Know anyone who has to wear a certain pair of socks when their favorite team is playing? Or maybe your family always opens one present on Christmas Eve? Rituals run the gamut from "superstitious" to traditional & they play an important role in wellness.
The other morning I was enjoying some tea that a friend had gifted me after a trip from China, which I made in a teapot from my mother. In that moment, I was drinking that tea with both parties, neither of which were present. I realized this was a ritualistic practice, which brought significance & mindfulness to the event. Why is this even important? Because the act of mindfulness: bringing your attention to the task you are currently completing, calms your breathing & mind & allows you to enjoy the present moment. This was actually a moment in meditation too because the mind was quiet & I was only focused on the task at hand, which was enjoying the hot cup of tea.
According to an article in Scientific American, "Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work." The last sentence made me laugh as it sounds a bit like what is often said of acupuncture; you do not have to believe in it, but it works! Though to be fair, if you accept & enjoy what you're doing, I think the benefits will be expounded.
I encourage you to find your own rituals - or consider whether you already have some that you do unknowingly (maybe you always clean the house on Sunday afternoons). When you're completing the task, place your FULL attention on the ritual. Why is this important? There's a lot of emphasis in modern society to multi-task & get more done at once, but I guarantee this technique is merely over-loading your senses & draining you, rather than "getting more done". Similar to someone who tries to talk on the phone & drive at the same time (we all know this is a horrible idea!), you are really neither focusing fully on the conversation, nor the road, nor where you're headed. Doing ONE thing at ONE time allows you to focus on the task & do a good job at it. And for those who deal with anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion, taxation, insomnia (I think everyone is included in this list now!), this is a KEY habit to master! When you are in the depths of experiencing any of these symptoms, go to your breathing & place ALL of your attention on ONE task. Turn off or shut out any distractions. I guarantee this will change your mood & focus! It will also leave you feeling more fulfilled, instead of drained or haggard.
Know that rituals can be spiritual, religious or secular. Some ideas:
*Going for a walk
*Lighting a candle/ Praying / Meditation
*Planting / Tending to a garden
*Planning a reoccurring date or event (that you enjoy!)
*Writing in a journal daily / weekly / as needed
*Doing or making art
*Paying bills on a certain date (and rejoicing you can pay them!)
*Scrap-booking / Shadow-boxing / Making momentos
*Hand-writing letters or cards
*Making a favorite recipe on a holiday to share
I hope you can find comfort & enjoyment with rituals, especially around the holiday season. If you struggle with this, or any aspect of mindfulness, come see me for one-on-one help. Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.