The older you get, the more routine-bound every day starts to feel. After all, you get up at the same time every day, you go to the same job, you see the same friends and you watch the same television shows. Day after day, month after month, and for many, year after year. But life doesn’t always have to be set on repeat, and you can gain more freedom even in a life that is full of responsibilities and demands. Many of you are likely thinking, well I can’t just quit my job and leave my family! Of course not, this is not what this is about. It’s about taking small steps to free yourself from the mundane daily routine that you feel restrained by. Because ultimately, gaining freedom in your daily life is about redefining your life in a way that makes sense to you, and not about the restrictions placed on you by modern life and responsibilities.
Finding freedom in everyday life requires you to define your freedom. What does freedom look like in your own life? Does it mean relaxing more? Does it mean traveling more? Does it mean having time to pursue your passions? No matter what it might look like, there are easy to manage steps that you can take to gain more freedom in daily life.
1. De-Clutter Your Life
Sometimes we support inner happiness with an accumulation of things. More clothing, more tools, more objects to make ourselves feel better. But happiness doesn’t come from collecting objects, it comes from experiences, people and places. Sometimes we need a little reminder about this, and what better way than to start a systematic decluttering of your life? Start with clothing, get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year. What about that junk drawer? Do you really need 300 rubber bands, a miscellaneous button and an old battery? Be brutal, if you haven’t used it in a year, it can go!
2. Daily Exercise
Nothing supports better mental health like daily exercise. You don’t need to even sweat (although that’s even better for you). Even the act of taking the dog for a 60-minute walk can help free the mind from stress, anxiety and anger. Movement is liberating, and movement is important every single day.
3. Stop Spending Money on Useless Things
Just because you decluttered your life, doesn’t mean you have to fill it back up again with useless stuff. Again, happiness doesn’t come from objects. Happiness comes from experiences, memories, people and places. Spend money on creating experiences instead of buying new shiny things that will only serve to weigh you down later.
4. Envision Where You Want to be
If you feel like you are in a perpetual rut, a good first step is to envision where you want to be. There are so many ways to do this these days, the simplest being by writing it down. However, now you can create entire Pinterest boards, or physical vision boards to really develop where you want to go and who you want to become.
5. Stop Saying Sorry
One of the most freeing feelings in the world is to stand up for yourself, and your actions. If you are not sorry, don’t apologize for the benefit of others. While this might come across as crass, it will likely demonstrate to you exactly who you care about and who you need to distance yourself from. Likely, the people that you don’t feel like apologizing to are not worth wasting your time on anymore.
6. Start Saying No
That’s right, you are allowed to say no. As an adult, you can make your own decisions and sometimes we start to forget this fact as our responsibilities grow. Now obviously there will always be responsibilities we cannot turn down – after all making a living and raising a family isn’t something to neglect, but going to that dinner party? Or accepting that wedding invitation? If you don’t want to do it, you are allowed to say no. As you practice saying no, you’ll notice you suddenly have far more time to pursue your own passions.
7. Stop Criticizing
When people are unhappy in their own lives, it can tend to spread to a critique of others. However, continually allowing negative thoughts to cycle through your brain only strengthens these pathways, and reduces your ability to be positive in any situation. Inner negative dialogue doesn’t solve any problems, and will eventually become a serious disservice to yourself and your relationships if allowed to fester. If you begin to have negative thoughts, recognize them, but allow them to pass and instead focus on something positive.
8. Cultivate Gratitude
One small habit to practice that can have far reaching effects is to cultivate gratitude. This means waking up each morning and spending 5 minutes in bed thinking about something you are grateful for. It can be especially helpful to develop compassion and gratitude for other people. Think about the reasons why you appreciate them, and quietly send them a positive thought or prayer. This has been scientifically proven to increase happiness and well being when actively practiced.
9. Practice Active Goal Setting
When bogged down in a routine, setting and achieving goals can often fall to the wayside. Actively write out your goals, and spend the time to set out a step by step guide to achieving them. Break down long term goals into smaller, short term goals that are far more achievable. Reward yourself for the little milestones, and don’t sweat the small mis-steps.
10. Practice Mindfulness
This might be the most difficult step on the list, but is probably the most important for long term inner freedom. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with meditation, and with practice, gives you the tools to handle life, relationships and experiences in a much more positive manner. It frees you from your past and from being bogged down with stress, fear and anxiety.