- Groundhog Day Syndrome is the feeling that each day is on repeat.
- The feeling can leave you feel bored, trapped, dull and hopeless about the future.
- To cope, change your mindset and how you approach your daily routine
Groundhog Day has become a shorthand term for the feeling that each day feels exactly the same and you are in a rut. When each day seems like it is on repeat, it can leave you feeling bored and sometimes a little hopeless about the future. You might feel trapped in a cycle of day-to-day life that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Although not a psychological diagnosis, it's a familiar feeling for many.
From a psychological perspective, at the root of this phenomenon is habituation. Habituation is a decreased response to repeated exposure to stimuli. In other words, when you get used to things, you stop focusing on them. The benefit is that it gives your mind a break and so you can filter out unimportant things. The downside is that you don't notice things like you used to, which makes the world dull and mundane. This leads to mindlessness or doing activities in routine ways, like a robot.
The first time you do an activity, the brain creates new pathways and unique connections between neurons. You remember this activity vividly, like the first time you rode a bike. When you do the same activity over and over again, it doesn't require as much of your attention because the same old pathways fire in the brain. This is why you can do an activity and forget a moment later whether you did it. Your brain doesn't have to work every hard.
Emotional Consequences of Being in a Rut
Our brain's fundamental need for mental stimulation is not just to keep us entertained, but to grow and enrich our lives. When we do new activities that we enjoy, we get a little burst of dopamine released in the brain and new neural pathways are forged. Our brains love this type of stimulation. However, it is not easy to find when you do the same thing each day.
8 Tips for Dealing With Groundhog Day Syndrome
- Be Mindful. Don't just be physically present, be mentally present as well. Use all of your senses—smell, touch, taste, and listen. Imagine that you are someone who is doing this daily, routine activity for the very first time. This is just a shift in mindset, turning your awareness on full blast.
- Try New Foods. We tend to eat the same 15 foods every day, and so our taste buds can get habituated and bored of them. A new food can wake up your taste buds and your senses.
- Plan an Adventure. It can be as simple as going to a new restaurant or turning a different direction on your walk—or as elaborate as traveling to a new city. This is an excellent way to create exciting, new neural pathways in the brain.
- Put a New Spin on Your Routines. Keep your routines; our bodies love consistency and maintaining the status quo. However, give your routine a little tweak by changing the time, the intensity, or the way you do an activity. For example, change the ringer on your alarm clock, play a new song during your workout, or sit in a new seat at the dinner table. Essentially, we love routine—but we hate boredom.
- Work Reset. We spend the majority of our day at work. This is a good place to insert a little new mental stimulation whether it is rearranging your desk or hanging a new motivational mantra on the wall in the lunchroom every week.
- Mental Gymnastics. Engage in any mentally stimulating activity that can help build up brain activity. Read, take a class, do word puzzles or games. Focus on learning something new like playing an instrument or learning how to invest.
- Ask yourself this: “What is one thing I can do differently today?” Then, instead of living on autopilot and replaying the same old patterns and habits, think about how you can do what you are already doing with more purpose and meaning. It doesn't have to be anything grand.
If you struggle with Groundhog Day Syndrome, don't ignore it: A few small shifts can go a long way to wake you back up and engage in life again in a new way.