Are you the type of person who likes to know how a movie ends in the first five minutes? Do you keep asking “are we there yet?” If so, jump to the end of this post – it’s not for you.
I am a person of routine. I really enjoy waking up at the same time, eating the same breakfast, keeping to a set schedule. Yet at the same time I have noticed that increasingly the routine doesn’t bring me as much satisfaction as it did in the past. I spent some time (actually a lot of time) reading about the ways in which you can increase your happiness, and while a change in routine does not lead to a permanent increase in happiness, the act of changing itself DOES increase happiness.
What does that mean? If you eat toast for breakfast every day, you are happy. You have food, it tastes nice, it meets your needs. One day you switch to eating an apple. Wow! Something new and exciting. You enjoy the change. The next day you eat an apple, and the next and the next. Soon it’s a new routine and while it doesn’t make you LESS happy than when you were eating toast, it’s no better, either.
So what can you do to add some change? Try a mysterious life! This is a phrase I came across that seemed to be a neat concept. Here are a few ideas:
- Change your diet. You may eat a typical western diet. Try reading about what other cultures eat and adopting that for a while. In Fujian province in southeastern China, breakfast may include rice porridge and side dishes like pickled vegetables and century eggs (a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months).
- Change your commute. For most people, the commute to and from work becomes a clockwork activity. Try taking a different route. Try leaving earlier or staying later. Stop halfway through and get off the train or out of your car and buy a cup of coffee (I know about the Latte Factor, but it’s OK once in a blue moon).
- Take a break. Try taking a nap in the afternoon. If you eat at your desk everyday, go for a walk. If you can’t leave the building, walk around a different floor. Go to a local park and watch squirrels. You don’t have to work as if you’re chained to a desk.
- Exercise differently. Do you run usually? Go swimming. Lift weights? Do a spin class. Do nothing? Try getting off the subway a stop early, or parking your car at the furthest possible edge of the parking lot. Take the stairs.
- Read a book. Not one you like or think you’ll like, though. Always thought you hated mystery novels? Try reading one. Not a big fan of romance novels? Give it a shot.
- Wear some different clothes. Don’t buy new clothes, but you can probably find something you haven’t worn in a while. If you work in a business casual office, wear a tie. If you normally wear a suit, wear a t-shirt to work (change in the bathroom once you arrive if you must). You’ll feel the world in a different way.
- Change your sleep. If you have always felt rushed and harried in the mornings, try waking up 15 minutes earlier. If you feel groggy, try sleeping 15 minutes later. Stay up late, or go to bed at 8 pm. So many people think they have discovered THE pattern for their sleep when they are 25. They don’t realize that their biology shifts when they are 30 and they need a totally new pattern.
- Do the unexpected. Cook a new type of food. Call up your college roommate. Pick up trash on the side of the road.
- Make eye contact. Don’t freak anybody out, of course, but try looking at people in the eye during the day. Smile. Don’t act like a stalker, but try to send out a friendly vibe, even if it’s just to the person taking your cash at the checkout lane.
- Don’t be shy. Shyness is a frame of mind. There is no physical condition or disease called “shyitis”. Decide not to be shy today. Say “hi” to people in the hall. Make chitchat with the bus driver, or the people on the elevator. Most people are happy that you’ve chosen to break the monotony, too.
Most of these things seem pretty silly, but there’s a lot of power in breaking up your routine. See what happens if you change your routine. You never know, it might just make you a little bit happier, and every little bit counts. You probably have similar feelings when you do something new or out of the ordinary. Make breaking your routine a part of your routine!