we make our habits,
then our habits make us.
For those of us who are retired, life can become very
routine if we don’t consciously think about what we’re doing. For those of you
who are still working, ever have the feeling that you've been switched on
autopilot? Maybe you're coasting through a too-familiar routine: shower,
coffee, work, sandwich, work, gym, home, dinner, TV, sleep. I remember when I
was working a 40-hour work week, I didn’t even want to answer the phone or work
on the computer when I got home. I ate my frozen meals, numbly sat in front of
the TV and went to bed. Then it seemed as if my weekends were taken up with
errands, and then Sunday I started thinking about work again. There didn’t seem
to be any break in that routine.
And, unfortunately (or fortunately) habits and patterns of behavior make us
feel comfortable. While comfort is fine, straying off your well-worn path can
give you a boost —and bring more color and spirit into your life in the long
term. Once you stop numbing out and become more aware of whether you're happy
or unhappy, comfortable or uncomfortable in specific situations, you'll stop
going with the flow—and start dictating the flow of your life…or as Focus
team-mate Kristina Morgan often says, ‘living your life on purpose.”
Since it is always healthy to break your routine, here are a
few interesting and fun ways to do it whether you’re still working or retired.
- Walk barefoot in the grass…in the morning before
work or at lunch.
- In the bedroom, surround yourself with
comforting, on-hand objects that please the mind or make you smile. A basket filled
with your favorite books…I actually have an old book about the Bobbsey Twins
that is an exact match of one I read when I was a child. That always makes me
feel good when I look at it.
- Occasionally disconnect yourself from the
routine world. Switch off your cell phone. Ignore the telephone. Go offline. Be
off-limits. In those moments, do what you feel like: have a luxurious bath,
nurture your lawn, work in your garden or cook a good dinner (try a new
recipe!). When you get back to the world, you feel like humming and happy that
you broke the routine life.
- Keep an old family album next to your chair as you watch TV. Turn off the TV or at least mute it. Flip through it enjoying the memories it
brings. Or just close your eyes and think back to a time when you were truly
happy. Sweet memories always make you smile. And when you feel the smile
coming, envision it seeping through your heart, into every cell.
- I have a friend who rises early, makes her
coffee, then reads the Bible for awhile. That’s a nice start to your day. And,
for you, it may be a routine breaker. If you’re not an early riser, don’t make drastic changes. Start
slowly, by waking just 5-10-15 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for
a few days. Then add another 5-10-15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get
to your goal time.
- Get into bed a little early some evening.
Prepare for bedtime like you would for a date (and bedtime can be wonderful way
to date yourself). Take a warm shower, pamper your skin with a softening after
bath lotion, dim the lights, and climb into the comfort of crisp, clean sheets.
Breathe deep, and let your mind gradually settle into restfulness. Just three
days, rather, nights, of restful sleep will restore your life balance for a
long time to come.
- Make someone else’s day! Research shows a simple
act of random kindness can work and make you get out of a daily routine.
- Do ankle ABC’s at your desk. To reduce tension
and get blood flowing after a few hours of sitting, trace each letter of the
alphabet in the air with your right foot, then repeat with your left. Nothing
more as such can be simplest ideas to rejuvenate routine life.
- Visualize future fun. Every Monday, take one
minute to think of something exciting to do during the upcoming weekend.
- Walk up a wall. When you are physically wiped
out from a long day, try this: Take off your shoes and lie on the floor,
perpendicular to a wall. ‘Walk’ your feet up the wall and scoot your behind as
close to the wall as possible, so your body that naturally pools in your legs
will drain away from those areas, ultimately making you feel more energized.
- Do you have a massage school in your town? It’s
a great way for an inexpensive massage. I’ve had some of the best massages I’ve
ever had at the BMSI Institute in Overland
Park, KS, for a
fraction of the cost of a certified masseuse. Look online or in the yellow
- Get up early enough to eat a good (or special) breakfast
for a change. It could include cereals, fruits, herbal tea, or even hash browns
or some crepes with strawberry sauce. Something decadent to start your day off
with a smile and without a routine. Eat on a special tray.
- Laugh your heart out. Laugh at everything silly.
Laugh at something not so silly. Make up for all those days you spent without
laughing. Just 15 minutes of laughing can help you burn 40 calories! I find
when I start a really loud, good, cathartic laugh, I decide to enhance it and make
it last longer. Try it!
- Shake up your usual routine. Wear something
different for a change; eat something different, take a coffee or bookstore
break en route to work. Small changes can make the world of a difference.
a few friends over for some chit-chat over coffee, tea and reflexology. Request
a masseuse to come home and massage the pressure points on everyone’s feet.
Gossip, share some jokes, or talk philosophy. A few hours of togetherness with
friends can help you unwind. This is how friends can help you from boring office
- I’m working on Bill right now for a Keurig
Single-Cup Brewing System. A different flavor of coffee every morning or just
on special mornings to break up the routine. Unfortunately, it’s a little
pricey, and I’m not sure I can get the little coffee pods in Mexico, but I’m
checking into it!
- Check into a hotel room on a Friday night.
Spritz the bed linen and furniture with a scented linen spray and light a
scented candle. Make yourself at home. Order room service. Go to the
the gym. Or visit the dance club on the ground floor. Treat yourself as
are your best friend!
- Enroll for a makeup workshop. A few hours spent
learning about highlighting your best features, and the how-to’s of using eye
shadow, mascara, lip liner, blush can boost your looks and confidence. You may
also make new friends. If you’re a guy, get a facial or a pedicure…you don’t
know what you’re missing! I wish I could convince Bill about this!
- Go to a bookstore, alone or with a couple of friends.
Browse through magazines and books. Laugh at things that amuse you (don’t worry
about people frowning) and regale in some bits of amazing news. It is time well
spent. Enhance knowledge and keep away from routine schedule sickness.
- Don’t jump out of bed one morning. Wake up
languorously, stretching your body, your toes, roll your shoulders, give
yourself a warm hug and then welcome the day!
- Lessen the negative energy in your body. Take a
deep breath, exhale completely, relaxing your muscles. Sit on a bench in a park, even
if it is just for a few minutes. Breathe in the sights, sounds and smells.
Enjoy the breeze. Relive the joy of living! Swing on a swing in the park…it’s
exercise too! Think of things that made you smile. Think of moments that gave
you a high!
- Buy a bunch of flowers to add a touch of bright
in your life! Buy yourself a gorgeous vase…it doesn’t have to cost a lot…it
just has to make you happy when you look at it. It empowers you when you can make
your environment beautiful. And how sweet the smell of the universe can be.
- Another thought…treat yourself to a favorite
(even expensive) bottle of wine and use that as a bud vase for a fresh bud or
two every few days.
- Use your
lunch, not just for lunch with friends or to
run errands. Go to museums, new
restaurants, new parks, try new foods. So many people waste this time working
at their desks or going to the same
restaurant with the same people and eating the same food. New friends, foods
and activities are Vivid. Change the routine by eating something
different. Have a root beer float or banana split for lunch…what fun! But
the change does not have to be purely culinary. You can decide to eat
your lunch for half an hour and do something else the other half hour.
You can exercise, read or do whatever you want. The idea is to choose
something that you like. You may go back to work reenergized.
- Play with Legos and Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, or have a jigsaw
puzzle set up in the corner of the room. The building challenges, the creation
of something quick and easy is both a puzzle-solving exercise and it builds
visualization skills. In addition, anything that triggers wonderful childhood
memories is good.
- Try getting up with the sun and going outside to listen to
the birds and feel the early morning breeze. It’s wonderful. Put up a
- Take a different route to work. Once a week, why
not set off ten minutes earlier and take a different route? Or walk down a
street you’ve never been through before, or stop off for coffee in a different
part of town.
- Ask a friend to recommend a book. I was tired of reading the same old mystery/thriller books and had friends recommend their favorite authors for light, happy, funny reading. Now I have a whole new list of authors to work through. It’s been enlightening!
- Do something different in the evenings. Are your evenings packed with emails and chores? Or, do you spend the evening hours drifting around the house aimlessly, watching television and pretty much filling time until you go to bed? Neither is especially healthy. Why not go out on a weeknight for a change? This can make your evening into an event—you’ll go to bed feeling satisfied that you’ve done something interesting and enjoyable. If your weekends are busy with family obligations, going out on a weekday evening can be a great way to do some things out of your usual routine: perhaps a trip to the theater, to a gallery, or even a museum.
- Take a day off. One of the most
powerful ways to break out of a rut is to take a whole day off. If you don’t
have any leave left at work, use a Saturday or Sunday. Cancel all your usual
activities and obligations, and give yourself permission to do anything you
want with the day. Go for a long, solitary walk; write poetry; go shopping;
read a whole blockbuster novel; lie in the grass and gaze at the clouds…Go to a
matinee…especially on a weekday…how fun is that???
- Start small. Really small. If you are having a hard time getting
started, it may be because you’re thinking too big. If you want to exercise,
for example, you may be thinking that you have to do these intense workouts five
days a week. No—instead, do small, tiny, baby steps. Just do two minutes of
exercise. I know, that sounds wimpy. But it works. Commit to two minutes of
exercise for one week. You may want to do more, but just stick to two minutes.
It’s so easy, you can’t fail. Do it at the same time, every day. Just some
crunches, two pushups, and some jogging in place. Once you’ve done two minutes
a day for a week, increase it to five, and stick with that for a week. In a
month, you’ll be doing 15-20. Want to wake up early? Don’t think about waking
at 5 a.m. Instead, think about waking 10 minutes earlier for a week. That’s
all. Once you’ve done that, wake 10 minutes earlier than that. Baby steps.
- Turn off the TV for a day. It is sad
to say this but a lot of people devote a lot of their free time to watch
TV. Give the TV a day off. Plan to do something different with your
family. Play games, do homework together, eat dinner at the dining table,
read aloud a story. Or do something by yourself. Read that book you
have been putting aside, cook a nice dinner, download new music, read fun blogs
for places or countries you want to visit, take a class. There are so
many possibilities. You may be killing those possibilities by being the
slave of the TV.
- Hug somebody. This is easy if you live in Mexico…it’s
a culture where hugs are common. I am talking about a big
hug not just a lightweight, pretend one! Kristina Morgan, Ana Kabande and
Liz Verar know about BIG hugs! Ana told me I was a wimpy hugger…I did not grow
up in a culture of hugs, so I’m learning the right way to do them! In the USA and Canada, people greet each other with
just a hi or a good morning. I understand the cultural differences but I also
believe there is nothing wrong with this beautiful expression. Of course,
don’t start hugging everybody at work because I am sure more than one person is
going to freak out. You can start with the people close to you. I think
it is vital to hug somebody at least once a day. I hug my husband every
day. Have you hugged somebody today?
- Compliment someone. I was the type who would
walk past someone at work and think “what a pretty blouse,” “they got a hair
cut…looks good!”, but I would never say it to them. I finally woke up and
wondered why I didn’t say it out loud. So, now, I even say it to strangers if
something occurs to me…you will be surprised at the wonderful smiles you get
and it will change your attitude too. Break the routine of just thinking compliments…say
them out loud!
- Sing with feeling. I love to sing, and what I
lack in quality, I make up for in volume. I was lucky enough to be around when
Napster was up and running. I downloaded every single song I loved, made a disk
of my favorite, went on a road trip to see my family and learned all the words
to them during the 10-hour round trip. It was the most fun road trip I’ve ever
taken! Become a performer. Act like you already feel like you want to feel.
William James put it very clearly: "We do not sing because we're happy.
We're happy because we sing." If you want to be happy, find the happiest
song you know and sing it. It works.
- Give some luck away. "You cannot live a
perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay
you." John Wooden, Basketball Hall of Fame. There is a way to make sure
you can't be repaid and that's to do something for someone who won't even know
who did it. You can create luck in your life by giving it away. See if you can
begin creating your own luck.
- 15 minutes – set your timer. This is one of my
favorites, especially if there's something you need to do, but don't really want to. I went through a disappointing time of my life where I didn’t feel I
could manage to do anything but get through the day. My mentor at the time
suggested I set a timer for 15 minutes and do something, anything! If at the
end I didn’t want to do it any more, I gave myself permission to stop.
Sometimes I would; sometimes I would continue on. It is amazing what you can
accomplish in 15 minutes. And it will certainly help you burst out of your
- Send someone a post card. What would your
mother, your niece, your son or daughter think if they got a post card from
you? And you’re not even on vacation!
Keep a stack in your desk or next to your favorite chair, grab one, jot a quick
note to let someone know you’re thinking about them and mail it. It won’t take
a lot of time, especially after you’ve been on the phone all day at work and
can’t work up the energy to call someone! When you’re out doing that something
different on your lunch hour, go by a drugstore or bookstore and pick out some
funny ones or tourist-y ones…it doesn’t matter. This is one time really when
it’s the thought that counts!
- Read mystery novels. The person with the highest
IQ ever measured recommends mystery novels as brain builders. I tried to
double-check this factoid, but couldn’t find any confirmation. I decided to
include it anyway…because…I like it! The brain can be built as surely and as
quickly as the muscles of the body. So the next time you feel like curling up
with a good mystery, don't feel guilty. It might be doing the most productive
thing you've done all day. And, if you want a break in your day, I found some
terrific mystery sites that let you solve a problem…what a great way to take a
So you see…there’s plenty to gain from the small pleasures of life! Just try breaking the routine. You can either think of something new you want to do or just let it happen! Just grab the opportunity when it comes! The simple desire to have a new experience will make you think of more new ways to do mundane activities! Think of anything you already do daily - how could you do it differently today?
Operations Manager for FocusOnMexico.
Focus On Mexico offers 8-Day
Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico (2nd
Best Climate in the World). Join us on a Focus program and learn why
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Americans, Non-Residency for Canadians, Living on the Lakeside,
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everything you need to help you decide if Lake
Mexico is the place for you, plus have a lot of fun doing it.
Retiring in Mexico couldn't be better.