Bust Out of Your Rut

Four ways to shake up your routine—and pocket greater happiness.

It's one thing to be a creature of habit. It's another to be stuck in a rut.

"As we settle into our ways, we become less likely to seek new experiences," says psychologist Marci Fox, Ph.D., coauthor of Think Confident, Be Confident (Perigee Trade). "We think, I won't be able to do that or I'll embarrass myself." But don't let self-doubt hold you back.

Try these moves today!

1. Make a new friend. In the busiest years of adulthood, our social circles tend to shrink. Bucking the trend and bonding with others is a surefire way to beat the blues, Fox says. The biggest rookie mistake? Waiting for someone else to take the initiative. Start a book club or ask a coworker out for coffee.

2. Upgrade your style. Settling for the same look year after year can leave you looking and feeling tired, Fox says. Step outside your comfort zone by getting a fresh haircut or donning a colorful scarf. "It'll give you a shot of confidence that brightens your entire outlook," she says.

3. Pursue a second career. The profession you chose at 22 doesn't have to last you through retirement. "People in the United States are working and living longer than ever," Fox says. "These days it's not uncommon to switch careers once or twice." Approach the big leap in baby steps: Talk to people in your desired field, suss out the requirements, and tackle them one at a time.

4. Adopt a tricky hobby. Violin isn't just for prodigies, Fox says. Maybe you've always wanted to learn an instrument—or woodworking or a foreign language. Acquiring skills can soothe stress and sharpen thinking. Look for classes at a local college and ask if you can audit one before signing up.

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