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The Surprising Importance of Afternoon Routines

How midday rituals can transform your productivity and mood

Nikhita Mahtani

If you’ve been tapping into the wellness world lately, you’ve likely heard about the importance of a morning routine. In fact, videos tagged with the words “morning routine” have more than 9.8 billion views combined on TikTok, with most users insisting that these regimens help set the tone for their day. 

What Are the Psychological Benefits of a Routine?

However, according to psychotherapist Mark Lundquist, also the clinical director of NYC-based private practice Tribeca Therapy, investing in a routine in the afternoon might be even more beneficial long term, especially for those who often feel like their day simply gets away from them at pivotal moments. 

“In the afternoon, you’ve dealt with the first half of your day,” explains Lundquist. “However, in some cases, it may have gone badly or unplanned. That’s why I recommend doing something at lunch or before you start the second half of your day in order to recenter and rebalance yourself.” 

Is It Good to Have a Routine Every Day?

The theory is that by creating a routine that helps you regain control of your day at the midway point, you will likely continue to make healthy choices. A study by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that when humans take part in a routine, their nervous systems calm down. Essentially, your parasympathetic nervous system (which controls the body’s relaxation response) gets activated by familiarity. So, humans thrive with routine. Routines help you calm your nervous system so that you’re responding to events consciously. This is especially helpful if you’ve had a bad morning. An afternoon routine could help you course correct for the rest of the day. 

Research supports the theory that a morning routine can help set the tone for your day, so it makes sense that an afternoon routine can help set the tone for the rest of your day. If you’ve encountered some obstacles during the first half of your day, Lundquist says you have to options:  “You can either let it derail your mood for the rest of the day, spilling into your friendships, work, and personal life, or you can recenter by doing something to change course.” We prefer the latter.

What Is the Best Afternoon Routine?

If you’re looking to craft your own afternoon routine, know that there are a number of things you can do—in fact, you can do pretty much anything, as long as it’s pushing you toward the desired feeling you want to achieve.

 “I would argue that it’s not actually about the actual activity itself, but the emotion or purpose you’re driving behind the routine,” says Lundquist. “For instance, a morning workout can feel like an energizing pre-work activity, while an afternoon workout can be looked at as a refreshing pause between the first and second half of your workday.” 

Therefore, the most important things to look at, according to Lundquist, are both how much time you have for said activity, as well as what you really want to make sure to add to your day. For a boost of energy,  Lundquist suggests taking a quick shower, exercise or take a nap. If you’re looking for a quiet pause in the afternoon, he says to try meditation or enjoying a warm beverage (MUD\WTR’s :balance Turmeric is the perfect non-caffeinated midday warm beverage—shameless plug, we know). Lastly, if you want to boost your creativity, Lundquist recommends painting or journaling.

According to Lunquist, no matter which activity you choose to include in your afternoon routine, the mental and emotional benefits will stay relatively the same: to take a pause that calms your nervous system down after you’ve activated it earlier on. This prevents you from acting on autopilot, and you can approach the rest of your tasks and relationships with a newfound sense of control and peace.

Nikhita Mahtani is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has been featured in publications including GP, InStyle and Allure magazine.

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