Feel like you’re stuck spinning your wheels? Turning “habits” into “rituals” can bring meaning to everyday tasks and give you a nice, big dose of happiness too.

When you hear the word “ritual,” the first image that comes to mind may be of incense drifting behind a swinging thurible in church. Maybe you’re thinking of the different types of wedding ceremonies from all over the world. These images ARE examples of ritual, but they’re very big picture. We can also practice rituals every day! And you may be surprised at the results.

A woman with her back facing the camera, back lit by the sun.

Most of us have daily habits that we complete without much thought. These habits help us get our day started, help us stay motivated, or even help us wind down at the end of a long day. But sometimes this can leave us feeling like our lives lack meaning. It’s because one of the biggest differences between a habit and a ritual is your frame of mind. By practicing the art of ritual it can take your everyday habits to new heights and bring meaning to tasks that were previously meaningless.

Habits vs. Rituals

Certain tasks can be mere habits. But that same task could also be accomplished in a way that makes it a ritual. In The Psychology of Rituals: An Integrative Review and Process-Based Framework the authors use setting a table as an example, “setting a table to prepare for a meal is typically not considered to be a ritual. The specific placement and ordering of silverware and plate ware is unimportant, just so long as they are arranged on the table in a practical manner for eating. Contrast this with the same behavior of table setting that occurs during religious holidays such as Jewish Passover. The Passover Seder dinner is a lengthy ritual feast involving a table-setting practice—called the Seder table—that requires precise placement of certain items that are utilized at exact times over the course of the dinner” (Hobson et al. 2). Without the religious intent, the Passover Seder would be just as habitual as setting the table for your kids before they rush off to school.

A plate full of sand with sticks of incense lit inside it.

So a ritual and a habit can definitely be similar in action, but it’s a person’s frame of mind that makes all the difference. While you MIGHT do the same physical actions for both, a ritual has specific actions combined with certain psychological features. So a habit becomes a ritual when the person practicing it interprets a deeper sense of meaning from the motions. It’s all about your intentions. This is why ritual has so often been associated with religion. But it doesn’t have to be.

So what makes rituals so special anyway?

If you were an athlete in school, you might have had a pre-game ritual you performed with your team. Maybe you have a friend that you Skype with once a month? Maybe you just like to get up and sit quietly with your morning cup of coffee before the kids wake up. ALL of these can be rituals! And they serve very important purposes.

Two women drinking tea.

Rituals can help us regulate our emotions, they can help us perform tasks better, and they can help us create stronger social connections. And these are only just some of their benefits! The phrase, “get your head in the game” is a motto that athletes take very seriously. That’s because if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you won’t perform at your best. Pre-game rituals help athletes quiet any other thoughts that might be getting in their way or causing anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, having rituals can help with that too. Have you ever cleaned your entire house because you were anxious? Yeah, that’s a pretty common anti-anxiety ritual. Some people have mantras that they repeat to help them quiet racing thoughts. Others start their day by writing out a to-do list so that they don’t get overwhelmed by a hectic schedule.

A blonde woman sits on a rock and reads a book.

For the friends that can only meet once a month for coffee, it’s not just about catching up. It’s about having a dedicated time that they can reconnect and strengthen their bond. That’s why those kinds of friends are so special! So if you’ve got one, make sure to send them a little extra love the next time you meet.

Rituals and Spirituality

In essence, having a ritual practice helps us strengthen our hearts and minds. And in this day and age, that’s not easy. Regardless of your religious beliefs, having a ritual practice helps us mature spiritually. Our ability to be open with people, to love ourselves and others, and even our ability to handle conflicts all stem from our mental and emotional strength. 

A girl with auburn hair holds her hands in prayer with her eyes closed.

Many people swear by having a strict meditation practice. But not all of us have 30 minutes everyday to meditate on ascending to our highest selves. That doesn’t mean we can’t sneak in tiny rituals here and there that give us peace of mind. You can have the healthiest body on the planet, but what’s the point if your mind, body, AND spirit aren’t healthy? Happiness and contentment are just as important for wellness as exercise. It’s just a lot harder to exercise your heart and mind. So start small!

How can YOU practice rituals everyday?

Maybe you’re scoffing at the idea of finding meaning in your normal everyday tasks. The thought of finding spiritual transcendence while brushing your teeth does seem a little ridiculous. But that’s just the thing, find what works for you! As an example, here are 3 of my daily rituals…

A wooden table with a white mug in the foreground.

My 3 Daily Rituals
  • Morning yoga. When I’m doing my yoga practice, I’m mentally waking up and doing my best to practice gratitude for my body. Yes, sometimes I would rather stay in bed. But once I’m finished my body feels good and I’m mentally prepared to start my day.
  • I make my partner tea. Him and I have very different schedules. We don’t always get to share meals, or even the same sleep schedule. So when I know that he’ll be getting home late, I brew him a big batch of tea that he can drink as he winds down before getting into bed. I know that he LOVES tea, and that having a cold glass of tea after work makes him really happy. So when I’m making it, I’m focusing on how much I love him and want him to be happy.
  • I take my makeup off and give my skin some love. When I was younger, I used to sleep in my makeup all the time. But please, I beg you, don’t do it! Taking just five minutes to take my makeup off, apply a spray toner and put on some moisturizer has made a huge impact on my skins health. Plus, as I wipe my makeup off I’m imagining wiping any negativity off from the day. It sounds goofy, but I swear I sleep better.

A woman in a bath filled with water and flowers.

As you can see, these are all pretty basic rituals. And the purpose of them is to help me be positive, grateful, productive, strengthen the bond between my partner and I, and (my favorite) to sleep better. Maybe they’re not big, grand rituals with candles and incense, but happiness can come from tiny, precious moments throughout the day.

Final thoughts

Rituals don’t have to be intense. You don’t have to perform them on a full moon and see white light surrounding people (although you certainly COULD do that). If you don’t have any sort of regular habits that you could easily turn into rituals, then think about the type of changes you’d like to see and work backwards.

A woman blows on a dandelion.

Maybe you want to be more confident. Try taking 5 minutes in the morning to listen to your favorite cat-walk stompin’ jam and imagine yourself striding through your day with your head held high. The biggest thing is to find something that works for you, and to be intentional about it. Imagine it in your mind, visualize it, and manifest it into reality.

Oh, you don’t know about manifestation? Don’t worry, we’ve got a whole blog coming out about that soon. 😉

Till next time, Gorgeous!