Before, and you all know what I mean by “before,” most of my days went like this: Wake up at 5:00. Flip coffee pot to “on.” Let dog out. Empty dishwasher. Sit for a 10-minute meditation. Move to the kitchen table, make an entry in my gratitude journal, read five pages of whatever book I am reading. Write 600 words. Text my dad. Make my daughter’s lunch for school, blend up a morning smoothie, wake the kids, and see them off. Work until 8:30, head to the gym. Go to the office, eat a protein bar, answer emails, and meet with my team. Eat lunch. Hop on the afternoon’s calls. Go home at 3:30 to get the kids off the bus. Head out for an afternoon walk. Make dinner. Help with homework. Answer more emails. Eat dinner, clean kitchen, walk dog, set up coffee for the next morning, shower, check social and go to bed.
Wake up. Repeat.
I’m not unusual. Most of us moved through much of our lives on auto-pilot, going from one familiar place and one familiar routine to another. We drove the same route to work, stopped at the same coffee shop, and walked the same paths.
A month ago, the world changed, and seemingly overnight, many of those old habits flew out the window only to be replaced by new habits created primarily within the four walls of our homes.
While that’s okay, some days, you have to wake up and see something different. Because when we break our routines, the unfamiliar forces us to pay attention. Things become clearer, more vivid, and more memorable. We see things differently, and the fresh input of new places, new colors, new textures, new flavors light up our minds and fuel our creativity.
But how do you wake up and see something new and bring a fresh perspective to days that are blending so seamlessly from one to the next that my husband has renamed every day of the week “blursday?”
It’s not easy. But it’s possible. Here are nine ways.
- Shoshin. Shoshin is a Buddist word that means “beginner’s mind” and it encourages people to deliberately, intentionally strive to look at things with fresh eyes and without preconceived ideas, the way a beginner would. You can bring this mindset to just about anything … and it is very useful when you are helping one of your kids dig into their homework.
- Learn something new. I know, I know, we are all tired of people telling us that this is the perfect time to learn a new language. But, although learning a new language seems like way too steep a mountain to climb (at least for me), now is a perfect time to learn small new skills, like those features on your phone you’ve always been curious about but never bothered to figure out.
- Cook something new. My son — who is home from college and missing his friends, his routine and his dorm life — has taken to baking. We call him the cookie fairy because many mornings, we wake up to some new fresh and delicious concoction on the kitchen counter. And as some of our favorites have been absent from the grocery store shelves, we are getting more creative about what we’re cooking. Thai chicken anyone?
- Clean out the linen closet. Or the pantry. Or the spice cabinet. Don’t take on the entire house, because now is the time to rack up the small successes, so start by just taking on the junk drawer. I promise, every time you open it, you’ll see something different and feel a little spark of joy.
- Walk a new trail. The vast majority of us remain free to walk out our front doors and around our neighborhoods, down a country lane, through a park or up the side of a mountain. Every few days, explore a new path, trail or street.
- Take on a Capture the Rainbow challenge. Each day, select one color of the rainbow to search for and photograph. It will force you to look at old things with fresh eyes.
- Camp out. In the backyard. I know, I know, you have a perfectly good bed a few yards away, but trust me, the fresh perspective you will gain is worth any discomfort or inconvenience. Bonus points: break out the fire pit, roast marshmallows, and tell ghost stories.
- Light a candle. If that is not something you customarily do, trust me, a room will look completely different by candlelight. So will your dinner table.
- Walk on the opposite side of the street. Or, reverse your route. Sometimes changing up your location isn’t possible, but changing how you walk that same path makes all the difference. Cross that intersection and see how quickly your view changes.
While routines are good, falling into ruts can be bad for our minds and our moods. Like so many things these days, seeing new things can be challenging. But not impossible.