Routines don't have to be boring. Daily tasks can add spice to life

Making time for an exercise routine can help people meet their recommended daily activity levels.

The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.

(The Conversation)The word "routine" can bring to mind words such as mundane or ordinary. During the pandemic's disruptions to daily life, routines may have felt boring and restrictive. However, as an occupational therapist and researcher of the impact of activity and participation on mental health, I know that routines can be powerful tools. They can support cognitive function, boost health and provide meaningful activities and social opportunities.

Early in the pandemic, researchers pointed to the value of daily routines to cope with change. As the two-year anniversary of the pandemic coincided with the relaxation of public health measures across the country, reflecting on routines and their value has been useful when moving toward a "new normal."

    Routines support cognitive function

      First, having a daily routine and regular habits supports cognitive function and may even free people up to be more creative. Research has found that having regular work processes allows workers to spend less cognitive energy on recurring tasks, which can support focus and creativity for more complex tasks.
      Think of typical morning routines that existed before the pandemic: helping family members get on their way, taking a usual route to work, grabbing a warm beverage along the way, saying hello to coworkers, flipping on a computer or opening a calendar. Having habits such as these can set the stage for a productive workday.
      Routines like reading a book help people feel in control of their lives, keeping them happy and healthy.
      A review of the daily rituals of influential artists found that many artists have well-defined work routines that may support their creativity rather than constrain it. Memory research shows that regular routines and habits can support older adults to function better in their home environments.
        If taking medications at the same time and putting the keys in their spot is part of a daily routine, less energy will be spent looking for lost objects and worrying about maintaining one's health, freeing up time for other things people want to do in their day.

        Routines promote health

        Regular routines can also help people feel like they have control over their daily lives and that they can take positive steps in managing their health. For example, making time for exercise within routines can help meet recommended daily activity levels. This is especially relevant now since research shows that people who reduced their activity levels during the pandemic could experience enduring health effects.
        As people increase activity outside their homes, they might consider taking transit to school and work, returning to organized fitness activities and the gym and opportunities to include movement throughout the day. Other ways that routines can support health include regular meal preparation and getting enough sleep, activities that seem simple but can pay dividends in healthy aging over a lifetime.