Sick of routine? I may have the answer.

I've been feeling a little Groundhog Day lately.  You know; wake up, 'Really? You kids want breakfast AGAIN?' 'I have to make school lunch AGAIN?' I have to wrangle Mr 3 out of pyjamas and into clothes AGAIN? 

The daily school run.  Tidy the house, buy food, cook food, back to school again, homework, dinner. Tidying up.  AGAIN.  You know how it goes.  It's tedious. It's boring. It's frustrating.  It's endless.

I drive myself crazy because it was only a little over six weeks ago that I was desperate to get back into a routine after six weeks of school holidays.  Now I'm back to wishing things were a little less routine.  A little less Groundhog Day.

While lamenting the routine and the fact that I get angsty with regularity no matter what it is, I was reminded of a story told by Dr Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, in his book 'Authentic Happiness'.  

Early in the book he talks about the janitor (I think we'd call him a cleaner) in the hospital where he was visiting a friend in a coma. This man was busying himself with positioning the artwork on the walls of the hospital room and was in the habit of changing them regularly, swapping each piece over for something new and different.  

routine or run

Dr Seligman asked him what he was doing, and why he would bother changing artwork in the room of a person in a coma.  He couldn't see it. What was the point?  The janitor responded that patients do better when they have new stimulus and that it was his job to make sure that they have new and beautiful art.  Dr. Seligman was impressed that this guy thought not of his job as a series of menial cleaning tasks but as an opportunity to nurture the well being of other people. 

This was the premise on which Martin Seligman built his theory of character strengths; the idea that how we behave is driven by a set of built in traits that we each possess and when we use them we get a boost to our happiness and wellbeing. The janitor in this story possesses strengths in love, kindness and social awareness.

But this story reminds me of something else.  It reminds me that I have a choice in how I think about the routine and its tedium.  It reminds me that just by tweaking my thinking I can improve my attitude and make the daily jobs less irritating and more satisfying. Sometimes at least.  Psychologists call this positive reframing; trying to think about things in a more positive light.

So I’m practising this.

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Instead of resenting the morning routine I’m thinking about how I help the kids get ready in the morning. Helping them to eat a good breakfast so they’ve got the energy to get through the day.  Helping Mr 3 to learn to dress himself (he’s appalling at it).  Helping us all to get out of the door in time to walk to school in the sunshine, chatting and spending time together, rather than shouting and hustling them into the car.. 

Instead of despairing at the cooking and meal preparation I'm setting myself a challenge to cook meals and make snacks that use up all of the food in the house so that we don’t waste good food. That feels good.

Instead of feeling frustrated by the constant cleaning and tidying I’m trying to do it quickly and efficiently so that I'm able to sit and write or go outside and work in the garden knowing that the inside chaos is contained and surfaces are clean and tidy, at least for a little while.

It doesn’t always work for long and if I’m sleep deprived it’s sometimes hard for the positive thoughts to rise to the surface but it creates little moments of happiness and a general feeling of satisfaction.  That has to be better than Groundhog Day.

How do you deal with the tedium of the daily routine? Are you someone who thrives on it? Or do you have to positively reframe it too?


Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT.