more effective and more productive. They can propel us toward progress. And they can keep us on track with the necessities of health, harmony and happiness.
How's Your Routine Working for You?
The first question to ask yourself is, are you happy with your routine? If you're happy, great! But if you're unhappy with any area of your life, maybe you need to improve the routine you have, or develop a new one.
FIRST, THE COMPONENTS OF HAPPINESS
I break happiness down into two categories: health and harmony. Under health I include the category of exercise, and under harmony I include organization and spirit. So, your routine should include exercise, organization, and opportunities for spirit-building.
I believe being healthy (physically as well as mentally and emotionally) is priority one to happiness. Therefore, you need to work at achieving your optimal health, and thus you need to make this a component of your routine. This includes physical exercise, and anything that maintains your mental and emotional well-being. Likewise, I am not happy or productive without being organized. I really have to work at this one. A tidy environment makes for a tidy mind. This includes your household, your work, and your finances. The last component, spirit, is also vital to your happiness and includes your connection to something bigger than yourself (pursuing peace), plus time to pursue your passions. When you have all of these pieces in place, your routine will lead to a happier you.
Routines can be daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly. If you maintain a good daily routine, the rest will fall into place. I have a daily routine, plus things I do weekly, monthly, and yearly. I exercise daily, for example, but take out the garbage and go to the bank just once a week. Every month I balance our checkbooks and yearly we mulch the yard and open our porches.
I definitely find that when I follow a routine that includes exercise, organization, and time for my spirit, I feel at my best. This holds true for any type of routine, whether it be daily or yearly. When I break from a routine, it may feel good at the time, (like when I skip a workout or put off paying the bills) but I will feel the repercussions eventually (less energy and past due fees) and then wish I just stuck with the routine. When I mess with my routine, the results often lead to more stressful circumstances and a bad mood, thus taking me away from happiness. It is like a snowball effect where one skipped task leads to another, which leads to more work or more stress, and so one. And it could all be prevented by just sticking to the routine.
TIPS FOR A GOOD ROUTINE
Find What Works for You, And Stick With It For me, it works best if I exercise first thing in the morning. If I don't, I know that chances are I won't fit it in. My friend likes to exercise in the afternoon when she feels stressed and anxious from her day. There has to be a time that works for you, it's just a matter of finding it and making it routine. The same holds true for when you pay your bills, go grocery shopping, clean the house, or do some meditation. You may manage to get all these things done (maybe) but if you are structured about it, in a way that works for you, things will flow even easier.
Mentally Note, Or Write Down, Your Current Routine Here is my daily routine: Exercise, Shower/Dress, Breakfast, Writing, Laundry,Errands, Lunch, Continue Laundry, Office Work for the Business, Straighten Up the House, Cook/Eat Dinner, Dishes, TV/Computer, Reading, Bed. Of course there are slight variations, and sometimes I don't even fit all of this in, but in general I try to stick with this routine as best as I can. It's important to think about your routine. Many of us go through the motions, never really considering how we spend our time, or how/when we get things done. Without being aware of our routine, we can't ever improve it.
Notice Areas Where You Are Lacking Looking over my routine, although I consider my writing and reading as pieces of my "spirit" component, I realize I could use more spiritual time, such as for meditation. I'm sure I could give up some TV time to make meditation part of my routine. Once you see where you could improve, you too can start adding (or subtracting) from your routine.
Adapt Routines As Life Changes. The routine I described above is my summer routine; it will change in the fall when I go back to work. Routines do need to adapt as your life changes, i.e. if you change jobs, become a parent, or move, but the key components of health and harmony should always remain.
Change it Up to Avoid Boredom As long as you stick to health and harmony, you can try alternatives toward the same end. For example, if you always go running, maybe you could try walking, or a bike ride. If you have always meditated alone, maybe try a yoga class. Add an i-pod and your favorite music when you're cleaning the bathroom, and it can actually be fun. Routines are important, but they don't have to feel like drudgery. When you start feeling like you need a change or a break, instead of skipping the task altogether, see what you can do to improve it instead.
Adopt Positive Habits as Part of Your Routine The goals are always health and harmony. Ask yourself what habits could you try to adopt toward a happier you? For example, for organization, I clean out my fridge before each weekly grocery run, and before I add a new piece of clothing to my closet, I donate an old one. I balance the checkbooks as soon as I get my statement and I go through the mail as soon as I bring it home. For exercise, I keep my weights and mat in my car, ready for boot camp twice a week. For spirit, I keep self-improvement books by my bedside and look forward to reading them every night. My habits certainly aren't perfect and I still need improving, but by sticking to the routine I have, I am steps ahead than if I had no routine at all. You too can look for simple ways to improve your habits toward health and harmony, and soon they will become interchangeable with your routine.
When You Break From Your Routine, Get Back to It as Soon as You Can Maybe you partied hearty over the weekend. Or haven't exercised in a week. Got lazy about grocery shopping. Or need to stop watching so much TV. If you felt better when you were sticking to the routine you've strayed from, get back to it as soon as you can. No matter how long you have been away from the routine that worked, it is never too late to get back into it again. Wait till you see how good it feels!
Making Happiness Routine
We often think that happiness is found when we break from our regular routines. Indeed, it is fun to venture toward somewhere new or something extraordinary. But happiness really comes down to health and harmony. When we are healthy, we feel best about ourselves. When we are organized we can be more productive toward our goals. When we pursue our passions and what brings us peace, we find contentment. All of these are the true components of happiness. And the basis of these components begins not in something extraordinary but rather in the building of something very simple, that of a good routine.