How to change your mind by changing your routine
I’m re-routining this month and I am exhausted. “Re-routining” is a word I learned from my very wise fellow Groover, Alison, and instantly fell in love with it as soon as I heard it. It’s that process you go through when you are changing up a habit; your schedule, your commute, your space, your daily coffee, what you eat for lunch, or really anything you’re used to — and exchanging it for something new. It’s weird and disorienting at first, and often not fun, before you get into your new groove (haha) and it becomes more familiar.
Have you ever quit a diet or exercise commitment after the first couple weeks? Succeeded at removing a distraction (like YouTube or TikTok) only to give up after a few days? How about accidentally driving home from the grocery store to your old apartment instead of your new one after you’ve moved? (ok…just me?) This is basically mental jet lag — your brain is still in the old-habit timezone. In Habits of a Happy Brain, Dr. Loretta Breuning explains that it will take about 3–6 weeks of consistent repetition until you’re settled into your new habit time zone.
There are lots of tips out there for combatting regular jet lag when you fly, but precious few tools for traveling from habit to habit. For me, being successful at adopting new habits — which this month in my household meant I was returning to an art project after a few months away from it, plus also moving my son into a new school that’s farther from home — is enormously easier when I’m able to recognize a few things:
- It takes a lot more brainpower to get started than to keep going. When you’re re-routing you may feel more tired and more challenged. Sometimes, I even feel more hungry — which makes sense because your brain is actually burning more glucose as you are forming new habits.
- Slip-ups are inevitable. But they don’t mean you’re not able to stick to the new habit long term. Keep going!
- In time, mental jet lag goes away on its own — so long as you keep up consistency with your new habit 🏆
Barring true external obstacles (which really suck), self-criticism is what often leads people to sabotage healthy new behaviors. Having these 3 things in mind can take a lot of pressure off by allowing you to ease up on any self-judgment creeping in as you stumble into your new routine, getting stronger each week.