Rituals Can Boost Your Health
From the first moment we’re born, we all take part in some ritual or routine until the day we die. Most of these rarely get a second thought, like brushing our teeth twice a day. But other practices help connect us to the deepest parts of ourselves. Have you ever felt stressed after taking a nice shower or bath? Probably not.
Repetitive behaviors ease mental and physical tension.
So whether you’re trying to hit the yoga studio every day or want to write down your goals each month, it’s time to take your first step towards establishing rituals!
Here’s why ritual is important and how it can help you:
1. Reduce Stress and Anxiety.
Without knowing it, many of us spend our days in fight or flight mode- our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear when we wake up without ritual. It can be hard to navigate from this into our more calm parasympathetic nervous system. The stress hormone cortisol is found in our bodies at its highest point in the morning, so we literally wake up feeling stressed. Our ancestors used cortisol for survival, but we store this extra stress in our bodies, and it builds up over time. Sure, many of us have the ritual each day of going to work, but what if we can incorporate repetitive behaviors into our days that reduce our anxiety and give us more control over how we feel? Routines do just that. Studies have shown that repetitive behavior in humans dramatically reduces our stress levels by feeling more in control. When we start to think of routines as a form of relaxation, they become easier to do daily.
2. Stay Grounded.
We’ve all gone through certain points in our lives where we concentrate on things other than ourselves; work, family, or social lives. But have you ever said “no” to going out or working late and instead used that time to take care of yourself, such as cooking a nice dinner, watching your favorite show, and going to bed before midnight? Chances are, you felt better the following day, both mentally and physically. Taking care of ourselves in this way is one of the most grounding things we can do. We’re often distracted by technology, the media, and our peers, and it’s hard to feel like we’re walking on solid ground sometimes. When we embrace routine, we are helping our bodies and our minds to stay “fit” and stable.
3. Connect To Your Inner Self.
Ages ago, there were no training classes on how to take part in ceremonies; there were no coaching programs on how to create a ritual for daily living; this was all intrinsically connected to being Human. Our parents, their parents, and their parents before them lived every day, every moment, in ritual. They got a grounded feeling of connection through the ritual daily! When was the last time you stared into a fire? It’s one of the simplest ways to feel what it means to be human truly. It’s one of the rare activities we can do that doesn’t seem boring; something about the ritual of fire lights up the most basic parts of ourselves.
4. Stay Healthy.
The most healthy times of your life were probably when you had a lot of self-discipline. Food, exercise, drinking, all of these aspects of our modern society can quickly turn gluttonous. By establishing routines, we can learn to live in moderation. Eating is one of the biggest areas of our society that we have lost ritual in. Until very recently, meals were considered a sacred and special activity. Families participated in mealtime together. Before the rise of the nuclear family, women learned to cook from their mothers; meals were shared with larger groups, and everyone chipped in. The very ritual of eating was enough to keep entire villages busy during the day. With the rise of fast-food and convenience meals, we have taken rituals out of eating and replaced it with empty calories.
5. Create Harmony and Embrace Creativity.
When we take the guesswork out of parts of our days, it frees our brain space and allows more room for creativity to flow. Imagine waking up in the morning without knowing how you would get to work. Rather than relaxing during breakfast, you’d think about how you would make it into the office. This works the same for routine; when we embrace ritual and participate each day, our minds and our body’s muscle memory begin to expect and relax in knowing the outcome of situations. Just as children thrive on discipline, we too flourish creatively when we return to ritual. This is especially important in relationships. Establishing “rules” keeps relationships healthy whether you are single or have a family. Set some time aside with those you have close relationships with; create time to relax together and see your relationship blossom.
Create a few rituals this week!
1. Mealtime Rituals
Try creating more rituals around mealtimes, such as cooking one healthy meal from scratch every week, and pay attention to how that food tastes, how you feel while eating it, and how you digest it later. Chances are, it’ll be your best meal of the week!
2. Personal Care
Think of a self-care activity that you really enjoy but never take the time to do. This could be taking a bath, getting a massage, visiting a sauna…etc. Set aside two times a month that you can do this for yourself!
3. Setting Intentions
One of my favorite rituals is setting my intentions for each day and week. Set aside a few minutes before your day and week begins, and write down your intention for the week. It could be broad, like “I will find peace” or “ I will relax,” or more specific, like “ I will be kinder to my boss” or “I will be more patient with my kids” . Write this down and keep it by your bed. Take time each night before bed to glance at it. Learn to manifest your dreams by seeing or speaking them out loud.
Try not to have gigantic expectations for setting routines; know that some days you may falter. Embrace the fact that this is a process of gently incorporating new (or old) habits into your days to bring in more freedom and Creativity!