May 27 2013
DO IT EVERYDAY
While it’s important to have a life that is as textured and varied as possible and to also be flexible and nimble enough to handle the ups and downs that come our way, it is essential for us to have certain things we do every day. A few daily rituals ground us , give us a schedule we control and nourish us.
It’s proven that children who grow up in households where everyone eats dinner around the table at approximately the same time every night are more secure and confident – thus less likely to run amok than those who don’t.
We all know (whether we choose to go or not) that the tradition of attending church or temple regularly gives people a sense of purpose and connectedness. One sees this on steroids in countries like India, where the endless rituals, that come hourly, daily, yearly and all center around the endless deities keeps a people who are more often than not impoverished, and who live lives we would consider unfathomable in their lack of structure and amenities attached, joyous and purposeful.
Outside of the religion of it all, the mere act of doing a few of the same things each day no matter where we are has the ability to keep us steady and feeling stable no matter the size or frequency of the seismic shifts in our lives and worlds.
I don’t think it matters what you do as long as you have some routine. Making your bed has become a big deal. Gretchen Rubin in her wildly popular Happiness Project feels this simple act is a cornerstone to being happy. Will and Grace creator Max Mutchnick told the Emerson Class of 2013 “to always make their beds”. He said a lot of other things but this was in his final list of musts. I have made my bed my entire life. Even as a child, I would get tup each day and make my bed before I left for school. In fact I couldn’t go to school unless it was made. No one told me to. I just couldn’t leave the house myself if that order was not imposed on my space. I’m sure it comes from some sense that there was a certain amount of chaos in my emotional life so the fact that that bed was made made me feel a modicum of security. It’s a habit I continue to this day. I will not leave a house with unmade beds.
A daily regime of exercise is another wonderful ritual. Not only will it add years to your life and take inches off your middle, it starts or ends the day with something you can count on. And ask anyone who has an exercise regime and they will tell you they almost always do it at the same time give or take an hour each and every day. And if you find those who started and abandoned exercise programs they will often tell you they went at different times and usually not on conseqeutive days. Eventually they gave it up.
Four years ago this August my oldest and best friend died suddenly. I was grief stricken to the point of physical pain. But the morning after his death, I found myself at my gym, in my same spot, doing my same routine; albeit tears pouring from my eyes. But somehow in the midst of that tragedy, when the world had proven itself to be shockingly cruel and unpredictable, I needed to be in a familiar place surrounded by familiar faces, doing same thing I did every other day of the year. While it didn’t’ take away the anguish it offered up a certain stabilizing energy I needed.
One of the things that makes the recovery movement work is the ritual of attending groups with people in similar situations. Without those meetings people lose their way.
When you see a therapist you have the same day and time each week. This is not an accident or cooked up to make the therapist’s schedule easier; it’s there to commit you to the process and give a consistency to your life and the therapy.
There are endless ways we can add order, structure and certain serenity to our worlds. Rituals keep us pinned to the earth and in our lives no matter how fast the world spins around us.
A FEW OF MY RITUALS
Making my bed.
Lighting candles each evening when I get home.
Dinner with my family.
Trying to always remember what I have to be grateful for no matter what
else is going on around me.
What are some of your rituals? How do they help you?
We would love to hear.