Establishing a new routine is not always easy. Especially when the old routine has existed for a long time and accompanies you every day. However, there are tips and advice that will help you establish a new routine and leave old habits in the past. We have compiled these tips in this article to make it easier for you to keep any (New Year's) resolutions.
Habits and routines - everyone has them
Man is a creature of habit” – How often have you heard this sentence or said it yourself? There is a lot of truth in that, because our everyday life is actually shaped by habits and routines. You get up at the same time every day, drink a glass of water afterwards and brush your teeth twice a day. You read the newspaper with just a cup of coffee, spaghetti is always served with parmesan, you warm up before exercising and every Wednesday afternoon you paint mandalas while listening to music, ... The list is long and you can definitely think of more routines, that you carry out daily - sometimes unconsciously.
What are routines?
Routines are recurring action patterns and processes that take place regularly on the basis of what has been learned. By repeating it multiple times, the processes are internalized in such a way that they (can) be carried out without much thought, e.g. drinking a glass of water after waking up in the morning, buckle up in the car, ...
But why actually?
Man is not just a creature of habit, but strives for security and economy. With regard to routines, courses of action, organization of the day, etc., this means that the body, mind and spirit prefer things that require little effort (-> economy) and keep the risk of damage (-> safety) as low as possible.
Routines combine both: The brain can “rest” while a routine action is being performed, since the routine is so firmly anchored in the head/body that it runs like an automatism. The fact that something runs automatically or routinely is due to the fact that an action is repeated several times because it brings well-being and conveys a feeling of security. You are in the notorious comfort zone .
You probably haven't often asked yourself whether or not you should brush your teeth before bed; you just do it without thinking. But if you didn't, you would be missing something.
How does something become routine?
Something becomes routine only through regular, identical repetition of a behavior/action etc. in the same situation. For example: After work you drive home, take a shower, cook dinner and go for a walk. After that you read or watch TV and then you go to sleep. Every working day you have the same routine - it's a habit that you don't question.
It is important to know that a routine is only set in motion by one (or more) triggers and is maintained via a stimulus-reaction chain as well as rewards or positive results. Your after-work routine is similar to pressing the power button on the laptop: This routine is triggered by work, which can then be illustrated as follows:
reward / reason
end of the working day
Drive back home
Impure body feeling
have a shower
Better body feeling
Movement, fresh air, freer thoughts, ...
e.g.: tiredness, longing for relaxation, ...
The more often the same actions are carried out in succession, the faster and more firmly they are burned into the brain and the more automated they run. On the one hand, this is advantageous because, with an established routine, it is no longer necessary to think about the next step and “everything runs like clockwork”; you don't question a step as each action has already become a habit .
On the other hand, this is also the dark side of a routine: it takes a long time to make something a habit and just as long to change something. According to scientists, it takes two months for a new routine to become fully established. That's why it's so difficult to permanently discard an unwanted behavior pattern and replace it with a "better", wanted one, eg not drinking a glass of red wine with every evening meal.
But don't let that deter you from making any changes at all. Every change - no matter how small - is a step in the right direction.
Benefits of Routines
Routines have both positive and negative sides to them. As already mentioned, they make it easier to make decisions or follow certain chains of action , since the brain automatically initiates a series of actions without having to think hard. Routines are therefore also time-saving and provide structure , since the next step in daily events does not first have to be considered/thought out. Routines also convey a sense of security and comfort : every time the routine is repeated, it signals that everything is in order. You probably know that when you drop out of your morning, sleeping or eating routine for a few days because you're on vacation. As soon as you implement your habits again, you will feel more relaxed and harmonious (-> comfort zone).
Disadvantages of routines
Routines also have their downsides. The more stuck a habit is, the harder it is to break. They also limit spontaneity/flexibility , which can sometimes lead to social problems. The automated processes also mean that you can't really work on your creativity because, for example, you always cook the same thing (eg a lasagna recipe on Friday evening) - regardless of whether you feel like it or not. Your day may also become boring after a certain amount of time because, for example, the same activities are experienced every Saturday or every leg workout consists of the same exercises in the same order.
Tips to establish routines
1. Take your time and don't be too hard on yourself!
It will take some time to get used to your new routine. Some speak of at least 21 days, some of over 60. No matter how long it ultimately takes, it is important that you don't give up and keep at it. So don't be too hard on yourself if you fail to implement your "new" routine a few times and you find yourself in an old pattern. As long as you recognize the step backwards, move away from it, and stay focused on your goal, you'll soon be able to make your new routine your "normal routine."
2. Understand your why and define your goal
Before you change anything, you need to be clear about your goal and why. Why do you want to change something? Do you want to feel better, save money or learn something new or maybe someone else, eg society, wants it?
If you don't know exactly how to formulate your goal and define the right action steps for it, you are well served with our blog post about the "right goal setting" .
3. Write down, habit tracking
Write down your new routine and put the notes in a place where you will see them often. Especially when implementing new routines, it makes sense to record them in a habit tracker . There you can write down all your plans, e.g. read daily, do sports 4x a week, eat vegan 2x a week, consciously spend time together with your partner at least 3x a week, etc. Every evening you tick everything that you've done, giving you an overview of your progress and commitment.
We've created a habit tracker template that you just need to download, print, and fill out. You can also draw one in your calendar, notebook, etc.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat
As mentioned earlier, humans are creatures of habit. And until something becomes a habit, the motto is: repeat, repeat, repeat.
5. Set triggers and trick yourself
The quickest way to establish a new routine is to set triggers for follow-up actions. For example, if you want to introduce morning exercise, you can either sleep with your gym clothes on or put them next to your bed the night before. This makes it less likely that you will decide against the sport in the morning.
Another example regarding food: You want to eat healthier at lunchtime at work and not eat fried noodles from the Asian shop around the corner every day. Plus, it's too expensive for you in the long run. There are several options for this:
Domeal prep and prepare your own lunch-to-go.
If you don't have time for meal prep, you can use our dishes . All you have to do is warm them up in the microwave or in a saucepan. If neither is available, there is no reason to worry, because: Our dishes also taste good cold.
Make an appointment with colleagues for lunch together with food you have brought with you or take care of each other. Two days a week you take lunch with you for your colleague and on two other days she takes it for you. This is how you get to know new dishes.
In principle, when setting triggers, it is always about making it as easy as possible and choosing the hurdle before starting the new routine as low as possible .
Finally, rewards are also important. They support you in that they increase the likelihood of performing a certain behavior again. Rewards are a good tool, especially at the beginning, to generate (perhaps a lack of) motivation. For example, after three weeks of regular exercise, you give yourself a new sports outfit or go for a massage.
But it is also important that rewards do not become day-to-day business. If new habits, patterns of behavior, routines, etc. cannot be carried out without rewards, you should think deeply about whether the new thing is what YOU REALLY want.
This article was written by our author Lisa. Her greatest passions are nutrition/health, cooking and sport.