How to Trick Yourself Into the Routine You Want

Every goal requires little daily steps in order to get there and when you keep yourself busy you typically feel better than when you are lounging around all day. So what are some tricks to keep you engaged in life?

A routine is crucial for those living with mood disorders. It can be the difference between misery and peace of mind. Evidence has found there is a correlation between happiness and structure in your life. So even if it seems boring, and even if you are at home all day long, just making a schedule and sticking to it will bring you peace of mind. Our minds literally thrive off of repetition and organization. This is especially important for people who are mostly home or people with ADHD or Asperger's syndrome.

But staying focused, on track and organized when your emotions sway you all over can be tough. And if you are in a depressive episode sometimes you might not want to do anything at all or worst you end up falling into habits that worsen your depression: binge eating, binge drinking, risky sex, causing chaos in/or neglecting relationships. Lack of productivity itself is grounds for longer depressive episodes. So what are you ought to do?

Sometimes You Need More Than Willpower

Just wanting to do something is often not enough to get the job done. It gets even more difficult when you have, like mentioned before, depression or anxiety. Or any strong emotion at all such as anger or over-excitement. Even feelings of love can get in the way of planned activities and tasks. But there are a few things you can do to solve this problem:

1) Align Tasks With Goals

It is important to align your daily routine goals with your bigger picture (long-term) goals. Think about the big picture to add weight to the importance of even the smallest tasks. Brushing your teeth daily so you won't get stained teeth or gingivitis is a clear example! But there are tons more. Common ones are eating healthy and working out to get fit and lean, and engaging in social activities to boost your confidence. Simply reminding yourself that the task is a means to achieving something bigger than the action, you will be more committed to getting it done.

Such small things as daily showering can improve your overall mood overtime as you'll feel more confident and people may even want to be around you more. Smelly people usually get avoided! You may not be going out tomorrow but reminding yourself to shower daily will keep you in the habit of being clean. Who doesn't love feeling fresh anyway? Another task that may go unnoticed is simply checking in on a friend or two or talking to new people. You may not be have the biggest social life tomorrow but making time to get to know new people may blossom friendships for the future! The final example of this is reading a chapter of a book each day because you might enjoy the story or need to learn a new skill. Maybe you even plan on writing your own book one day.

2) Pair the Task with a DBT skill or more

Use the various DBT skills as your personal assistants. You can use the following format when you are planning your routine, to trick your brain into sticking to it. Remember it is hard at first, but it gets easier the more you attempt to do everything on your routine list. Try starting small though, such as having 3 daily targets. The following is the daily routine of a fictional character. Aligning her goals with each task motivated Kacey to complete the tasks, while pairing the task with DBT skills helped her get through the task. See for yourself:

Kacy is a fictional character who desires to stay positive, be more mindful and be a better writer. So, in her journal she writes:

Kacy's Daily Routine

9:00am - Brush Teeth and Shower

  • GOAL: This will help me get to my goal of feeling more confident and less depressed. It is a positive when it comes to socializing. I will also feel more responsible and build self-love as this is a self-care action that will ease away some depression.

  • SKILL(S): I can use: imagery (visualizing ahead), opposite action, Radical Acceptance, Willingness, One Thing in the Moment.

12:00pm - Mindfulness Meditation for at Least 5 Minutes

  • GOAL: This will help my goal of being calmer so I can be less anxious and make and maintain healthy relationships or go to the check-out counter at the store without a panic attack. This will also help me achieve my goal of being happier as I will feel braver about going to activities outside of the house.

  • SKILL(S): Cope ahead, opposite action, Radical Acceptance, Willingness, One Thing in the Moment.

5:00pm - PHYSICAL ACTIVITY For at least 15 minutes

  • GOAL: This will help be get closer to my goal of feeling healthy and being fit. This will help blood circulation, make me think and feel better instantly. Achieving this goal will boost my confidence so much I could even become more social and maybe date again. It will also improve my breathing and help me achieve physical tasks much easier in the future without burning out.

  • SKILL(S): Cope ahead, Imagery (visualizing ahead), opposite action, Radical Acceptance, Willingness, One Thing in the Moment.

7:00pm- Read Fiction Book for 1 hour

  • GOAL: This will help me get closer to my goal of having more people visit my book blog. This will help my memory, vocabulary, and writing. It is also a pleasant moment that will improve my mood. I will feel confident and satisfied when I achieve this daily goal. Having more people visit my site will increase my chances of being able to start a business out of blogging, and have an audience who is ready when I would like to publish a book.

  • SKILL(S): Imagery (visualizing ahead), opposite action, Radical Acceptance, Willingness, One Thing in the Moment.

*It is important to check over your goals and skills regularly until your routine sticks. Put them someplace you will always notice them, like on your screen saver, on a wall, or on a sheet of paper you keep under your pillow or on your nightstand. Tip: look over them nightly, just before you sleep.*