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Mix It Up to Change Your Mood
by Nicole Vidalakis, PhD
Most of us end up walking around in the same daily patterns...we sleep on the same side of the bed, eat the same lunch, listen to the same radio stations, etc.
In many ways, we use these familiar patterns to make our lives easier, making at least some things during our day things that we can control and things that are both predictable and comfortable.
However, a drawback of staying in these daily life routines is that there is a tendency to disconnect with what's going on around us.
In other words, a routine can become a rut.
If we don't have to think about what to have for breakfast, we won't notice the details that make up our lives, even small things...like what things taste like, the feeling of the icy coffee as it hits the straw, the whiteness of the stairs, etc.
So, a goal in changing up a few things in your daily routine is to encourage yourself to be more engaged and mindful in the moment; to interrupt your internal dialogue, and make yourself aware of what automatic thoughts go through your mind when you aren't paying attention to your surroundings--for many of us, these thoughts typically include fear, anxiety, anger, etc. about what's going on in the day.
Like Pavlov proved with dogs and bells, the animal side of us reacts to external prompts in our environment--maybe standing in the coffee line gives you anxiety because you connect coffee with going to work. Maybe you connect taking a particular route home from work every day with feelings of loneliness because you're going home to an empty apartment.
Mixing a few things up during your day is an easy and no cost way to change your mood. To show you just how little effort these changes can take, here are some easy examples:
Order iced coffee instead of hot
Use a different entrance at work
Write with blue ink instead of black
Take an alternate route home from work
Try listening to a new radio station
Take a bath instead of a shower
Read a different newspaper in the morning
Just adding a little variety to your daily routine can clean out your mental cobwebs. It's surprising how effective this can be. You might even notice a pretty bed of flowers or discover a new favorite market. These few small actions can also interrupt negative thought patterns, and might even put you in a better mood.
Copyright 2009 Nicole Vidalakis, PhD
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About the Author
Dr. Nicole Vidalakis, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California. Nicole earned her PhD at Stanford University in Counseling Psychology, where her research focused on developing and testing a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention for adolescents with bulimia and purging disorders and their families. While there, Nicole also was a fellow at Stanford's International Center on Conflict Negotiation, studying the effects of culture in different work environments. She then completed her internship in Clinical Psychology at Yale New Haven Hospital focusing on Dialectical Behavior Therapy.