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 feelings 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 clients 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.
You all already have rituals, most of which you 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 badly 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 puts in a bag of black tea and a teaspoon coated in honey, and leaves it there. 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.
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. It's the small signal that lets my brain know: We're about to do some writing.
By taking the time to find and then become mindful of the small rituals in your life, you can increase your feelings of safety and therefore decrease your feelings of anxiety. If you're a naturally anxious person, I have a challenge for you:
Make a list of the smallest of the rituals you perform every day - and then perform them with more mindfulness. If you notice that you always put your left shoe on before your right, the next time you go to put on your shoes, think about that. If you realize that you always slice tomatoes the same way, the next time you come to it, focus on slicing the tomato just the way you like. These moments will remind you that you are safe, they will convince your animal brain to chill for a hot minute. Mindfulness around rituals might not cure your anxiety completely, but it might just calm your heart enough so that your anxiety doesn’t get the best of you.
Share your small rituals (the weirder the better!) in the comments below!