Why having a routine is the self-care practice you didn’t know you needed

The dawn of a new year signals a clean slate, one that’s full of promise, anticipation and opportunity. As December ebbs into January, it’s a natural time to reflect and take stock of the moments that shaped us over the last twelve months, while the optimist within plans for the year ahead — prompting us to consider what we want from this next chapter, and the rituals and routines that will help us get there.

While you can initiate change anytime of year, there’s something especially enchanting about 1 January that brings a sense of hope and renewal. But how many of us actually see through the resolutions we set? Creating a routine that works for you is a helpful way to implement these changes, as establishing practices with intent and commitment can help you experience purposeful, long-lasting change throughout the year ahead.

Make time for what matters to you
Routines have the power to ground us, helping us find stillness and control even amidst our busiest days. They allow us to slow down and focus on where we are in the present (rather than where we want to be in 3 months from now) and bring our intention into action. These often small, daily rituals act as a reprieve (and a form of self-care), giving our brains a break by reducing the time and energy spent making last-minute decisions. They allow us to carve out time for what really matters to us and feel a sense of accomplishment in our day-to-day lives.

A daily routine means less time spent catching up on yesterday’s to-do list
So, where to start? While your routine can include everyday tasks like making your bed, meal-prepping or grocery shopping, don’t think of routines as chores. Instead, think of them as rituals that promote better wellbeing, or the tools that free you to spend more time doing what you love. Sure, doing life-admin and paperwork might not explicitly bring you joy, but the feeling of having it completed and out of the way definitely will.

Whether you want to get your steps up, join a club, meditate, journal, or unplug after each day — having a routine begins with daily practice. For instance, if your intention is to become an early riser, you might need to improve your sleeping habits, which could involve cutting down on your screen time, taking a hot shower, eliminating sources of blue light, and reading before bed. While these practices might seem insignificant on their own, over time and in combination, they can make a huge difference.

Creating a routine you’ll want to stick to
Give meaning to it:
Trying to stick to a routine (such as getting up at 5am) is useless unless you find meaning in it. Ask yourself, why do you want to do this and what value is it adding to your day? If you can understand what motivates you best, what makes you stay accountable, you can develop habits and ways of sticking to them that will last.

Start naturally:
It’s rare for someone to completely overhaul their life on 1 January. It’s not necessarily about doing something entirely new, but making small, attainable tweaks to your current lifestyle. Using the earlier example, if you currently wake at 7am each day, work towards the 5am goal by rising incrementally earlier until 5am feels more reasonable. Or if you’re wanting to adopt a skincare routine, start by weaving in your basics, such as cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen before gradually adding in anything extra. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight.

Consistency is key:
Our routines are there to serve us, not the other way around. So once you consider the rituals you’d like to introduce in order to create more balance and contentment in your life, the next step is regular practice. Over time, such tasks become easier to accomplish because you’ve made a habit of them, and because you know they’ll positively benefit you and your wellbeing.

Create a community:
Find people who share an interest in what it is you’re trying to practice — not only will you be less likely to quit, you’ll also be more enthusiastic in your efforts. If you want to move more, find a friend who will join you for a walk or exercise practice. If you can’t find someone in close proximity to you, connect with groups online who you can engage with and learn from.

Don’t be afraid to change course:
If one particular aspect of your routine continually falls to the wayside, you don’t have to admit defeat. Try changing the time of day of your routine or adjusting the length of time you’re dedicating to it. Alternatively, strip back your routine and with time slowly build this component back in, learning the way that works best for you.

Above all else, make sure you celebrate the little wins. Any progress you make, no matter how seemingly small, is worth acknowledging. Because the truth is, routines aren’t just an investment in time, they’re an investment in you (and are an act of self-love).

Depending on the type of routine you want to establish, there’s an abundance of tools and resources to help get you started:

  • If you want to move more, try: yoga, pilates and HIIT classes.
  • If you want to practice mindfulness, try: meditation, breathwork or earthing.
  • If you want a consistent skincare regime, get results at home using high-performance skincare.
  • If you want a better sleep, try: aromatherapy, sound healing or improving your sleep hygiene.
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