Having suffered with depression and anxiety for periods of my life, I now recognise the importance of routine and habits in keeping those feelings at bay. I now have more get up and go, I’m fitter, I’m healthier, I look after myself and even more importantly for me, I have more time to create my purpose/passion in life. It doesn’t mean I jump out of bed everyday bursting with energy but it does mean most days I wake up, I do less thinking and more ‘doing’. I’m actively choosing how I spend my time so that my needs are met first before my day even starts. Guess what… this even means I now have an early night routine too with plenty of reading and down time!
I didn’t fully appreciate what is to live intentionally until a year ago when I had a break down. I had to stop, really listen to myself, pay attention to what I felt and re-evaluate. Living intentionally means to make deliberate choices that ultimately meet your values in life. By re-evaluating I knew I needed to re-root myself in who I was and decide how I was going to live my life day to day to reflect that.
Stop and re-calibrate
I had enough self-awareness by then through previous counselling to know that I needed to make some changes. I knew that I needed to take time off work and re-calibrate. I did just that. It was a few weeks in, that I made a conscious decision to honour myself and give myself time and space each day to reground myself and reconnect with where I was. I had never felt comfortable in my own space and would always look for something to do, something to distract myself. I was rarely just being. This was what I needed.
I knew I had to make this a regular thing to be able to sustain my equilibrium. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with more things I ‘had to’ do but I just wanted one thing that would give me this time. I started by choosing to do yoga for just 10 mins every morning.
One habit turned into a routine
This one habit turned out to be the best thing that I could have done. My routine turned into a longer routine (into a number of habits) and is now a lifestyle choice. At the end of my yoga session, I have added a 10 minute meditation and I also set an intention for the day. I then sit down for my breakfast, really taking my time and enjoying good healthy food to start my day.
Making exercise part of my routine
Everyone knows exercise is good for us, it’s everywhere in the news and on social media. Despite knowing this, I wasn’t doing regular exercise. I even knew how important exercise was for depression and anxiety from my psychotherapy training but I didn’t fully understand just how important until experienced this for myself.
Just by adding 10-20 minutes of yoga including stretches and abdominal exercises I feel massively better in myself. Abdominal exercises are so important for things like depression and anxiety to release the build-up of toxins. I’m no yoga or exercise expert but these particular exercises in this video really helped kick start me into feeling more myself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nq_SkQHmvA
Passion and purpose
In making time to feel healthier and more myself, I began to want to work on myself-esteem and this meant finding something I was really connected to and that I felt gave me a purpose. That’s where Re-root comes in.
Having seen myself, friends and the students I supported at university struggling with mental health, I wanted to find a way to help. I wanted to share different ways of thinking and living that might inspire people to make changes that will have a positive impact on their lives. So here we are- making time to write blogs has now become part of my routine. I’m working on making it a more regular habit so we’ll see how that goes. Experiment commences!
What else do I want to become part of my routine?
Humans are naturally social animals (even introverts) and it is important for us to belong to groups and quite often believe in something bigger than ourselves, so it is no surprise that many of us are drawn to giving back to our communities. The Minimalists, who both Helen and I listen to on a regular basis, call this ‘contribution’. Research shows that this can give us far more happiness than extrinsic things like money and stuff. So as part of my routine, I am working on building in time to volunteer at my local community farm, Burscough Community Farm (a fantastic place if you want to see people coming together to grow organic food and learn new skills).
To re-ground and reconnect with yourself, in whatever way, is to live intentionally.
These habits are all things I can control and I have a choice about. I have made myself stronger and healthier both physically and mentally and I now build in time for the things that give me purpose. To live intentionally is do things that add value to your life and purpose is what makes life meaningful.
While I want to share some of the ‘how to’s’ on habit forming, please be aware this isn’t a post about ‘how to’ recover from depression or anxiety as there are so many factors that come into play when working to treat this.
If you want the ‘how to’ and science of how to form habits, this blog post is excellent. He clearly explains how habit forming can be broken down into 3 R’s, the reminder, the routine and the reward http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change.
Morning and night routines
If you want a morning routine to set you up for the day whether it’s just an extra 10 minutes of your morning, it will more than likely mean going to bed an extra 10 minutes earlier. I decided to go to bed at 10:30pm, read for 15 mins and get up at 6:45am but choose what is right for you. A night routine is as important as a morning routine. Scrolling through Facebook at night before bed or catching up on that last episode will only keep your mind active. Have an hour before bed of ‘no screen time’, have a bath, make time to read (get interested in something new) or just lie on your floor with some chill out music. Do whatever will give you down time so you get a good night’s sleep and feel fresh in the morning ready for whatever you CHOOSE to do with your time.
Good questions to ask yourself
- What do I want to do more of in my life?
- Is my motivation clear in my head?
- Why am I going to spend my time this way?
- What value will it add to my life?
- If I do this, what will it give me?
- How do I want to fill my time?
- What short terms actions can I take to meet my long term values? (The Minimalists)
- What habits do I already have in my life that I can use to remind me to do my new habit?
- We also have habit thoughts – are there some thoughts that you wants to change?
Remember these things:
- Start small, one habit at a time.
- Be patient with yourself, some days you just won’t want to do it (you’re human!) but don’t let that be your excuse for giving up on your ‘you time’.
- Remember that once you have formed a habit or routine that they don’t have to be set in stone and you can change and adapt them as your values and beliefs change.
- Accept that sometimes changes in circumstances or situations can interrupt routines – flexibility is key. Sometimes you gotta go with the flow and that’s ok!
- Happiness doesn’t start with a relationship, a vacation, a job, or money. It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself every day- Marc Angel.
Please share any ways that you create habits or routines- we want to know how you do it too!