Breathing Space March 2022
Different Is Good
There is a radio station in my little city whose tagline is “Different is good.” I like it because I get bored hearing the same songs over and over again, and they play a truly eclectic mix of music. I mention this because we have been in a pandemic for the last two (three? twenty?) years and while it is not in any way routine, it can feel like we are stuck in a revolving door of things getting better/getting worse/schools are open/schools are closed/we can go out to eat/we cannot go out to eat…Have you felt it too?
Something happened this week that is helping me just a little with this feeling. I have been meditating daily, pretty much without fail, for twenty-plus years. Each time, I use the same app and listen to either nature sounds or Tibetan singing bowls. One morning this week, completely out of the blue, I instead asked Alexa to play John Prine. It was wonderful! This shake-up of my usual routine has been powerful.
I have felt renewed energy, a stronger focus, and I am tuning into things I haven’t noticed that are around me every day. I feel awake. A little different, a little better.
It’s easy to get set in a pattern and not deviate from it. In fact, this is one of the benefits of having a routine—your day becomes predictable, helping alleviate stress and anxiety from not knowing what is coming next.
But this can also be a drawback. Sometimes in this repetition of daily life, we might end up feeling like robots, just doing the same thing over and over again. We get tired, feel down, and start losing interest. We do not function well, are often exhausted, and notice our reduced cognitive capacity. And although we may be performing well, we may not feel valued or that our work is worthwhile. Hello, burnout!
A simple break in routine can counteract some of this. When we change it up, there are several possible benefits: more excitement, new experiences, a more open mind, and preventing burnout. Not uncoincidentally, all of these benefits may positively influence our brain functioning and cognitive abilities.
Breaking routine can allow freedom to do other things—things you may enjoy. If you have meetings and work booked all day, every day, incorporating something fun could bring a bit of happiness, improving brain function as it allows you a break from the monotony.
And when we try a new activity or learn something new, our brains behave differently. New experiences can help us gain clarity and improve brain functioning by getting us out of the habit of doing the same thing repeatedly.
If you are stuck in a schedule and the same routine day after day, try doing something different every once in a while and see how you feel. It may just be the change you need!
- New walking route, a different time to walk, or a different exercise routine altogether
- Always call your sister to chat? Who else might you call?
- New dinner recipe or unexpected treat
- Is it time to rearrange some furniture?
- Romantic comedies all the time? What about a documentary?
What are your ideas? Drop me a line and tell me what you did to break your routine—and how it felt!