How Getting Back to a Routine Pays Dividends for your Health

Not all of us are lovers of routines, but there is no doubt that they can benefit our health. So, this year, why not embrace the change and see the upside to autumn? It could provide you with a little more time to yourself, to concentrate on your own health needs. For anyone living with a chronic condition like arthritis, this can make all the difference to improved self-management.  

How Routines are Good for us:

  • When you know what to expect (in the form of a routine), you have an added sense of security, and you tend to feel more confident. Modern life can be unpredictable and anxiety-provoking, but routines anchor us in predictability. 
  • We tend to thrive in a more structured environment, with a more disciplined approach to our food and activity choices.  
  • We tend to be more productive with a routine in place - since routines can segment our time, meaning you can focus on what needs to be done (and more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan, or more likely to build a plan that encourages us to take more regular physical activity). 
  • We are more likely to be able to override impulses when in a routine – we can plan our meals, meaning it is much less likely that you’ll end up overly hungry and then reaching for unhealthy foods. The same goes for exercise; you’re less likely to skip it if it’s already in the diary! 
  • For parents, even those who work full-time, you may manage to squeeze a bit more ‘me-time’ into your week when your children are busier with school, homework, and activities. This can mean meeting that friend for coffee, having more time to relax and meditate, or getting back to that weekly exercise class. 
  • Although it can be hard to get the sleep pattern back into ‘school mode,’ it is important to get a routine back, particularly since new research suggests that we all need more sleep during the dark winter months than we do in summer. 

Did you know that adults need around seven to eight hours sleep each night to optimise their weight loss efforts? If you are trying to lose weight, prioritising sleep can make a significant difference. 

Tips to Set up a Healthy Routine

  • Towards the end of summer, start shifting sleep schedules – it does not have to be major but, for most children, aiming to shift bedtime routines up 15-30 minutes earlier means they more easily grow accustomed to the new bed and wake times, making back-to-school much easier for everyone.  
  • Try to set aside time for yourself in the mornings, even just 10-15 minutes when you are not rushed, as this keeps stress levels low.  
  • Enjoy a healthy breakfast, such as porridge with fruit and seeds (which you can prepare for yourself/and others the night before), followed by a herbal tea, coffee, or tea. Some people like to do this when the house is quiet before everyone else gets up. 
  • Lay out clothes the night before – this small, but simple thing can help save time and can help soothe some frazzled nerves. The same goes for packed lunches – many can be made the night before, which is particularly beneficial to those who move slowly in the morning! 
  • For young children who struggle with routines, write up a chart (using fun visuals) that include the necessary things, such as dressing and washing teeth, and build in an end-of-week reward for ticking off the list each day. Encourage children to be responsible for their own routine to increase the chances of self-sufficiency.  
  • Consider banning screens in the morning – once children (and adults!) get into a screen, it is often difficult to get them moving and ready to walk out the door. If they are ready early, encourage them to play or read until it’s time to leave.  
  • Make a list of the things you want to achieve that day – particularly things that will benefit your health, such as fitting in a walk or an exercise class, as well as food shopping for all the items you need to eat well. Check out our Living Well with Arthritis courses, which can be done online or in person here. 
  • Make sure to build in some relaxation time each evening, whether that’s a stroll with your dog, a short Yoga/Pilates session (there are great videos online that take only 15 minutes), a warm bath or listening to some music to unwind and to increase the chances of getting a good night’s sleep.  
  • Get your timing in sync – where everyone in the house ideally goes to bed and wakes at roughly the same time every day will help you get back into a routine and a predictability that your mind and body will appreciate! 
  • Make a connection with loved ones, whether it’s a meal together, a simple chat about their day, a cuddle or, for younger children, a bedtime story. All too often we feel rushed and pressured, and we miss these special moments with the ones we love.  

To summarise, a return to the autumn routine doesn’t need to be dreaded; the truth is quite the opposite! In fact, you’re sure to reap the health benefits, the extra time to yourself and, hopefully, a little extra sleep.