Why are routines important for our mental health?

Why are routines important for our mental health? Brighter Life Therapy

When you wake up, what are the first few things that you do in the morning? Do you start off by making yourself a coffee and flicking through social media? Then maybe having a shower and getting ready for the day? Or is it a little more varied, where you don’t follow a particular routine?

Well, for many, having a set routine to follow each day is very important. It arguably allows people to manage day-to-day stresses and challenges presented to them by providing a sense of control and productivity.

Researchers and mental health professionals have suggested that a routine can also promote a healthy mental wellbeing. Furthermore, a lack of routine can also be linked with depressive episodes and feeling overwhelmed.

So, how important is a daily routine, and how do we set one when we are struggling? 

What does it mean to have a ‘routine’?

Similar to the example above, routines are simply behaviours and habits we follow on a daily-basis, maybe in a particular order.

Certain types of routines are more important than others. With regards to sleep, our bodies run on an internal clock (sometimes referred to as our circadian rhythm), where if we maintain the timing of our body clock, it means we can fall asleep and wake up more easily.

Similarly, eating at similar times each day provides us with a regular energy source, promoting a regularly engaged metabolism and optimal digestion. This also helps avoid under and overeating habits.

According to research, having a routine filled with healthy habits, especially in early life is really beneficial. This is because they allow us to follow and stick to healthy routines more easily in future, allowing us to benefit from the familiarity and comfort they provide throughout adulthood as well as childhood.

Why are routines important for our mental health? Brighter Life Therapy

Why are routines important?

As well as what has already been covered, here are a few more examples as to why routines are important:

  • Sense of control. This can lead to us feeling less overwhelmed, and therefore provide us with more resilience to adverse events.
  • Productivity and fulfillment. Because a routine encourages you to get things done, it can provide a sense of fulfillment.
  • Positive self-care activities. We can more easily find time to ensure we are including self-care throughout the day (e.g. scheduling in walks everyday, showering, meditating etc).
  • Promotes a healthier mental wellbeing. For example, a lack of routine has been linked to mental health issues such as depression. In fact, routine setting is promoted in many mental health interventions, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

How can we set a routine?

For a sleep routine: Set a reasonable time to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. This may take a few days to adjust to, but after a while you may find yourself becoming tired around the same time each evening, and automatically waking up at the time you’ve chosen. In the meantime you could:

  • Set alarms for the morning, possibly placing your phone where you can’t easily reach it, requiring you to get out of bed to switch it off.
  • Follow a few rules at night – e.g. to not look at your phone after 10 pm and read instead.

For more information and tips about sleep schedules, you can read our blog on this topic here.

For an eating routine: start by setting specific times to eat three meals a day. Initially you may find you are not hungry at these specific times, but once you begin to eat regularly, your appetite changes to suit this new routine. Fit in meals you enjoy to encourage yourself to eat, but be mindful of eating healthily.

For more information and tips on healthy eating, you can read our blog on this topic here.

General routine-setting tips:

  • Plan and note it down. Identify what your day is missing. Are you eating 3 meals a day? Are you exercising regularly? Are there any hobbies you haven’t done in a while? After this, you can write down a plan and follow that throughout your week.
  • Add things you enjoy. You are more likely to stick to your routine if you have things to look forward to, alongside any responsibilities.
  • Try to stick to similar timings. You may find after a while you follow this routine automatically, without having to follow a plan if you stick to doing similar things, at certain times, each day!
  • Reward yourself. Creating and sticking to routines can require self-control and willpower, so it is certainly worth rewarding when done so successfully. It will also give you the incentive to keep trying.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to it. Sometimes other unpredictable commitments get in the way. Also it is healthy for routines to change and develop so they suit you best!

How can we help?

We hope the above steps help.

If, however, you feel you are struggling and would like professional assistance, we offer this too. Brighter Life Therapy provides fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. Please do not hesitate to contact us by email info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk or call 0118 40 50 108.

You can also follow our Instagram and Facebook for more information regarding mindfulness and mental health.

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