The Power of Ritual in Everyday Life

Sometime during 2020, my kids started to reject bathing.

I’ll admit that my attempts to get them in the tub have been pretty weak. Usually if we can get to the end of the day with everyone fed and somewhat educated and the house still technically up to code, I call that a win and my husband and I crash. Another day of 2020 in the bank, dirty kids and all.

But eventually hygiene becomes important. And after a lot of bargaining and arguing and failed bathing charts and schedules, I stumbled on something miraculous. One day I went into the bathroom, filled the tub, turned off the lights, and lit a candle on the bathroom counter.

Bingo. Clean children.

This is the power of ritual over routine.

While most of us adults don’t have trouble with daily personal hygiene, we all have aspects of our own lives that feel cumbersome, especially right now. Turning rote routines into rituals can help move us through this time with more ease, comfort, and even pleasure.

Ritual v. Routine

What’s the difference between ritual and routine? A routine is a means to an end. Take your shower so you can get in bed. Drink your coffee so you can wake up and start work. Get to the store so you can make dinner.

A ritual on the other hand is enjoyable and important in and of itself. Take a shower and feel the warm water on your back. Delight in smelling the coffee beans and choosing a mug. Take 30 seconds to turn on a favorite playlist or podcast on the drive to the store. In a word, ritual is mindfulness.

Why Ritual Matters

Besides making everyday life more enjoyable, ritual has the power to anchor us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. This is especially useful during the seasonal shift to Autumn, when things around us are shifting and changing.

When we look at our days as to-do lists, each activity another thing to accomplish so we can get to the end of the day and relax, it invites feelings of urgency and stress. But when we approach our daily tasks as opportunities for ritual, our perspective shifts and our energy focuses in on the present moment.

How To Do It

Think about your day ahead. What parts are you looking forward to, and which parts are you dreading? Can you turn your least favorite routine into more of a ritual? Use your five senses: is there something you delight in seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling that you can add to the routine?

Here are a few examples:

  • Tape up a pleasing image or light a candle in your workspace.
  • Put on some relaxing music to pay the bills.
  • Soak your feet in warm water for a few minutes before bed.
  • Bring a chocolate or favorite tea to your Zoom meeting.
  • Light a scented candle or use essential oils for aromatherapy.

There are so many ways to ritualize our everyday lives and turn drudgery into delight. It doesn’t matter so much what particular items you use. If it brings your attention to the present moment and makes it more enjoyable, that’s the aim.

Share Your Rituals!

If you have a favorite daily ritual, or have developed one during this tricky transition to Fall, will you share it with me in the comments? I’d love to feature your daily rituals on social media as we move through this season together. You can also email me: erin@erinlandsee.com. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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