How to Break Up Time When Every Day Feels Like ‘Groundhog Day’
When you’re stuck at home, escaping monotony means getting creative
A few weeks into my family’s quarantine, it started to hit me just how much every day felt like a carbon copy of the one before: wake up, make coffee, juggle the demands of my work and kids, remember to eat, go to bed, repeat. Remember that movie Groundhog Day? I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m living my own version of Bill Murray’s ordeal. The only difference is that instead of being stuck on a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, I’m stuck inside the four walls of my suburban home.
In the movie, Murray’s character, a weatherman named Phil Connors, reckons with his endlessly repeating day by eventually sinking into a depression. When a bystander asks him for a weather prediction, he grumbles, “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be gray, and it’s gonna last you the rest of your life.”
Psychologically speaking, his reaction makes sense: Too much monotony can dull our ability to feel pleasure, a phenomenon sometimes known as the “hedonic treadmill.”
Before the pandemic, we had ways to break up that monotony. A quick trip out of town or an evening at a friend’s house gave us not only variety, but a sense of before and after. A way to punctuate a vast expanse. But right now, with no end to quarantine in sight, it does sometimes feel like there’s no way out of the cold and gray.
But if we can seize these days instead of dreading them, we can escape that Groundhog Day sensation of being stuck in time — and potentially even come out on the other side refreshed. Here’s how you can create the feeling of breaking things up, even when you can’t leave the house:
Create a routine
While sticking to a routine might seem counterintuitive when you’re fighting a crushing sense of sameness, instilling predictability into each day can create a sense that you’re starting and finishing something. If you’re just aimlessly floating through each day, you won’t experience any much-needed breaks in time.
“A routine involves making breaks in otherwise long and indistinguishable periods of time,” says the psychologist Talya Miron-Shatz, a…