This time of year, we’ll hear the mantra “New Year, New You” dozens of times. But let’s be clear, in every way, the human that goes to sleep at midnight on 12/31/21 is the exact same human at 1:00am on 1/1/22. Same person, same feelings, same patterns – unless we learn to interrupt our existing patterns to enhance ourselves.
This New Year, instead of trying to be a “new” version of you, let’s instead work to create a version of you that is focused on your mental health. And we’ll do that by incorporating simple pattern interruptions in your life.
A pattern interrupt is a research-based technique for changing how you think or the way you think.
Think of pattern interrupts like a mental yield sign. When we’re driving and we see a yield sign we know to pause, check our surroundings, and then make an informed (and safe) decision as to whether we should proceed or not. A pattern interrupt serves the same purpose in our life. They allow us to pause, reflect on why we added this pattern interrupt in our life, and then we get to make a decision. We can either decide to shake things up and do something a bit differently, OR we can continue with the normal routine of our life.
Our New Year’s pattern interrupts are going to be tied to personal tasks we all do each day. So, while we are doing something as simple as brushing our teeth, we’re going to shake up our typical thoughts and actions to open the possibility for something new to take place.
Here are three pattern interrupts that you can add to your life to help improve your mental wellness for the New Year
- Morning pattern interrupt – Each morning, use the act of brushing your teeth as the trigger to remind you a pattern interrupt is coming. While brushing your teeth, focus your mind on what you want your intention for your day to be.
Intentions are one of the most powerful tools we have in our mental wellness toolbox. When we set an intention, it allows us to focus our mind, that then sets our drive, then we align our actions, which allows us to move forward to achieve our desired result. But the intention is the beginning of it all. It is a tool of conception where all actions spring from.
And to be clear, setting a morning intention is not reviewing your task list for the day. Instead, spend time focusing on how you want to show up in the world. In the beginning it can be as simple as “I will lead with love today”, “I will not take things personally day”, “I will not second guess myself today”, or “I will choose to see goodness around me today.”
When you begin your day by setting an intention you are beginning your day with limitless energy. Your possibilities are endless because you are starting with what could be, not what will not be.
- Afternoon pattern interrupt – During your afternoon lunch/break, commit to 30-days of not working during your afternoon break. Instead of grabbing food and eating while you work, give yourself time for you. Use this time to read a book, take a walk, listen to a podcast – do something that is non-work related for at least half an hour. By giving your mind committed time off from the work of the day, you are accomplishing two things.
First, you are giving your creativity tank a chance to replenish. Think of the amount of real creativity you have each day as a tank full of creativity gas. If you just work, work, work all day long – eventually you’re going to run out of creativity gas. By stopping and doing something else, even for 30-minutes, you are allowing your creativity muscles to relax, and metaphorically speaking, refilling your creativity tank.
Second, you are showing yourself in a very direct way that you matter. Even if you are a person that is driven by their work or academic pursuits, stopping for just 30-minutes each day, reminds yourself that you are important, you are worth taking a break, and you matter.
- Evening pattern interrupt – Each evening, as you are brushing your teeth, spend that time in quiet reflection of gratitude. Focus on the good that has happened in your life that day – the people, things, and activities that you are grateful for. You’ll be amazed after 30-days of this practice, how much more positively you see the world around you.
Why you might ask? The research is very clear that when you begin a daily practice of reflecting in gratitude, you retrain your brain on what to look for each day.
If you spend time each day focusing on the good in your life, your brain begins to focus on the good in your life and filter out the things in your life that are just meh. We will always see the extremes, the really good and the really bad, but the things in the middle, the meh things in life, we begin to see those things less. In other words, by spending time each evening focusing on the good and positives in your life, you will begin to see more beauty and good in the world around you.
Each of these pattern interrupts are simple, yet they can be powerful tools for you to use to enter the New Year the same you; but a mentally healthier you. I challenge you to give yourself 30-days to try these pattern interrupts and then spend some time reflecting on how you feel. If you feel better, keep them, and maybe add some more; if you don’t, spend some time thinking about what you can focus on in your life to begin to improve your mental wellness and begin to feel like a mentally healthier version of you.
About The Author
also known as The Feelings Guy™, helps his clients learn how to live, love, and thrive with their feelings, as opposed to running from them or pushing them away. He is an international keynote speaker & wellness coach having spoken at over 200 colleges & universities, is the host of the “What a Feeling!” podcast and is a certified instructor for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. For more information about Archie and his programs, please visit archiecares.com or forcollegeforlife.com/archie.