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Habit Formation

Routine Reset: Daily Habits for Good Mental Health

A consistent routine can improve well-being—and make life easier.

Key points

  • Establishing a routine can improve your mental health.
  • Predictable times for excercising, taking medications, doing chores, relaxing, and sleeping make life easier.
  • Your schedule can be customized to suit your personal characteristics and preferences.

As we start the new year, many of us are eager to make positive changes and set the tone for a healthier lifestyle.

Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash
Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

One effective, but often overlooked, way to do this is by establishing a routine that prioritizes our mental well-being. In this article, we'll explore simple—yet impactful—steps you can take to create a consistent daily routine in January, setting the stage for a healthier and happier year. Let's dive into the practical ways you can enhance your mental health through intentional habits and a focused routine.

The Benefits of Routine

By offering several benefits that make our daily lives smoother and more manageable, routines:

  • provide a sense of order and structure, reducing stress and uncertainty.
  • boost efficiency by reducing decision-making and helping us stay focused on our priorities.
  • promote discipline and consistency, helping us develop positive habits crucial for personal and professional success.
  • offer comfort and stability. A predictable schedule can be especially reassuring during challenging times.

Routines go beyond just time management, they play a significant role in supporting overall well-being, building resilience, and fostering a healthier and fulfilling life (Arlinghaus & Johnston, 2019).

Components of a Routine for Good Mental Health

This article provides ideas for establishing a routine that nurtures emotional well-being. It's crucial to keep in mind that we all have unique characteristics and varying needs. Understanding yourself is the first step—acknowledging your traits and preferences. For instance, if you're a night owl or consider yourself more introverted, it's essential to tailor your routine accordingly, factoring in these specific traits.

Components of a routine for good mental health:

  • Regular sleep schedule. Try to keep the same bedtime and wake time every day of the week. This makes it easier both to fall asleep at night and to wake up in the morning. If you tend to put off going to bed, try setting a bedtime alarm. Also, be sure your morning wake-up alarm allows enough time so you aren’t starting the day already late and stressed. Adequate sleep can help you regulate your mood, stay focused, utilize healthy coping skills, and decrease stress hormones (Peri, 2021).
  • Time and space to blow off steam. What do you do to decrease stress? Whether it’s meditation, exercise, or journaling, make a daily habit of doing something proactively to manage your stress.
  • Exercise. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to take care of your mental health. Decide when you’re going to exercise and put it on your calendar. Try to get in a little most days; it doesn’t need to be strenuous or lengthy. For example, you might dance around the house, take a walk during your lunch break, or ride your bike to the store.
  • Take medications consistently. Taking medications at the same time daily serves as a reminder to take them and keeps them working properly.
  • Prioritize your to-do list. Sometimes I just want to get some of the quick and easy items knocked off my list, and I’ll do those first. The problem is that these may not actually be priorities. Do the most important thing first (not what’s hardest, or easiest, or quickest).
  • Appreciate what’s good in your life. Many people like to keep a gratitude journal where they list five or 10 things they’re grateful for before going to bed. You could also create a practice of noting five things before you get out of bed in the morning or while you’re in the shower. Keep it simple.
  • Simple pleasures. Your routine should also include things that make you happy. Just be sure that what you’re doing for pleasure is healthy—sorry, this isn’t a loophole for drinking a six-pack every night!
  • Cultivate meaningful relationships. Make time for the people who matter to you. Family dinner is an excellent place to start. A regular date night with your spouse and coffee with friends can also be good routines to set. Social interactions provide emotional support and promote a sense of belonging and acceptance.
  • Hobbies. Dedicate time to activities you enjoy, whether it's reading, painting, playing a musical instrument, or gardening. Hobbies provide an outlet for creativity and relaxation.
  • Boundaries. Clearly communicate your limits in personal and professional relationships. Setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance and preventing burnout.
  • Self-reflection. Make time to regularly check in with yourself. You can use journaling, meditation, or quiet time to do this. If you notice signs of stress, feeling overwhelmed, or deteriorating mental health, consider adjusting your routine and seeking additional support. Self-reflection can help you catch problems when they’re small and make proactive changes to address your evolving needs.

How to Get Started

This may look like a big list of things to do! It’s not meant to overwhelm you. Remember, you don’t have to do it all. You may also find that multiple items can be combined. For example, I phone friends and family while taking my daily walk.

If you’re going add new things to your schedule, you may need to subtract others. This might come in the form of setting boundaries and saying no to things that aren’t priorities or don’t support your well-being. It can also mean spending less time on mindless activities that don’t solve a problem or leave you feeling replenished.

Also, remember that following a routine will ultimately save you time. You’ll be more efficient. You’ll have more energy.

Most important, know that creating a routine to support your mental health is a work in progress. You don’t have to add all of these things to your routine this week. Start where you are and add one healthy habit at a time. If you don’t keep to the routine perfectly, that’s normal and to be expected. Self-compassion is also good for your mental health!

This post was adapted from an article on the author’s website.


Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2019). The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(2), 142-144.

Peri, C. (2021). What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Mind. Web MD.

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