Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. -Robert Collier
Routines help create healthy lifestyles, because they free our brains for other tasks.
Even if the idea of a routine seems boring or stifling, establishing habits for a few less-enjoyable tasks gives you more time to dream, problem-solve, and choose fun.
For example, nearly every day for breakfast, I eat the same thing: two or three eggs soft-scrambled in butter. And if we have avocado on hand, I eat a half (or a whole one if it’s at or beyond its prime).
If we have some spinach, I might toss some on top, or add a little salsa. Or add a salad on the side.
The accessories sometimes change.
But almost always, I eat eggs.
Why do I do this? I used to mix things up.
From my perspective, eggs are a perfect protein for me, and avocado adds healthy fat. Together, they help me stay full and give me energy.
And now that I’ve figured that out, it’s just simpler to eat that for breakfast most every day. I don’t have to spend time thinking about it. Without my egg ritual, I would spend extra time staring into the refrigerator or pantry and wonder:
What do I want? Hmm, I have no idea. What do we have?
Not much. Bread. KIND bars. Gluten-free pancake mix.
PANCAKES! MAPLE SYRUP! BUTTER!
And while gluten-free pancakes topped with butter and real maple syrup are delicious, they don’t meet my daily health goals. For me, it’s too much sugar. Too much processed carbohydrates.
Constant, daily questioning over breakfast could lead me down the wrong path. It’s just easier to keep eggs and avocados on hand.
Routines, once established, require less willpower
Now that I’m in the flow of eating eggs almost every day, I require less willpower to start my day in a healthy way. And that healthy start often spills over into the rest of my day.
Another routine I have created is to go to the gym two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays. By establishing this pattern, I take the guesswork out of when I’m going to do a strength-training workout. And it limits my excuses. Those parts of my life are on auto-pilot, helping give structure and familiarity to my mornings.
When I feed my healthy habits, especially those I don’t have to put much thought around, it helps set the tone for my day, and that reinforces my willpower.
Routines improve efficiency
Since I don’t spend extra time deciding what I want to eat, I have more time for other morning activities that I enjoy. And because I go to the gym two days a week, I allow myself flexibility on the physical activity I engage in the rest of the week. Do I want to walk today, or hike, or run? Or do I want to go to a yoga or Pilates class?
When I don’t have to think about which days I’ll be at the gym, I can use more brainpower thinking about other fun options for exercise and movement. And I can more creatively plan the rest of my week.
Routines build momentum
Little by little, healthy choices add up. We become good at them. And then we find that they’ve become routine.
We’ve heard “practice makes perfect.”
Really, practice makes permanent.
We all are creatures of habit, says Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
The question is, are the habits healthy or unhealthy?
When you find a habit that’s healthy, practice it until it’s permanent. Turn it into a routine. And then it will make it easier to start working on developing another routine around a healthy habit.
Which of your healthy habits has become routine? How has that freed you up to work on other healthy behaviors? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
I’m Amy Hoogervorst, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. This was Step 19 in the “31 Steps to a Healthier You” series, part of #Write31Days 2017. You can read all the posts in the series here. And subscribe to get news of future posts delivered to your inbox.