Starting a Wellness Routine Comes with Surprising Benefits, Research Shows

When we think of the word “routine” a few images come to mind: three-step face washes, a half hour on the treadmill, dog walks, meal prep, etc. But having a routine doesn’t have to mean going through the motions or mindlessly repeating the same steps over and over again.

Research shows that the right routine can actually help individuals handle periods of uncertainty and change. The study, published in 2020, outlined two different types of routines — primary and secondary — and highlighted how they can be used to alleviate the adverse effects of stress and anxiety. Primary routines were those associated with basic livelihood and biological needs, such as hygiene, sleep, and eating. Secondary routines included specific motivations and preferences, like exercising, leisure activities, and maintaining goals.

The researchers found that both primary and secondary routines can be consolidated and replaced, while new routines can be added to the participant’s benefit. By making periodic adjustments to ordinary routines, individuals can keep things fresh, while maintaining their structure for daily living.

But a daily routine can also strengthen cognitive functioning and spark creativity. An additional study from 2018, published in the journal Sage, explains that a regular work process allows individuals to focus less mental energy on recurring tasks, saving that cognitive ability for other more complicated projects and thinking. And while it may seem ironic, writers, artists, and musicians often have rigid, set routines so that they can carve out dedicated time solely for the creative process.

So what’s the best way to set up a healthy routine? First, it’s best to start small so that you can keep things manageable. Selecting a regular time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning can better regulate your schedule, while committing a set amount of time each to physical activity creates a healthy foundation that can help alleviate stress. Building a Monday cue into your weekly regimen is another way to remain focused on health, where research has shown that people who start each week healthy also describe a higher likelihood to focus on health other days of the week. The Healthy Monday Check-Up Tool offers different health-related practices, ranging from exercise to plant-based eating to stress relief, based on the user’s current feeling or mood. Checking up each week can make it easier to focus on health and achieve your long-term wellness goals.