Living the Same Day Over and Over
Many of you may be familiar with the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” in which Bill Murray (who plays Phil) becomes stuck in a loop, forever reliving February 2. At first, Phil relishes this. He makes poor choices that he knows he can get away with because there is no recourse. He acts in ways he usually wouldn’t act, endangering (and taking) his life and the lives of others. These choices don’t really phase him, though, as tomorrow he will relive the exact same day.
However, this repetition and style of living start to weigh on Phil. He is no longer happy to keep repeating February 2 and longs for a new day to begin. So what does Phil do? He changes his actions. Instead of acting in self-serving ways (drinking, one-night stands, overeating), he uses each day to save others from misfortune, learn new skills, and generally improve his life and the lives of those around him. The movie ends with Phil waking on February 3; he has gotten himself out of his vicious cycle through self-transformation.
I use this movie as a topic of study for a few reasons. First, February blogs and themes are abundant with talk of self-love and self-respect. While those are key to a happy and positive life, I want to infuse your mind with something new this month. Second, we have all been Phil at some point in our lives, and, as we celebrate Groundhog’s Day in February, this is the perfect time to discuss being trapped in a harmful cycle.
Many of us repeat the same negative actions, day after day, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into depression, sadness, and hopelessness, and we may not even realize it. While our days are not full of negativity, we all have patterns and habits that we do (or don’t do) which harm our body, mind, and spirit. This negativity might come in the form of self-talk (degrading yourself when you make a mistake), self-loathing (telling yourself you don’t deserve to eat because you need to lose a few pounds), or punishment (denying yourself things you really want to do because you haven’t earned it). These are just a few examples of how we keep ourselves small and down-trodden; I’m sure you can think of many more.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel the need to speak to ourselves with hatred, anger, and irritation? Why don’t we allow ourselves to sit and read a book or take a long, relaxing walk in the middle of the day? What causes these negative cycles and how do we break free?
Like Phil, we may initially find comfort in our routines. Even though they may be ultimately harmful (for example, always having a few glasses of wine with dinner or spending three solid hours watching Netflix), it feels reassuring when we know what to expect. Changing a routine would require work and effort while making us feel uneasy and uncertain–not something that humans are wont to do! We like things to be predictable because it’s safe, anything else pushes the limits of our comfort zone.
However, just as Phil eventually got tired of living a reckless life, repeating the same day over and over again, we, too, get worn down. We get tired of the same bad habits, the same negativity surrounding us, the same level of ill health. As much we, as humans, crave routine, we also thrive on change, growth, and transformation. There comes a breaking point for all of us, where we decide that enough is enough and we need to change our actions.
Yet, it’s not that easy, is it? Freeing yourself from harmful patterns takes time, effort, and determination, but it IS possible! Here are some tips on how to release yourself from repeating February 2 and start living February 3 and beyond:
1. Start small! Identify one harmful habit you would like to change. Some examples might be smoking after a meal, having a drink with dinner, chastising yourself when you make a mistake, or never engaging in physical exercise.
2. Why? Once you identify your harmful habit, ask yourself why you engage in it in the first place? Routine? Comfort? Do you worry what others will think if you don’t? What causes you to keep doing what you do?
3. Now, focus on why you want to enact this change. Do you want to be more physically fit? More aware and present? Be kinder to yourself? Write your reasons down and put them somewhere you will see them daily.
4. Be mindful. Pay attention to your impulses to engage in the habit you want to change. What do you notice about your thoughts, feelings, and body?
5. Replace the behavior. If, for example, you want to stop having a mixed drink with every meal, replace that mixed drink with a fun and exotic non-alcoholic drink. Or, maybe you want to break your habit of engaging in office gossip. The next time someone wants to drag you into work drama, change your words from judgemental to objective.
6. Be gentle and forgiving. You WILL make mistakes on this journey. You will have days where you have that cigarette, be a couch potato, don’t workout and say mean things to yourself. The most important thing is to know that those days are coming and to be as loving and compassionate with yourself as you can.
We have all felt like Phil. We have all gotten stuck in a rut of some kind. And, while it is true that no one is perfect, we can all take steps to manifest tiny, perfect moments in our days.