A STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO USING YOUR DAILY ROUTINE TO TAKE MUCH BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF WITH EASE
Think about how many things you do every day without thinking about whether or not you should do them.
These are your routines like getting out of bed (well, maybe you do think about whether or not to do this…), using the toilet, brushing your teeth, showering, getting dressed, drinking coffee, eating, checking email and/or your phone, turning on/off lights, maybe going to work, coming home, changing clothes, going to bed.
Your routines are essentially a set of habits, or acquired behaviors or thought patterns that have been repeated so many times that they become almost unconscious.
Things you do without really thinking about it.
Becuase routines are mostly beneficial to the body and brain, in general, we are creatures of habit.
As you engage in these routines, the movements of your body are very repetitive and habitual.
For example, your posture when you stand or sit, the way you sit down and bend over, the way you walk, the way you get in and out of the bed or shower or car. You brush your teeth with the same hand, put the same leg in your pants first every day, and pick up your bag and sling it over the same shoulder. Whether you’re aware of it or not, most of your movements are done in exactly the same way.
Your thoughts also have habitual, routine patterns.
As in, you think about what you have to get done, what you need to do next, what you need to remember, what you’re trying to forget. That little voice in your head comments on what you think of what’s happening in front of you, what happened in the past, and what may or may not happen in the future. What you’re excited and worried about, what you hope will happen, or not happen.
Our habits, and therefore routines, shape our bodies, minds, and life experiences.
When we’re moving in our habitual way, we use one side differently from the other. (Like using your right hand more than your left or vice-versa.) These asymmetrical movements we make everyday cause imbalances in our physical bodies.
Your habitual movements shape your body. Like holding your head forward regularly and developing Tech Neck.
The repetitive thoughts we all have shaped our attitude about everything we experience. (Like being a glass-half-empty or half-full type of person.) What we do and think every day has a direct and powerful effect on our lives.
Sadly, as modern humans, up to 80% of our thoughts are negative, and we tend to see the negative side of things. Are you aware of how your thoughts are affecting your life?
Here’s the good news: both thinking and doing are habits and can be trained with practice.
I call this Routine Practice.
Routine Practice is using your everyday routines and habits to intentionally shape your body, mind, and life experience. It can be working with your physical posture to be more relaxed as you get ready for your day. Or thinking a few words of gratitude as you prepare to eat, to express appreciation. It can be a mindfulness practice when you floss your teeth.
These bits of practice integrated into our everyday lives can transform our lives.
In my 20’s I was working as a freelance graphic designer and assistant managing a busy restaurant, trying to live on my own for the first time and balance the worlds of being a young professional by day and a post-dinner shift party girl by night.
My life was so chaotic and I frequently felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I worried constantly.
I found reaching for my toes, and taking deep breaths helped a lot, so I started making this a simple and short part of my morning routine. I’d forward-fold and breathe for about 60-seconds right after I brushed my teeth, while I was waiting for the shower to warm up.
I realized I could practice what my body and mind need to feel better like relaxing my neck and shoulders instead of holding a bunch of tension in anticipation of a long day, and focusing my attention on breathing instead of letting my mind bounce all over the place.
Twenty years later, I still practice Uttanasana / standing forward bend nearly every day, even if only for a moment in my PJs, at midnight.
The benefits of this one posture are so evident in my life: grounding + calming, releases tension + blocked emotions, gives insight to patterns + habits, quiets the mind, brings a sense of peace.
I think of this postures as the seed that continues to grow and transform me from chaotic and stressed to perfectly imperfect and happily committed to the ongoing practice of living a peaceful life.
What could a Routine Practice do for you?
[Washing dishes can go from an annoying chore to a delightful mindfulness practice!]
Here’s your step-by-step guide to starting your Routine Practice.
STEP 1: Choose one thing you do nearly every day without really thinking about it.
Any existing habit can work, but you have to be willing to use it as the starting point for your Routine Practice. So say you choose brushing your teeth, you’ll still brush your teeth, but instead of not really thinking about it, you will pay attention in some way.
STEP 2: Decide how to make this existing habit your Routine Practice.
You can choose to focus on shaping your body or your mind. Just choose one and stick to it.
If you choose to focus on your body, you’ll start to pay attention to your physical sensations and, when you notice your body sending you a message, decide how to change it.
Remember, these routine, habitual movements shape our bodies. Here’s an (embarrassing and highly personal) example:
Once, I decided to use going to the bathroom as a moment to pay attention to how my body was feeling in that moment.
I noticed an achy tension in my right low back and realized that the toilet I use most often in my life has the toilet paper hung to the right about 9” behind where my hips are when I’m sitting on it.
When I twisted to the right for toilet paper every day, I was mindlessly pulling the muscles on my body in an imbalanced way. The ache was trying to tell me I needed to pay attention!
I started practicing a quick twist to the left before mindfully reaching for the toilet paper on the right and the ache, and my whole lower back started to feel better.
If you choose to focus on your mind, you’ll start to pay attention to your thoughts and attitude. When you notice negativity, decide to change it.
Remember, your everyday attitude, shapes your life. Here’s an example:
A client in my Make Peace with Stress program realized she always worried in the shower.
While washing her hair, she would think about the weather and her responsibilities that day and what could go wrong and how she probably couldn’t accomplish everything.
By the time she would get out of the shower she felt panicked and scattered. The rest of her and her family’s morning was full of tension and rushing.
She started practicing the repetition of a few words in the shower that focused on how she wanted to feel during her day. And as she calmed down, so did the rest of the morning.
This Step may take a couple of days to figure out, once you’ve completed step 1, spend a day or two simply paying attention to yourself during the routine thing you choose and asking yourself:
- How is this experience for me?
- Will I benefit from focusing on your body or thoughts?
- Finish this sentence, “I wish I could feel…”
STEP 3: Figure out a way to remind yourself that you’re going to start doing your thing differently.
[One at a time though!]
How will you remind yourself, the next time you do the thing you do nearly every day without really thinking about it, to stop being on automatic pilot, and do that thing in a new way this time. Anything that will work for you is best.
Keep your reminder simple and clear. Here are some examples:
If you do 7 things at once as you brush your teeth: Put a post-it on your toothpaste that says: I stand still and focus on my breath for 2 minutes.
If you have chronic back or hip pain: A post it wherever you sit a lot could say: I sit with both feet on the floor and relax the muscles in my torso.
If you have or are moving toward having tech neck: Make your phone’s lock screen remind you: I relax my jaw and shoulders, and gently draw the sides of my neck back.
If you worry or stress in the shower: Write in Sharpie on your shampoo bottle: Repeat: May I be calm and happy.
If you are a glass-half-empty type of person: Put a note by your bed that says: what are you grateful for right now?
What we routinely do and think is who we become.
A Routine Practice can have a profound effect on your life, check out how I can help you have a Routine Practice through my online program, Shift Happens.
NOW YOU TELL ME, WHAT ARE 3 THINGS YOU DO ROUTINELY? HOW ARE THESE EXPERIENCES FOR YOU? WOULD YOU BENEFIT FROM FOCUSING ON YOUR BODY OR MIND MOST? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
HI, I’M STEPHANNIE.
I’m a Certified Yoga Therapist on a mission to make yogic wisdom, movements and breathing practices simple so that you can make them part of your routine and be less stressed, more confident, and experience more cam every single day.
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