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5 Ways to Get Out of Mental Ruts

Does this sound familiar?

You wake up in the morning and get out of bed on the same side.

You slip into your robe the same way you always do.

You look into the mirror and brush your teeth in the exact same way.

You shower and dress up on autopilot, using the same routine. You drive to work using the same route.

And so on, for the rest of the day...

This is what we call habituating, or getting into a mental rut. While it might not seem like a bad thing, scientific evidence suggests that “hard wiring” your brain involves nerve cells organizing themselves in such a way that they fire together. Any familiar thought or feeling will result in a static neural pathway in the brain, resulting in a particular behavior.

In simple terms, our brains become wired to react in specific ways based on external stimuli. Over time, this becomes our personality. The result? Our surroundings - whether it's cloudy weather, a snarky remark from a spouse, or a new issue at work - can trigger familiar behaviors and define our days... and ultimately, define us. We lose autonomy over our thoughts and actions.

What Is a Mental Rut?

A mental rut can manifest in various ways:

  • Ruminating all day on a problem or something someone said.

  • Inability to think “outside the box” when encountering a problem or opportunity.

  • Addiction to certain activities or doing an activity in a particular way.

  • Lack of motivation or enjoyment in everyday tasks—maybe even dissatisfaction with life as a whole!

The good news? Since we built these loops, we can break out of them too. Here are five keys to escaping mental ruts and refreshing your mind.

1. Shake Things Up

Change your daily routine to exit autopilot mode. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand or take a new route to work. Set aside time for impromptu, unplanned activities. Have fun with it! Small changes can stimulate new neural pathways and make everyday life feel more engaging.

2. Self-Care

Evaluate how you take care of your mind and body. Are you getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and managing stress effectively? Simple self-care routines can dramatically improve your mental state and help break free from habitual ruts.

3. Look at Life from Different Perspectives

Get curious and explore new ways of doing thing. Talk to others to get a different viewpoint on your situation. Being out in nature can help you relax, let go of thought loops, and get creative. A fresh perspective often rewires your brain, allowing for new ways of thinking and feeling.

4. Direct Energy to Your Purpose

Pause to reflect on your purpose. Channeling your mind towards meaningful activities can be incredibly energizing. Whether it’s spending more time with your kids or volunteering at a local charity, focusing on what matters most to you can break the monotony and inspire a renewed sense of purpose.

5. Bump Up Celebration and Bump Down Perfection

Not every day will be the same, so take time to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go perfectly. Remember, your mind listens to how you talk to yourself. Positive reinforcement can help rewire your brain for a more optimistic outlook.

Break the Cycle

Try out these approaches to change your routine and keep your brain out of a rut. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how refreshed, energized, and creative you feel—ready to take on the day with a renewed zest for life!



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