The transformative power of routine: Staying active

As the calendar flips to September, the tangible atmosphere of the 'back-to-school' season settles around us, embodying a sense of renewal and change.


This annual cyclical event is not simply a landmark for pupils and parents; it acts as a societal reset button highlighting the importance of returning to a structured routine.

Within this seasonal transformation, many discover comfort in re-establishing routines and timetables that offer a more balanced way of life. Here, we will delve into how remaining active, both physically and mentally, within a structured routine can be an invaluable boon to our mental health and overall well-being.

The psychological foundations of routine

At the core of human behaviour is a penchant for habitual actions. A multitude of studies in the field of psychology highlight the constructive role of routine in providing a sense of order to our lives. The human mind flourishes when it functions within a predictable setting, creating shortcuts that enable efficient operation. Routine serves as a cognitive roadmap, assisting our brains in navigating the intricate maze of life’s uncertainties.

By sticking to a well-organised routine, we often realise psychological advantages, such as diminished anxiety, reduced stress levels, and an increased sense of empowerment. Essentially, the act of maintaining a routine frees our cognitive faculties, permitting us to direct our mental energy towards intricate problem-solving, creative pursuits, and emotional intelligence. Routine, then, is not merely an organisational instrument, but a psychological anchor that steadies us amid life's ever-changing tides.

The dual gifts of time and focus during the academic year

For parents, particularly those with school-aged children, the academic year heralds a transformational shift in daily rhythms. Gone are the unstructured summer days; in their stead, arrive organised hours, framed by school drop-offs and pick-ups. This newfound time is more than a mere quiet interval; it is a temporal treasure chest that supplies the means for self-improvement and mental revitalisation.

While the temptation may be present to fill these vacant hours with domestic tasks or binge-watching television programmes, such choices often fall short of nourishing oneself in a holistic fashion. The saying "You cannot pour from an empty cup" rings true here, emphasising the importance of self-care activities that meet both physical and mental requirements.

The psychological sanctuary of the gym

A regular visit to the gym serves as more than a quest for aesthetic or athletic milestones. It is a haven that fosters mental revitalisation, a place where the mind can disengage from external stressors and recalibrate. The physiological mechanism underpinning this phenomenon is the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that function as natural mood lifters. They counteract the harmful effects of stress hormones, facilitating a state of mental clarity and emotional stability.

Moreover, the very nature of physical exercise — whether it be the rhythmic lifting of weights, the metronomic pace of a jog, or the coordinated movements of a group fitness class — mirrors meditative practices. Such repetition encourages mindfulness by compelling you to concentrate on the task at hand, severing your mind from past regrets or future worries and immersing it entirely in the present moment.

Mindfulness and yoga: A journey within

The disciplines of mindfulness and yoga provide another route for enhancing mental well-being. These practices focus on amplifying bodily awareness, mastering breath control, and carrying out deliberate, purposeful movements. Although these practices can be undertaken separately, they share common goals — anchoring the mind in the present and moderating stress through physiological control.

Both mindfulness and yoga have been scientifically shown to reduce the secretion of stress hormones, thereby inducing a state of mental serenity. They hone mental acuity, deepen emotional intelligence, and nurture a sense of holistic well-being. The essence of these practices lies in their ability to engender a balanced mental state that is both alert and peaceful.

Creative ventures as emotional sanctuaries

The indulgence in creative hobbies, whether it be painting, knitting, gardening, or any other form of artistic expression, provides an invaluable break from daily stressors. These activities transport you into a mental realm detached from external challenges, enabling engagement with an inner world that brings innate joy and fulfilment.

Besides the immediate gratification these activities offer, there exists a secondary reward system that enhances mental health. Achieving minor milestones in your creative journey— completing a canvas, for instance, or successfully cultivating a flowerbed— boosts your self-esteem and instils a sense of achievement. This, in turn, enriches your psychological well-being by granting a sense of purpose and mastery.

The value of human connections: More than social networking

Social connections extend beyond the sphere of casual interactions or networking events; they act as emotional lifelines that significantly shape our mental state. Whether these connections take the form of quick coffee chats, brief telephone calls, or in-depth conversations, they possess an innate ability to uplift our spirits.

The presence of a supportive social network serves as a safeguard against mental health challenges, offering both a psychological safety net and a source of joy and companionship.

The importance of regular mental check-ins

Finally, let's not underestimate the significance of setting aside quiet moments for introspection. These can be achieved through techniques such as journaling or even casual self-reflection during a morning cup of coffee. Such practices enable you to undertake periodic mental health audits, allowing you to evaluate your emotional state and make adjustments where necessary.

By instilling this habit within your routine, you equip yourself with the means to proactively identify and address issues relating to your mental health.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Ilford IG3 & London E7
Written by Saleha Choudhury, Diploma in Counselling | MBACP
Ilford IG3 & London E7

My name is Saleha Choudhury. I am an integrative counsellor based in Greater London. I enjoy helping people get unstuck as they work through difficult moments in their lives. I write regular blogs to keep in tabs with my readers on a regular basis. I hope you enjoy reading my blogs.

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