Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the routine of your own life. One day turns into the next with a repetitive pattern of work, exercise, cooking, house duties…work, exercise, cooking, and house duties. Before you know it, you’re just going through the motions, one month goes into the next and your days start to feel pretty ordinary. Aside from social outings with friends, the biggest change in your week is what you decide to have for lunch each day. Sound familiar?
I’ve been struggling to find a topic to write about this month because the last little while has been pretty uneventful in terms of doing things out of my usual routine. My weeks are taken up by full time work, exercise, cooking, and typical house hold duties. My weekends are filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner dates with friends. My quieter and lazier nights are spent watching episodes of True Blood or Breaking Bad on the couch. My more inspired moments are spent reading or writing. All pretty standard, all pretty typical and all pretty ordinary.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy my routine. In fact, routine works really well for us as humans because we are habitual by nature, so routine enables us to get things done and gives us purpose. However, it can also become all too familiar and rather disenchanting, ultimately taking away from the thrill of life. Though the reality is, we can’t always have the thrill of life. We can’t always be climbing mountains, swimming with dolphins, splashing in waterfall, drinking cocktails on the beach, dining in Paris, horseback riding through prairies, or kayaking across rivers. In our society as we know it, we all have to work really hard to be able to do those things, unless of course you’ve been blessed with a miraculous inheritance fund, born into money or marry some millionaire. But for many of us, routine is always going to be a part of life. So how can we help transform ordinary into extraordinary on a day to day basis when daily tasks start to feel mundane?
This is a question I’ve been exploring over the last couple of months, determined to find a solution. Especially with Sydney’s winter quickly approaching when days become shorter and colder, I want to avoid falling into a lethargic state. What I’m finding is that it is possible to make your daily experience feel extraordinary, but it takes effort and involves making some changes.
While it’s an ongoing effort, these 8 tips seemingly help me:
1. Wake up early and exercise.
The days are short enough as it is, so wake up with the sun and exercise before work. Exercise not only releases endorphins in the brain, but decreases stress levels, clears your mind and gives you more energy. Why wouldn’t we want to start our days off like that? Ideally you can run or exercise outside in nature along the water or on a trail, but a gym, backyard or home will suit just fine. Yes, even if you’re not a morning person (which I’m typically not) force yourself out of bed and continue to do so. Eventually you’ll rewire the struggle into a habit that comes easily. I’ve been getting out of bed around 6am and going for morning runs along the coastline in Bondi about 3 days a week. Initially it seems like a difficult task, especially when I’m nice and warm and in my comfy bed. But once I get down the water, its absolute magic and well worth it. Plus, each time gets a little easier.
2. Read something inspiring.
Throughout the day (preferably in the morning) read an article, quote, passage, card, or affirmation by someone you admire and respect. We don’t often hear a lot of encouragement on a daily basis, plus we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. Being inspired and supported helps us to take on the day with an open mind and positive attitude, which can be really powerful.
3. Eat Delicious and Nutritious food.
Food is one of the best things in life, plus it fuels our bodies and contributes immensely to our physical, energetic and emotional state. Make an effort to find delicious recipes and cook up flavoursome meals using fresh ingredients. While nutrition is important, so is enjoying the dining experience. Also, source your food and do your research. It’s empowering to be aware of what’s going into your body.
4. Still your mind and meditate.
Take 15 minutes out of each day to breath, listen to your heart beat and let go of the thoughts flooding your mind. This can be a difficult task for those who are inexperienced in meditation, but just taking few minutes with yourself gives you an opportunity to check in or check out. Especially if you find yourself feeling stressed or nagged out by issues at work.
(Ten Minute anti-stress meditation)
5. Get outside!
A lot of us can’t control how much time we spend in the office, but we do have our mornings, evenings and lunch breaks. Fresh air, open space and sunshine are extremely rejuvenating and it’s important to make some time for it. That might mean a short walk in the morning, having lunch in the park, or an evening stroll around the block. After all, natural sunlight has the power to influence our hormone production, metabolism and biological clock. Plus it keeps our immune system strong and reduces depression.
6. Spend time with people who make you laugh and spark interesting conversation.
Positivity is extremely contagious and spreads like nothing else. Spend what free time you have with people who make you smile and have your best interest at heart. Laughter is definitely one of the best therapies out there. Also, hang out with people who can spark up interesting conversations. Even if their opinions differ from your own, it’s a good way to develop as a person and see things from a new point of view.
7. Mix it up!
It’s easy to stick to the things we know we like, but changing things up where possible is more stimulating. Instead of doing what you normally would do, try something different. Instead of drinking your usual coffee, have a tea. Instead of taking the main streets, try the back ones. Instead of hanging with your best friend, call up a new friend. Instead of going to your favourite Thai restaurant, try Indian. Instead of driving to your intended destination, walk there. Instead of drinking Shiraz, have a Pinot. Instead of doing Yoga, try Pilates. . Instead of watching a movie, watch a documentary. Instead of going to the grocery store, go to the markets. Instead of taking the train, take the bus. Instead of heading to your “go to” bar, check out a music gig. Instead of reading your Facebook feed, read the newspaper. Instead of watching the sunset, watch the sunrise. Like William Cowper said, “Variety’s the vary spice of life that gives it all its flavours.”
8. Be Gracious.
If you find yourself feeling like a victim and things aren’t necessarily going your way, sit back and remind yourself of the many ways you are privileged. In terms of true suffering, Western cultures haven’t even touched the surface. Many of us have an abundance of food, shelter, security, clean water, and opportunities. If I compare my biggest struggle of being bored of my routine to the suffering in developing countries, my perspective on the issue changes pretty quickly. However, that’s not to say our problems aren’t important. We all have our “stuff” and we all need support, but acknowledging your luxuries in life will keep you both gracious and humble.
While different things work for different people, these 8 tips have certainly helped me. I’ll be doing my best to practise these lifestyle choices over the winter season with a clear mind and positive attitude. If you don’t practise these already, I welcome you to try with me! Like Thomas Edison wrote, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Thanks for reading!