Emma Clifton looks for ways to combat the new year ‘blah’ and finds the joy in the little things every day by being spontaneous!
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It may sound like a tad ridiculous to plan to be more spontaneous but look, that’s just the kind of Type A people we are. Here we take a look at how you can insert a little bit of spontaneity into your world – without it costing you money, time or energy – and why looking for the ‘new’ in everyday life can make such a big difference to our mental health.
1. Check In With Your Current Routines
How do you start the day, and how do you finish it? If you walk or commute to work, is your route the same every day? Do you jog on the same path, every morning? If you look back at your past month – either through your calendar app, your photos or your actual human memory, what stands out to you the most? What brought you the most joy? The worst thing about having a gratitude practise is that – as Kelly wrote about here – as trite as it sounds, it absolutely works. By narrowing down on what in your week feels the best, and what is the least memorable, then you can start to find windows to try something new.
2. Don’t Think That Spontaneity = More Effort
Trying to insert new experiences into your life can feel very too hard basket if you’re already feeling so tired or burned out that all change seems bad. BUT there is a big difference between suddenly deciding to take up sky diving (no thank you!) and inserting an hour of something different into your week. In this burned-out world, we tend to think that the opposite of stress is rest, so we think that the best way to recuperate after a stressful week is to try and sneak in as much couch time as possible. But the opposite of stress isn’t rest, the opposite of stress is FUN. (Check out Glennon Doyle’s podcast ep on this very topic!). So inserting some fun and spontaneity into your life can actually make you feel like a more well-rounded, less stressed person. Win, win!
3. Stop Being a Creature of Habit
There isn’t a huge amount we can do when it comes to the big, scary things in life but it can be in our small, daily moments of joy that we find some room to be flexible. For instance, you might have a weekly treat of stopping to buy a coffee on the way to work on a Friday morning. What if you decided to go somewhere different – along your same commute route – every week, just because? What if you caught an earlier bus or train, so that you could sit inside the café and drink your coffee sitting down? Suddenly, you’re not just a corporate cog in a wheel, drinking your caffeine as you slog up the hill to work. You’re relaxed, bohemian, dare I say a little European??? as you enjoy your flat white while staring out the window. If there’s a regular takeaway spot you go to, can you change that up? Can you bail on UberEats on the couch and instead gather up your tired family and head to that local Indian restaurant you drive past every day that smells incredible? Routine can be both a source of comfort but also a source of inertia – reminding yourself that you’re a person with options can wake you up from every week or weekend feeling the same.
5. Get To Know Your Local Area
Just as spontaneity doesn’t have to equal exhaustion, it also doesn’t have to equal more money. We are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world (occasional Biblical weather events notwithstanding) and you don’t have to go far to find a new beach, park or hike. But you can also find heaps of cool free events if you check in with your local council, or suburban Facebook page, or by looking at a website like Eventfinder. There are Sunday markets, free workshops, performances at libraries and local parks, museums and art galleries… all waiting to be explored. If you find yourself waking up on an expectedly sunny Sunday, you can fill it with the usual chores or life admin OR you can head out and find an adventure. What are you going to remember the most in a month’s time? Take some photos on your phone and feel like a fun urban explorer for a day.
6. Don’t Wait For Things To ‘Settle Down’
One of the hardest thing about being an adult in this current world is that so many of us have an idealistic view of the future, of that perfect week or weekend when things ‘settle down.’ But for most of us… that’s not coming. I’m a big believer in ‘Parkinson’s Law’, which is the belief that the amount of work stretches or shrinks depending on how much time there is to do it. Left alone to do so, the boring parts of life can cast a wider shadow than they need to. But by creating little pockets of ‘new’, now – rather than waiting for the aforementioned ‘quiet weekend’ – we can take back some agency in our lives. It’s the same with making plans with people – how often have you made plans with a group of friends, five weeks in advance, and then someone is inevitably sick or can’t make the big day? What if you instead messaged a close friend or family ‘Can we come round at 7pm with ice cream?’ and just let the chips fall where they may (oooh, take chips too!).
7. Tap Into Your Inner Child
Have you ever taken a toddler for a walk? It’s an incredibly slow process because EVERYTHING IS NEW AND WEIRD TO THEM. The flip side of just how much energy kids require is that they force you to see things from a fresh, new and sometimes totally bizarre perspective. One of the easiest leads into being more spontaneous is to follow your curiosity and see where it takes you. It’s a big tip from creativity genius Elizabeth Gilbert – she said in a chat with Oprah that following your passion can feel like an overwhelming task – we’re so tired! New passions can be a lot to ask for! But following your curiosity is a softer, easier journey to spontaneity. If something sparks your interest, follow that spark. The more you tune into your curious side, the stronger it will get. You never know what small, spontaneous life change is going to lead to a grand adventure – but you won’t know, if you don’t start at all.