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#ShareYourOneThing: why does routine help mental health?

Tortoiseshell
Moderator

person-drinking-coffe-850.jpeg

 

This Mental Health Month, we’re focusing on the small things – positive, meaningful or practical activities that you can do regularly to support your mental health. Here, we explain why this works, and how building simple habits can make a difference.

 

You can also #ShareYourOneThing to join the conversation with SANE throughout Mental Health Month, sharing the things that make your days that bit brighter, and hearing tips from others!

 

Routines provide a structure to your day, creating rhythms in the way you meet your basic needs such as eating and sleeping, but also letting you know when to relax and spend time on what you enjoy.  

 

Some people thrive on routine, while for others it has them running for the hills.

 

For people with complex mental health issues, symptoms or experiences of low mood can make activity and routines hard to make and keep.

 

While it might be challenging to create or keep to them at times, developing small and positive routines has a number of benefits from increasing wellbeing, to better outcomes for people living with depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder.

 

So why exactly do routines help?

 

1. They increase your motivation

 

When you’re experiencing low mood, often less motivation is part of the picture. You might then become less active, cutting down on activities you used to enjoy, and further lowering your mood and motivation. This can become a ‘vicious cycle’.

 

However, with small changes you can influence this cycle in the reverse direction. By adding small routines and activity gradually, you can actually start to build your motivation and energy back up. 

 

2. They reduce stress

 

Routines reduce ‘decision fatigue’. Knowing that you will do a particular activity regularly reduces the number of decisions you need to make, and can take away some of the stress of constant choices.

 

Regular rhythms can also help you feel more relaxed and reduce the anxiety that can come from a lack of structure. For example, knowing that you will walk the dog every day at 5pm can be a point of stability that is predictable and reassuring.

 

3. They give you a sense of achievement 

 

When you are going through a rough time, feelings of guilt or worthlessness can come up, especially if you’re finding it hard to do much. Taking some small action can give you a sense that you are doing something, moving forward and taking control of parts of your life.

 

4. They reduce self-critical thinking

 

At times when you are less active there is more room for your mind to focus on negative or self-critical thoughts. Doing something fun, meaningful or useful gives your mind something to occupy and stimulate it.

 

Simple mindfulness strategies can also help with this. An example would be cooking and taking a minute to notice the smell or taste, while letting thoughts and feelings come and go. Focusing on your senses in this way can ‘anchor’ you in your experience and reduce the impact of negative thoughts.

 

5. They give you a sense of pleasure

 

When you have low mood, you might not feel like doing anything, or feel much enjoyment. However, doing something positive or purposeful, whether you feel like it or not in the first place, can actually lift your mood.

 

The more you take part in activities which you find, or used to find enjoyable, and plan them into your week, the more you will find yourself in situations that can give you a positive experience.

 

A routine also makes it more likely you will follow through, as sometimes waiting until we ‘feel like it’ means we are waiting a long time. 

 

6. They help you get things done

 

When you’re struggling you might find the daily tasks of life piling up. This can be tough, because when you think about what needs to be done you can feel overwhelmed by the pile.

 

Routines are an important part of self-care. To avoid feeling you need to take everything on, choosing one achievable task that you do regularly, whether it’s showering, paying a bill or doing the laundry, can help you take the tasks on step-by-step. This builds confidence in your ability to get things done. 

 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and building the habits that support you is best done one step at a time.

 

It’s ok to need help with building new habits. Keep an eye out for our next blog on how to find the routines and activities that support your mental health. Counselling, therapy and connecting with people who face similar challenges can also help you find what works for you.

 

Where to from here?

 

Helpful resources

 

Back from the Bluez, Module 2: behavioural strategies for managing depression.

Behavioural activation: fun & achievement.

Behavioural activation for depression.

 

References

 

9 Comments
Shaz51
Community Guide

Hello @Tortoiseshell Smiley Very HappyHeart

 

as a Carer and a wife , Routine is very important but I find  routine has to be able to be flexible as well for the unexpected things that happens and changes in daily situations 

But Routine does help to know what is happened each day 

our postive  tip is finishing at a reasonable time each afternoon helps if you are self employed like us 

@Faith-and-Hope@Zoe7@outlander@Snowie@BPDSurvivor@ShiningStar@wellwellwellnez@AussieRecharger@Judi9877@jem80@HenryX@Fizz@Anastasia@frog@The-Hams 

@Daisydreamer@TideisTurning@cloudcore@periwinklepixie 

Zoe7
Community Guide

Routine for me is super important to be able to continue to work and at the same time look after myself. The most important routines are after work - I come home and do all the little things that need to be done - housework, preparing a meal, feeding my fur babies and getting ready for work. Once that is all done I can relax and do things for myself including self-care - it gives me a sense of achievement and reduces stress knowing I am ready for the next day and can relax both body and mind for the rest of the evening.

Anastasia
Community Guide

Hello all,

 

Ahhhh the R word...

 

Something I am working on and have been for what feels like forever. I live in hope that one day my boy will be open to give routine a go, even if it's just one small thing @Tortoiseshell 

 

"From little things big things grow" 🎶🙏

frog
Community Guide

Hi@Tortoiseshell @Anastasia @Shaz51 and anyone following along

Yoga is my one thing. I often struggle with motivation to do it, but it never fails to help my body, mind and spirit.

 

Tortoiseshell
Moderator

Loving hearing the routines that help you and your 'one things'! 

 

@Zoe7 technology didn't let me support your post, but I really hear you about doing those 'need to be dones' at a certain time and then knowing I can relax. @Shaz51 @frog @Anastasia Heart

BlueBay
Senior Contributor

Hi @Tortoiseshell 

I'm trying to work with a dsily "to do" list. Some days I complete my list snd I feel ok. Other days I csnt snd part of me gets upset but I csnt fo it all. 
Routine is what I need. 

Owen45
Senior Contributor

Good daily routines benefit mental health issues.....I am not working at airport due to stand down, so battling depression and anxiety and isolation with healthy daily routines of self care, motivation, stimulation with varied home activities such as reading, cleaning, home repairs, Zoom sessions in mental health groups...

Tortoiseshell
Moderator

Hey @BlueBay, thanks for sharing Heart I find I'm often setting myself a list that's impossible, or beyond my limits for the day and so can relate to often not finishing it!

Tortoiseshell
Moderator

@Owen45 what a huge shift to go from the structure of a job to completely new routines! Can I ask what helped you to set up those new habits? 

 

@LostAngel journalling, mindfulness and music Heart 🎶 Heart