How to Get Out of a Rut: The Daily Practice & Why it Works

I’m in a rut. A void. A slump. Whatever. It sucks.

My house is cluttered. My head is cluttered.

I wrote a blog post last week that was so bad I had to delete it. This post is a day late. I can’t motivate myself to write, and when I do, I get distracted.

I’m misplacing things. I somehow managed to lose a suitcase. A large one. How does that even happen? The other day I parked my car on the street and left it running with my computer inside.

I eat chocolate croissants and pasta on an almost daily basis. I’ve worked out once in more than a month, and I haven’t meditated in two.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. This behavior is not me.

So like I said, I’m in a rut… but I’m not about to let myself get stuck in it.

How to Get In a Rut

Many people think of ruts as a byproduct of having fallen into the same old routine. I think that’s half right. Ruts don’t happen because you fall into a routine, they happen because you fall into the wrong routine, and that’s when things spiral out of control.

Mine looks like this:

I have an infant who doesn’t sleep through the night, which means that I don’t sleep through the night.

Which makes it hard to wake up in the morning to get my kids ready for school and out the door.

Which makes me buy the croissant at the coffee shop because I’m tired and cranky and I want something yummy.

Which makes me eat like crap for the rest of the day since I already cheated.

Which makes me lazy to go to the gym or do anything active.

Which makes my brain tired and unable to concentrate and think clearly.

I’m going easy on myself because life with a baby and two other kids can be chaotic, but I also recognize that I have to take some steps to improve my habits.

How Not to Get Out of a Rut

Last weekend I went away on a girls only ski trip. I skied ’til my legs hurt, I slept ’til I felt like getting out of bed, and I soaked in the hot tub ’til my fingers wrinkled up. I came home relaxed and refreshed.

But then I went right back to my same rut-inducing routines.

Why? Because as wonderful and restorative as a vacation is, the high of it is temporary.

There’s a word I like called atrophy. It’s the idea that things decay when not used. If your muscles don’t get stronger, they get weaker. If you’re not learning or practicing things, you’re forgetting them. If you’re not motivating yourself, you’re getting deflated.

That’s why routines and consistency are so important. We need those small but regular doses of healthy behaviors to keep the momentum alive.

The Daily Practice

If there’s anyone who’s an expert at getting out of ruts, it’s the quirky yet wise entrepreneur, author and blogger James Altucher:

So, I’ve had many problems. I’ve had businesses that have failed. I’ve gone completely broke. I’ve lost a house. I’ve lost a marriage. I’ve had lots of roller coasters in my life that I would just as soon forget about. But one thing I do remember is that each time I was on the floor, wondering how could life possibly continue after these events, one thing helped me…It’s what I call daily practice. 

According to the daily practice, there are four areas of health, each one equally important, that we should focus on not just once, but every day in order to turn things around.

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Mental
  4. Spiritual

If we can do these simple things every day, life will change for the better.

Physical Health

I love the achy feeling of a good, hard workout. I was reminded of this as I was sitting on the floor stretching my sore legs after a long day on the slopes. Right now I can’t guarantee a great night of sleep or perfect dietary choices, but I can commit to getting out and moving every day. Because as we all know, we work better when we treat our bodies well. Everything improves – mood, stress, cognitive function, happiness, health and so much more.

Emotional Health

There are people, things, and circumstances that make us resentful, stressed out, and upset. I’ve always been fairly good about limiting the complaining and acknowledging and cutting out the things that weigh me down. It’s why I journal almost every day, why I don’t watch violent television shows at night, why I deleted the majority of my apps on my iPhone (social media and email included) last month, and why I only run errands on Fridays. It helps free up my mental energy.

It’s not just about knowing when to say no. We can also say yes to things that we want more of. Like reaching out to or helping family, friends or people you love… and planning long weekends away.

Mental Health

Altucher says that one of the best exercises for keeping our mental muscles from atrophying (and there are many) is to write ideas down. “Every day I write down ideas. I write down so many ideas that it hurts my head to come up with one more. Then I try to write down five.” Ideas for a reality show, a children’s book, a business to pitch on shark tank, or an app – anything really.

Most ideas will be bad, but that’s not the point. The point is that your mind becomes an idea machine – sharper, clearer, and more creative. You become curious about different things, and open to new ways of thinking.

Spiritual Health 

This arm of the practice isn’t about God or religion, unless you want it to be. It’s about getting rid of the noise and being present and aware enough to enjoy the things around us so that we don’t spend so much time fixated on the past and worried about the future. This can come in the form of:

  • Gratitude
  • Prayer / church
  • Reading or listening to things that uplift and inspire you
  • Meditating

Today I went to a barre class (physical). I brainstormed 20 headline ideas for this article (mental; I went with idea #16). I spent an hour decluttering my home (emotional), and I meditated for 5 minutes (spiritual).

I feel good knowing that I accomplished these things. It wasn’t hard to do, I just had to choose to do it. And that’s the tricky part – choosing to do these things every day.

I hope I can keep it up because it’s a hell of a lot easier to stay up than to get up!

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