Rituals are the base of all religious practices for good reason. According to Chinese medicine, when we need to calm the heart, we should focus on rituals. Our expectations are met because we repeat known actions. Meeting expectations in turn creates feels of safety and surety.
In a world where there is so much anxiety, small rituals are a way to gain some peace throughout our day.
And when I say small, I mean small. I often talk about making small changes instead of big ones because I’ve found over time that my patients make better progress when they can meet the expectations that they set for themselves. Before you go thinking that now you need to go and start a ritual because of this post… read on.
We all already have rituals, most of which we don’t even think about. There is a joke in my family that people can be broken up into two kinds: those that butter toast all the way to the edges and those who butter their toast all willy nilly. Even this small act of buttering toast all the way to the edges is a sort of ritual. You do it the same way, more or less, every time. You know what the exact outcome is. You are safe to eat your toast with the knowledge that you will get butter on every bite (how bad do you want toast with butter right now?). It honestly gives me a slight feeling of anxiety when I don’t butter my own toast unless the person buttering is an all-the-way-to-the-edges type. I just can’t have butter all willy nilly on my toast.
The small rituals that we perform throughout the day are often mindless – but they don’t have to be.
My husband puts the kettle on for tea and then prepares his mug. He knows once he hears the kettle, that his tea will be exactly as he wants it whether I pour the water, or he does.
Recently, I wrote about my wake up routine and when I do it, I start the day in a better mood mostly because I expect to start my day in a better mood.
Also, I take my watch off when I am about to type a blog post. Always. I type with my wrists low and my watch hits the edge of my computer so I started taking it off. I continue to do it because now, taking my watch off is equivalent to getting some work done.
Anxiety sufferers: make a list of the smallest of the rituals you perform and then perform them with more mindfulness. They will remind you that you are safe. It probably won’t cure your anxiety, but it might just calm your heart so that your anxiety doesn’t get the best of you.
Share your small rituals (the weirder the better!) in the comments below!