The Rewards of Rituals
Heal Your Life Blog
The Rewards of Rituals
Most of us have heard about the benefit of ritual since we were young – “Brush your teeth before bed,” “Do your homework before watching television,” “Work before play,” “Complete your notecards before writing your essay” and so on. Some of your family rituals may make you smile and some may make you shake your head in wonderment. During the holiday season, many of us continue family rituals which surround holiday celebrations whether around meals, gift-giving or family visitation.
Webster’s defines ritual as “any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.” But as I talk with women about their rituals I’m finding that there’s more to it – there’s a missing piece to Webster’s definition. In many cases, rituals give back! Let me tell you what I mean.
One woman I’ve spoken with explains her morning ritual of meditation and connecting with her inner self. She takes several hours every morning to complete a spiritual reading and meditate. “Why?” I asked. She explained that without these steps in her day, she didn’t feel grounded – or fully energized to get through her day.
Another woman I know has taken the concept of a relaxing bubble bath to new heights. She has explored many different types of products to use in the tub and has come up with her own mixture of scents, softeners and bubbles. She explains that the products are added to the water in a specific order so that her bath has just the right scent and feel. She prepares for her bath in a very specific way, turning off certain lights, laying out freshly washed towels and listening to certain music just until she slips into the water. “Why?” I asked. She answered that this ritual allows her to regain control of her day, put all of her thoughts in order, process her day and finally, relax before bed. She even carries her bath products when she travels – even if it means leaving something else at home.
One mother I’ve talked with describes her ritual of checking on her three children right before she goes to bed at night – several hours after they have brushed their teeth, put on their pajamas, had bedtime stories read and been tucked in. “Why?” I asked. She explained that she loved seeing her children sleeping peacefully….that she took a moment while looking at each child to appreciate some interaction she had with that child during the day. “Simply,” she said, “It feeds my ‘mother’ soul.”
Another woman talks about the importance of her ritual of choosing her clothes for the next day every evening before she goes to bed. She explained to me that she started this ritual as a child – her parents wanted her to be prepared for the next day. As an adult, she uses this ritual not only to help prepare physically for her next day, but to put her emotional thoughts in order for the next day as well. Whether it’s a business meeting she needs to be well-prepared for or lunch with a friend, she takes these few minutes to center herself.
What is your ritual? Exercise? I have many, many patients who love to start their day with a brisk walk. Why? Most will tell me it’s for more than the health benefit – it may ‘clear their head’ or help put their day in perspective. Is your ritual to make holiday cookies with a friend or family member? Many hands can make light work . . . but sharing a task is a bonding experience. Is that why this ritual feels so good to you?
I’ve started thinking about my own personal rituals. With the holiday season approaching, I always make special European cookies for my family. Why? My kids like them – there’s no doubt about that. But they remind me of my own mother – and good feelings from the past.
This time of year can be busy for everyone – women are juggling priorities every day – but before you put aside one of your rituals, give it some thought. You may find that what you get back from your own personal ritual is worth more than you thought!