Routines or Rituals can help us feel grounded and balanced. There’s something comforting about living in a rhythm — and that’s okay. While bad habits can keep us from healthy life progress, healthy rituals and routines can propel us forward and elevate our quality of life.
The Benefits of Rituals
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” We need rituals because they help guide us and give our lives a rhythm we can dance to. But we also count on them as lovely little reminders of what we actually care about. Rituals keep us in close proximity to our purpose and are sometimes defined as the outward demonstration of an inward value. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.
Until recently, I didn’t realize that our family Sunday morning, coffee in bed, with a book and a record on was a ritual. Or that the Sanskrit mantra I chant in the shower every morning while I wash my face is considered a ritual. But they are, and they are prime examples of some of the most important things I do throughout my day — they are deeply connected to my core values.
The Rite Of Rituals
I have always loved studying the psychological basis of rituals. A ritual could be something spiritual or could simply be the set of motions a baseball player goes through each time he steps on home plate. A ritual could even be part of something cultural — like the mourning traditions of sitting shiva in the Judaism faith or the jazz funerals in New Orleans. Currently, I am most interested in helping others create mindful, intentional, almost ceremonial everyday rituals that can help boost physical and mental well-being.
Sometimes I think we forget that as humans we are creatures of habit. We thrive on predictability and repetition. Of course, this doesn’t squash the many bonuses gained from impulsivity and trying something new. In fact, try this on for size: the more we can rely upon constants, the more we are able to positively engage in spontaneity.
Admittedly, habits can have a negative connotation and, of course, we all have had some questionable habits, spending years attempting to break them. But what many people don’t know is that we can also cultivate healthy habits and utilize them as a positive tool to increase happiness, optimism and positive well-being.
On Rituals + Values
Our rituals and our values have a powerful symbiotic relationship. We perform rituals because of the values we hold, and the more we perform these rituals the stronger our values become.
I value familial connection and I value physical and mental self-care. The two examples of rituals, or mindful habits, that I’ve shared are consistent actions I can count on during my week. They help strengthen my values and increase my happiness.
You probably already commit to healthy habits and/or ceremonial daily rituals, either individually or as a family or a social group. Pause and give yourself the space to think about what those rituals are and what values they connect to. Do they make you happy? If yes, then do them more! If not – and they are not connected to a greater core value or goal – maybe it is a habit not serving you well, and that is also a valuable truth to realize.
How To Create New Rituals
So, what if you want to create rituals that are positively connected to your core values to help increase your happiness? Here are three manageable steps to help develop new rituals:
Discover What You Want. Find a mindful moment to grab a journal or take mental notes. What part of your life are you hoping to feel happier and healthier? Perhaps you want to optimize a certain area or make a positive impact? Maybe you want to find more ways to increase your self-care practice; maybe you want to strengthen your physical body; maybe you want to find more time and space to connect meaningfully with friends or family; maybe you want to devote more time to learning something new or being creative. Whatever it is, note it, meditate on it and get to know it. Take the time to brainstorm what it is you really care about and what it is you really want.
Commit to Action Steps. Next is all about taking one of those values or desires you identified and cultivate practical, measurable actions. These should be ones you can easily do within your circumstances, and ones that directly relate back to the values you identified. For example: If you value familial connection and you want to learn something new, maybe decide that a family morning surfing lesson is going to be your new ritual. Or if you value self-care and it would make you happy to add more mental and physical ways to care for yourself, perhaps decide that each evening you will close your eyes and spend X number of minutes meditating or reflecting on self gratitude.
Make It A Habit. Now it’s time to turn this positive action into a ritual. Decide on a day and time, and also how often you are going to commit to your routine — and then stick to it! Rituals that are familial or social are easier to do consistently because it becomes a group norm — and you also have built-in accountability and motivation. If you chose an individual ritual, don’t be afraid to ask a friend to keep you in check and on track with encouragement.
In our fast-moving world, rituals have the power to ground and stabilize us, and keep us focused and purposeful. They increase confidence, provide us with a sense of security, alleviate the weight of grief and help reduce anxiety. Above all, rituals are a sure fire way to increase happiness. At our core, humans are extremely social animals with an innate need to come together. Performing group or family rituals help connect us and give us powerful ways to bond over shared practices.