When we think of “ritual,” the first place our mind goes may be to religion. But religious or not, adding rituals to our lives can actually be a really great way to improve our overall well-being. In fact, studies have shown rituals can help regulate emotions, increase performance goals, and enhance social connections (1).
So what exactly is a ritual, anyway?
Rituals are a way to distinguish or mark an action, exchange, or period of time as outside of the ordinary or everyday. For some, rituals are used specifically to bring one closer to God, or the divine, or the sacred, whatever that means for you. For others, rituals are done to imbue an action with a certain intention; you can call in healing, or love, or protection. In American culture there are “Big Rituals” which usually help us through major milestones, like weddings and funerals. During holidays, rituals are also often performed, whether the day itself has rituals built in, or because your family has created their own.
While there’s certainly a special power in those big moments of transition and celebration, you can create powerful experiences of your own by simply elevating the seemingly mundane from routine to ritual. And here’s the cool thing: It doesn’t need to be a whole to-do, if you don’t want it to be. Studies have shown that it is the intention behind creating ritual that supports our well-being, not the ritual itself. One study observed the same set of actions being carried out by individuals in two groups. One group categorized these actions as “random behaviors,” while the other did not. Anxiety was reduced, and performance enhanced, in the group that was performing the actions ritualistically. (2)
With all this said, we know it can be intimidating to start creating your own rituals. So we’ve teamed up with At the Well to give you a place to start to turn the mundane into something more meaningful.
Do this exercise on your own, or sit with a partner, and take turns describing the unfolding of an average day in your life. Make particular note of anything that you do on a daily basis (brushing your teeth, making the bed, preparing food, walking the dog); the more mundane, the better.
Ask the following questions:
- With what attitude do you typically approach these tasks?
- How do you feel on days when you forget, or otherwise aren’t able to complete these tasks?
- If you could eliminate one of these tasks per day, which would it be?
- If you could luxuriate in/take your time with one of these tasks, which would it be?
Reflecting on which of these daily routines could be elevated from a “task” to a “Little Ritual” for the month. Some thoughts to consider as you choose:
- Which of these tasks is particularly grounding (helps me get out of my head and into my body)?
- Which is particularly softening (helps me to relax and ease up on the controls)?
- Which helps me be more loving to myself (bonus points if mind, body, and spirit are more easily aligned within one particular task.)
Try every day for 30 days to turn this task into a ritual. Do it with regularity, and with the care you would afford a “Big Ritual’.” Try setting an intention before you do the task. You can consider a sensory change to your space, as well (dim or brighten the lights, burn some incense, play some soft music, and/or make music of your own!), and potentially think about saying a gratitude statement or an intention word beforehand.
If you still need a couple of examples for smaller, simple rituals (although not quite the everyday rituals that we outlined here!), At the Well has one for the ‘Mikveh’ (a type of ritual washing, you can learn more about the ritual and it’s utilization in terms of miscarriage here) that symbolizes a form of transition, and one for ‘Setting Fire to your Fears’ which is used to “burn off” things that keep us physiologically constricted or bound. Go check them out!
We hope this can help you find a bit more love, spaciousness, and grounding in your day-to-day.
And if you’ve found this helpful, try out the steps to becoming more embodied!
Written By: Team At the Well
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(1) Hobson, N., Schroeder, J., Risen, J., Xygalatas, D., and Inzlicht, M., 2018. The Psychology Of Rituals: An Integrative Review And Process-Based Framework. [ebook] Sage. Available at: <https://static1.squarespace.com/static/550b09eae4b0147d03eda40d/t/5ca5d04df4e1fca495df0e90/1554370686866/psychology-of-rituals.pdf> [Accessed 4 June 2020].
(2) Wood Brooks, A., Schroeder, J., Risen, J., Gino, F., Galinsky, A., Norton, M., and Schweitzer, M., 2016. Don’t Stop Believing: Rituals Improve Performance By Decreasing Anxiety. [ebook] Elsevier. Available at: <https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/Rituals%20OBHDP_5cbc5848-ef4d-4192-a320-68d30169763c.pdf> [Accessed 4 June 2020].