Shake things up a little

We’re creatures of habit. Many find comfort in their routines, but beware, we could be living on autopilot.

While autopilot is fabulous for planes making long flights, it may not be the way we want to live our lives. It happens all too easily, because of the tendency our brains have to check out when we’re simply living life out of habit.

We’ve all done it. Driven places and not remembered the journey, eaten a meal and not really tasted it, finished our shower and not remembered if we’ve washed all the necessary body parts. We get lost in our mind, and we don’t notice what’s actually happening.

With repetition, there are many things we can do with our eyes closed, but it’s not really the way we want to be living our lives.

With the passing of the holiday season, I’ve heard many people who are looking forward to returning to their schedules and routines. As much as we long for a break from monotony, there’s something comforting about returning to our routine lives.

I tend to be a person of routine and efficiency. There’s a reason, a darned-good reason, I do what I do, the way I do it. I take specific routes because they’re the fastest, and I clean the house and cook meals in a certain order because it makes sense to do it a certain way. 

I’ve certainly been a creature of habit; daily rituals bring a sense of predictability and comfort. 

Health experts encourage routines as a way to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Children benefit from routines, as unpredictability can be hard for little people to deal with. But, we often carry the break a bit too far.

Being away over the holidays, I was out of my regular routine. We went to bed and woke up later; it felt decadent and a bit naughty. We ate at odd hours, and I let many daily rituals fall away. It was interesting how liberating it felt for me, and how much more I was engaged in what was happening. It’s led me to question my tendency to fall asleep to what’s really happening in my life, and to live life on auto-pilot.

Routines are a blessing and a curse!

While I appreciate many of my routines, I’ve certainly noticed a downside. When I become too routine, it narrows my experience of life. I’ve found huge benefit in shaking things up a bit. 

Staying stuck in the same neural ruts puts me on autopilot and it’s like hitting the snooze button. 

As our brains stay stuck in the same neural pathways day-in -and-day-out, we fail to develop new pathways in our brain. Incorporating mindful changes, learning a new hobby or skill, even taking a different route on our travels keeps the brain engaged and active. 

While arriving at our destination without noticing the trip is a common experience when driving, I don’t want it to be the way I live my life. I want to inhabit my days, notice what’s happening, and actually be awake to the richness and even the challenge life has to offer. 

Each day, try to do something a little bit differently. It nudges us to stay awake. Consider the words of Paulo Coelho, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it’s lethal.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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