Routines are important to help us get through life’s ups and downs. They can also have a massive impact on our day-to-day stress and anxiety levels. From the time we’re children, we crave routines. That need follows us into adulthood, although we tend to lose sight of it somewhere along the way. How much thought do we give to how our routines are serving us now?
In Chapter 6 of Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty explores how he had to develop and adapt his lifestyle to meet the routine and expectations in the ashram. It wasn’t an easy shift at first, but he knew it was important. He quickly discovered the secret to changing his morning routine – going to sleep earlier.
“I’d spent my life pushing the limits of each day, sacrificing tomorrow because I didn’t want to miss out on today,” Jay Shetty writes. In his early days as a teen and young adult, he had to be awakened either by his mother or an alarm clock.
Everything changed in the ashram, however. As a monk, he woke up peacefully to the sounds of nature with a sense of peace and tranquility. It was a welcome change that had a positive impact on more than just his physical health. Spending time in the ashram and adjusting to a new routine allowed him to wake feeling he had taken a mental shower.
It can be easy to think, “I could never wake up that early!” Many times, we try to wake up before our bodies are ready, and the hormone that aids sleep, melatonin, is still at work in our bodies. Jay Shetty believes this is why many of us are addicted to hitting the snooze button. Our society has taught us that getting as little sleep as possible and still functioning is somehow a badge of honor1.
Not getting enough sleep isn’t the only part of our routine we’re getting wrong. There’s one other thing many of us start our days with that is practically built into our lives. We reach for our phones as soon as we wake up.
“A majority of people go from out cold to processing mountains of information within minutes every morning,” writes Jay Shetty. As humans, we are not built for that kind of sudden transition. When we overload our brains with so much information – and most of it negative – how can we expect ourselves to have a good, productive day?
“In the ashram, we started each morning in the spirit of the day we planned to have,” writes Jay Shetty. “We trained ourselves to sustain that deliberateness and focus all day long. This allowed the monks to create peace and calm even in the disquiet of the outside world.”
When we look at routines as the vehicle to have better days with less stress, we can begin taking small steps to change our routines and adapt to a more productive environment. In Think Like a Monk, Shetty dives deep into routines and how to take baby steps that take you from overwhelmed and stressed to living productively.
1 . Adler, Margot, and Vikki Valentine. “In Today’s World, the Well-Rested Lose Respect.” NPR, NPR, 17 Jan. 2008, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18155047.