Do you have any rituals?
Well, I have a few, but the one I really try to stick to is my ‘OK, that’s that’ ritual. I find my to-do lists can sometimes seem never-ending so I have to have a cut-off point in the day – it happens somewhere between 8 and 9 pm. I’ll have shut down my laptop, the children will be in bed, the dog walked, the after-dinner tidy-up done. I change out of my clothes into my pyjamas, cleanse my face, apply my facial oil and start to mellow immediately. This is the point in my day when it’s time to relax, slow down and take time for myself.
I don’t get to complete my ritual every night of course and when I don’t I feel a little out of kilter. That’s one of the ways to know if you have a ritual or just a routine. If it’s a routine and it doesn’t all work out perfectly, your day is not ruined. With a ritual, it can be.
That’s because, at a basic human level, we need rituals as much as we need food, sleep and love.
They help us put order on things in a chaotic and unpredictable world – and it doesn’t seem to matter if the ritual is around something as mundane as making tea, or changing into your pyjamas.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that we tend to perform even more rituals in times of uncertainty; so, if you’ve created new rituals since March this year, there’s a good reason for it – it’s a way of damping down anxiety.
There are loads of positives from having daily rituals – they can energise us; help us be more effective because they give purpose to something boring; and they help us be more thoughtful, more present.
Five ways to turn a routine into a ritual
- Give the actions meaning. Repeating a physical action is soothing and meditative and is therefore ripe for becoming a ritual – running, tennis, yoga, even emptying the dishwasher! All you need to do is give it meaning beyond the functional – clearing your mind or working through issues as you exercise or taking a moment to be grateful for the good food that you eat or how lucky you are to be able to enjoy meals with your family as you empty the dishwasher.
- Prepare the environment. I often light a candle in my room while I do my ‘OK, that’s that’ routine. It immediately transforms something I have to do into a special time where I feed my senses. My phone is downstairs and I really enjoy the silence. Sometimes it’s the first time in the day I’m on my own. And there is nothing like the feeling of clean cotton on my skin. I feel new again.
- Clear your mind. Rituals are less effective if your thoughts are constantly jumping to what you have to do next. My top tip and something I do just before I start my bedtime ritual is to write my to-do list for the following day. Knowing I have a plan clears my mind so I can switch off completely.
- Do it mindfully. It sounds so easy, but how many of us actually engage with our routines and really observe what we’re doing? The way we all started washing our hands at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak is a good example of making something mundane mindful. We were suddenly acutely aware of how we were washing and for how long. Being mindful is hugely calming.
- Recite an affirmation. Affirmations are fantastic! I use them when I need an extra little boost of confidence. There are lots of places on the internet where you can find affirmations – Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, posts a daily affirmation on www.susanjeffers.com. But an affirmation is any positive statement that you repeat – it could be as simple as “Today will be a good day”. Repeat it while doing your routine and it becomes a ritual!
So, is there a routine in your life that you can transform into a ritual?
Sleep on it!