Looking back on my life, my pre-baby years were full of rituals. Some were planned, but most just happened out of habit. For instance, I woke up at the same time every day, got ready for work, made coffee, had breakfast, watched the news and left for work. Nothing very exciting I might add, but the repetition of these actions created a ritual where even on my days off I would do much the same.
Growing up, my life was very structured. We always ate at the same times no matter what, and we enjoyed mate tea after every meal without fail. There were many times when I fought this process because as a child, I wanted to continue engaged in the activity I was in, and I felt the rigidity of the schedule infringed in my creative process.
After becoming a mother, I had less and less rituals in my life. I would wake up with the baby, I would sleep with the baby. There was less structure in my days, and there were times that I found that freeing and exciting – I can do what I want, when I want it! This would subconsciously take me back to those days as a child where I wanted to contest the daily structure of my life.
I started to think that having rituals and discipline didn’t support having freedom in my life. I was afraid of becoming rigid and not having room for creativity. I was even reluctant to plan ahead because I felt it would impact my freedom. And being a planner is part of my essence!
As time went on, I felt more and more disconnected with myself. I no longer did things that were important to me, and this new found freedom made me feel like I was a plastic bag in the wind. I needed to take control of my actions and my life once again. But first, I needed to figure out what I wanted!
After much soul searching I realized that adding rituals back into my life was actually an empowering experience. That making plans and taking action towards my goals was not rigid, it was actually fun and exciting. The more clear I became with what I wanted to achieve, the more structured my life became in the process.
I define rituals as habits that follow the same steps every time to achieve a purpose. I like to think that rituals are good habits, but as I mentioned before they could simply be mindless tasks that we perform out of habit. So when I started to introduce habits in my life, I paid attention to what rituals I was creating, and made sure they were enhancing my life in some way. Rituals to me are now a form of self-care.
Some rituals take place at the same time every day, and others are actions can happen when you need them the most. For instance, I have a night time ritual of facial cleansing and hydration, and I perform this daily. My ritual of making tea can take place several times during the day and the times might vary daily.
If you find yourself craving rituals that will enhance your life, below are 8 tips on how you can add empowering rituals as well as how to get rid of the ones that don’t serve you from your busy schedule:
- Think about the one thing you desire the most right now: is it a bubble bath? Time to write? A walk? Decide to do this today or tomorrow at the latest the minute you are able to do so. Don’t procrastinate. From there, if this is a ritual you enjoy, keep adding it to your schedule.
- Wake up early. For those like me who are not morning risers this may seem like an impossible task. It may be difficult at first but the effort pays off, I promise. Try waking up 2 minutes earlier than usual and take a breather! You’ll feel more in control of your day already.
- Eliminate time wasters. Do you have a trigger that leads you to spend time doing activities that don’t enrich your life? For me, every time I would sit on the couch I would reach for my phone to scroll through Facebook. It’s been 2 weeks since I decided to remove the app from my phone and I have rarely checked it. I’ve gained so much time because of this simple change. I now check it only on my computer, and mostly just the notifications, so I can decide at that point if I need to read further.
- Make your schedule your own. Just because you read everywhere that you should do this or that to have a peaceful life, the truth is you need to find out what works for you. One of my new rituals is to do nothing after dinner. That’s right, nothing. I used to feel pressured to get all kinds of things done in order to get a head start for the next day, when in truth I just wanted to spend this precious time with my family. Things got rearranged and eliminated and now I can do this without guilt.
- Take inventory of your current rituals and tweak as needed. Do you follow an exercise program? If so, does it feed your soul? This might seem like a silly thing to say, after all isn’t the point of exercise to get your body moving? What does it have to do with your soul? Well, a lot actually. The form of exercise you choose will dictate whether you stick to it. I found myself so many times exercising on the bike because I really wanted to listen to podcasts. I was completely disconnected from the task of exercising itself! I told myself that this was ok because I was still getting exercise, right? Overtime I started dreading the bike even though I was excited to learn something new from a podcast. I wasn’t getting any stronger and I couldn’t see any benefits from this exercise at all. The truth was my body craved yoga. And I knew this deep inside but I thought I could get more things done with my initial approach. It turns out that if you are not invested in your activity, it will be just about impossible to reap the benefits. I love everything about yoga but had been denying this pleasure for so long, because I let my mind choose for me. Now I have a steady yoga practice that I follow, and my body is responding accordingly. I feel stronger and fulfilled. So think of where you can make improvements on your current rituals and move forward toward what feels good.
- Give yourself permission. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to pursue our goals. Rituals can be little steps towards our desired lives, and even though they might not be hard to add to our daily schedule, we deny pleasures to ourselves because of fear, guilt, or even shame. We have to remember that it’s ok to want what we want, there’s no need to explain.
- Start small. A ritual can be as quick as 2 minutes. It can take place weekly, or monthly. You can add more of it as you see the benefits of implementing this new ritual. Or you can eliminate it completely if it doesn’t serve you after all. You can make your own rules. For instance, I noticed that since I started dying my hair how much drier it feels. So I started doing a hair mask with coconut oil once a week. I picked the same day every week, and it only takes 5 minutes to massage the coconut oil and wrap it with plastic wrap. Then I leave it for a couple hours before washing it completely. The point is, it might seem like another thing to do, but I can handle 5 minutes once a week. Besides, taking care of myself feels really good.
- Check in often. Make note of your new rituals, and try them out for a certain amount of time. I usually try them out for a couple weeks and then reevaluate. You can continuously add new ones and eliminate others in the meantime, just pay attention to how they make you feel. Are you energized after the ritual? Perhaps calmer? Did it accomplish what you were looking for? Did it surprise you? This will help you decide whether you want to make this a continuous habit. Sometimes even when we receive great value from a ritual, we might still be inclined to drop it because we didn’t give it time to become a habit. If it makes you feel good, keep doing it! you might want to record your findings in a journal for future reference.
One of my favorite rituals, that I have been practicing more lately, is making a proper cup of tea. I like to use loose leaf tea, and I take my time with the details. If you are interested, I share my tea ritual in this blog post.
What is your favorite ritual? I would love to find out what you do that makes your life more peaceful, elegant and enjoyable.