Schedule Yourself Happy
Mya Cole set herself a daily routine to see what impact it would have on her mental health.
We’re told that following a daily routine is a good way to keep your mental health in check. Great minds such as Karl Marx and Franz Kafka adhered to strict routines, Mariah Carey schedules time for a whopping 15 hours of sleep a day, and Anna Wintour plays a game of tennis and gets her hair blown out all before you’ve even woken up.
So, as someone with little semblance of any routine, I decided to give it a go. I googled ‘daily routines for good mental health’, and based on a bunch of information, I created my own routine to fit around my study/work schedule, which included mindfulness, healthy eating and a strict no alcohol policy. I vowed to stick to it for a week to see if I noticed any changes in my mental wellbeing.
In theory, each day was going to look something like this:
7.30am: Wake up, drink lemon water
7.35am: Get dressed
7.40am: Make a smoothie
7.50am: Walk to Tepid Baths
8.50am: Shower, get dressed
9.10am: Drink smoothie, write
9.50am: Walk to university
12.00pm: Walk home
12.15pm: Make and eat lunch
2.00pm: Walk to work
4.30pm: Eat dinner
8.30pm: Walk home
8.45pm: Free time
9.00pm: Have sex
‘I began the week with a clear agenda – a meticulous plan that was meant to be my ticket to a healthy mind and a healthy lifestyle. And it was! At least until I ended up dancing on the stage of Saloon Bar…
Today went beautifully, a busy, corporate woman’s wet dream. My morning swim was divine and left me with a defined sense of superiority that comes with exercising at an ungodly hour of the morning. By the end of the day, I couldn’t help envisioning my future as a successful woman of the schedule.
Tuesday was equally impressive until I decided to start drinking wine. Nothing too outrageous, just a glass at home while preparing (second) dinner with my boyfriend. Then a few more glasses during dinner. And some more after dinner. Before I knew it, there were two empty bottles on the table and we were listening to De La Soul.
I woke up feeling slightly drowsy but determined to get to the pools and swim away my hangover. It worked, and while I chowed down on my morning wrap (I needed more than a smoothie to kill this particular hangover) I felt the endorphins from exercise and routine fill my body. The strict schedule was doing wonders for me – I felt less anxious and generally happier from the exercise. I also vowed to not drink any more until Saturday, but as the evening rolled around, the vino started calling my name again (a glass or two of red is good for your health right?). I still went to bed on time though, and felt thoroughly refreshed by the time I awoke on Thursday morning.
Today was a picture of perfection until I met some girlfriends for dinner on K Road. When researching routines for good mental health, I had read that it was important to have something to look forward to, so I arranged this dinner to be waiting for me at the end of the week. I should have known from the get go there was going to be trouble: More red wine, polenta chips galore and bowlfuls of cheesy arancini balls. Dessert rolled around, as did the third bottle of red, and then thoughts of karaoke began sowing their seed in my brain. Routine was a far-away concept, and waking up to swim in the morning was a possibility that was fast disappearing. When you look back on a night out, there’s always a point at which you identify you probably should have gone home. For me, that point was turning up outside my favorite bars—which happened to be closed—drunk and slightly confused. But I partied on.
I woke up this morning and resigned myself to lying on the couch all day, feeling sorry and writing about the pain that was coursing through my hangover-ridden body.
I’m clearly no expert, but I do think routine can be crucial in the quest for mental wellbeing. For me, however, the changes will have to be slightly more incremental. I don’t think I can meditate and swim in the same day, for example. Drinking wine with dinner is going to have to be allowed – no regular binging though. Although I had fun, I know excessive drinking and cheesy balls are not a good recipe for long-term mental health.
Before the week took a turn for the debaucherous, I was actually doing pretty well, so I am going to try again. I am going to choose the things that are most important to me, and make time for them. And I’m not going to beat myself up if I end up on a mini bender every now and again!