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Rebooting Your Habits: Why Choosing Rhythms Over Routines Can Transform Your New Year

Updated: Feb 20

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on how routines might actually fail us (not the other way around) and offers a body based check-in to help you integrate the concept of rhythms in your daily life.

Choosing rhythms over routines in your new year

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

New Year, New Routine?

The promise of a new year can be refreshing. A reset. And it can make us curious about what practices we want to implement in our day-to-day to nurture our mental, physical, and spiritual health: mindfulness, movement, joy, reading, praying, stretching, laughing, listening, observing, connecting. What we want more of and what we want less of too.

Routines are helpful and our brains love them from a schema/scaffolding standpoint -- but they can be really difficult to maintain. And, despite what the internet tells you, that’s not often due to lack of willpower -- it’s that the rigidity that’s inherent to a routine isn’t very conducive to our lives because our days aren’t static. They’re always changing. And even if we can try to simplify our day, there are always outstanding variables -- a bad night’s sleep, a looming project deadline, a friend in need, hormone fluctuations, raw grief, a meet cute or an unexpected opportunity.

Out with Routines, In with Rhythms

We’re better off with a process that allows for more flexibility and flow without compromising consistency -- and that’s where a rhythm can be helpful. For example, a routine might be “meditating every morning for 15 minutes,” whereas a rhythm is “dedicating time every day to be still and present” (that could be meditation or it could be turning off the podcast you’re listening to and just observing on your commute home.) Another is “lifting weights at the gym after work for an hour, 4 evenings a week” versus “finding time to move my body in a dedicated way 4 times this week.” A rhythm mentality still incorporates the intention behind the routine, but also allows for the quirks of life to happen. Maybe this is just semantics, but it’s food for thought, none-the-less. Try it on and see how it feels.

Last note: I’d like to share a great insight a client made when feeling discouraged about past failed attempts at routine building: “Life got in the way & I looked at it as all or nothing. And it’s a shame because when I do get back into it, like that hot yoga class, I remember how fulfilling it is for me. I feel present and embodied. That’s what I want more of in my life. The routine felt like a chore, but it’s really a reminder, a way to engage with those feelings.” Try out the full body check-in below inspired by this insight to clarify the intentions behind your routines & rhythms. See you in 2024.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Start on the inhale, in through the nose. Feel the air fill your head, your lungs, and your belly. Then let it go. Notice the way your body releases the tension & relaxes. Repeat. In the spirit of the week, try going through 12 cycles of breath, one for each month of this year that you experienced. Maybe this is your check-in for the day. If you’d like to go deeper, let’s continue.

Call on the word ‘routine’ and observe what happens. What images, emotions, memories come up? Notice what happens in your body. Any tension, tingling, or numbness and where it takes up space.

Some of us have complicated relationships with routines; some of us swear by their grounding nature. For all of us, a routine comes from somewhere. Some intention, some desired experience, some wanted feeling. Think about a routine (or rhythm) you want to start or continue this next year. What’s the intention behind it? Is it joy? An embodied state of being? Clarity? Regulation? What do you want it to remind you of?

Center these reminders in your day & week. The routine will follow.

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