Have some of your routines become ruts? Human beings are wired to have persistence, which is good when we need to keep going, but it can work against our happiness when we are doing things that are no longer inspiring, leaving us feeling bored, trapped or stagnant.
People often tell me they desire change, yet don’t know how to break from the rut. What I’ve found is that when people are trapped in a cycle, it’s usually because they need a mental adjustment and some direction.
Ruts are often protected by a fear of change, a sense of futility or obligation and these feelings work to protect us. Often, we don’t even realize that we’re stuck. We can become so numb to our habits that we don’t recognize the diminishing energy and hints of unhappiness.
My life is filled with routines, and it is these routines that bring order to the chaos of life and help me to be more efficient with my time and energy. Certain routines, like my morning workout and pre-work meditation, actually add exponential energy and time to my day because they give me the fuel I need. Here are three tactics to tackle ruts:
>> Upgrade yourself: Look into learning something or doing something new. Go to a seminar or class, learn a language, pick up a hobby, create an inspirational wall in your home, or cultivate a new habit — exercise, meditation, waking up earlier.
>> Change your routine: If you’re doing something that you like, think about varying it. For example, if you’re walking or exercising regularly, change the route, place or the type of exercise. If you read, try a different magazine or new topic. If you always do things in a certain order when you wake up or get home, mix up the order. Drive a home a different way. Call people instead of emailing them.
>> Embrace spontaneous behavior: Most people fill their schedules with work and relegate whatever time is left over to leisure. Allot for play time and spontaneity. Spontaneous behavior is critical because our brains love novelty and autonomy — times when we take initiative.
Spontaneity unlocks your joy and creativity. Fostering a connection with yourself and others leads you into new territory. Surprise and novelty bring our brains dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation, excitement and curiosity.
You are never too old to become just a little bit better today than you were yesterday.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.