What are Rituals?
A ritual can be defined as a ceremony or action performed in a customary way. The word itself is derived from the Latin word “ritualis” which comes from “ritus” typically understood to mean a type of ceremony or custom. Although we commonly associate rituals with religious ceremonies, a ritual can also be used for any time-honored tradition like watching the Superbowl with friends and family or making pancakes on Sunday morning.
Some of us may never have even thought that we actually practice various rituals. My morning routine means asking Alexa to play Édith Piaf while I feed the kitties, then check email for ten minutes before my morning walk to the coffee shop across the street. My night routine always includes reading for an hour before going to bed. These are examples of things I do daily without skipping a beat. What I’ve also come to realize is that often our rituals are connected to our values, those things that we consider to be an integral part of us and who we are. In other words, rituals can also represent those fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate our attitudes and actions.
The Benefits of Rituals
“Anthony Trollope wrote three thousand words every morning before heading off to his job at the post office. Toulouse-Lautrec did his best work at night, sometimes even setting up his easel in brothels, and George Gershwin composed at the piano in pajamas and a bathrobe,” wrote Mason Curry in his book Daily Rituals. What we see here are routines – routines that help us live in a rhythm, manifest what is important to us, and make us feel good about ourselves. When we make routines a part of our everyday life, they can enhance the quality of our life and become rituals we look forward to engaging in on a daily basis.
Rituals can also provide us with a kind of structure or predictability in our day. After all, we do tend to be creatures of habit. Having said that, this does not mean falling into patterns of repetition that become boring over time. Rituals can provide us with a sort of grounding or “constant” leading to comfort. That in turn allows us to take more risks or positively engage in other areas of our life to be impulsive and spontaneous when we want to or need to.
Creating and Implementing Rituals
So how do we actually create rituals that enable us to cultivate healthy routines and habits? I would say keep it simple and start by making a list of those actions that you believe would benefit you if you followed through on a daily basis. Find some quiet time to journal or mentally note what areas of your life you want to strengthen. Think about what areas you want to feel happier or healthier about, and what areas of your life you want to have a positive impact on. Perhaps you want to connect more with friends and family or maybe you want to learn something new. Then select one of those to start with.
You might begin by meditating for 15 minutes every day which would become a focal point or starting place for all other rituals. Structure your ritual around making sure this one action absolutely happens. Next, write down two or three other rituals that make you happy and think about what values they connect to. These might be very specific daily rituals like going for a walk, posting on your Twitter account, connecting with one friend or business contact a day either in person or online, reading something educational or inspirational, writing poetry, going to spin class, having your morning coffee and reading the news, playtime with your kids, posting on your blog, meditating, listening to your favorite podcast, visualizing your intentions, reading the update from your favorite Instagram influencer, playing fetch with your dog – whatever it happens to be. You’ll notice that many of the above are pretty specific, and yes, some of them are those that I practice, and others are those of my closest friends and colleagues. Once these positive habits become part of your day, stick to them. Decide on when, where, and how these will take place and follow through.
Life happens so fast these days that we are left with so little time for ourselves unless we put in the conscious effort to find and make that time. Rituals can keep us soulful, focused, stable, purposeful, committed, and connected. They have the power to enhance both our physical and mental well-being so choose your favorites from the list above or create your own rituals allowing you to experience better success, health, happiness and peace of mind. Now excuse me while I head to my daily spin class!