Amy Rees Anderson

Life’s Little Rituals

We all have our little life rituals.  Sometimes we are aware of them and sometimes we don’t even realize we do them until something causes a break in our ritual and we suddenly realize how important they were to us. 

We start out each day with our morning rituals.  For me it includes having my alarm go off 30 minutes before I actually need to get up so I can hit snooze a few times, flip on the TV for a few minutes, and whine about how badly I wish I could stay in my comfy bed.  I pretty much repeat that exact same thing each morning without even noticing it until one day my alarm doesn’t go off and it throws off my entire day.  It is as if the world has been thrown from its axis that day because there was a break in the ritual and now nothing is going to go as planned.  Sounds silly right?  But it’s genuinely true for so many of us.  We become attached to our little life rituals because they give us a feeling of comfort and security – I personally think the reason they give us comfort is that these rituals tend to give us a sense of perceived certainty in a world that is filled with crazy amounts of uncertainty.  The ironic thing is that these rituals don’t really give us any more certainty than anything else in life can – they are as exposed to risk and change as much as everything else is, but somehow our brains are able to block that fact out and they become a calming influence in our lives. 

Many of us have emotional rituals with food.  My diet coke in the morning is my ritual that helps me feel focused and ready to conquer my day.  My popcorn at night comforts me because it reminds me of when I was a teenager and I would come home at night from a date to find my mom eating a bowl of popcorn and reading a book as she pretended that she hadn’t been up waiting on me to get home safely.  A bowl of ice cream is a ritual that instantly cheers me up as it reminds me of going to Baskin Robbins with my dad when we were younger and how happy that made me. 

Many of us have rituals with tasks or events.  Sunday we go to church.  Saturday may be date night.  Thursday may be laundry night.  Friday night is watching our favorite TV show Shark Tank.  And so on.  Having these rituals gives us a schedule and a plan and it helps us to feel confident in what we will accomplish.

At times of extreme stress or anxiety, rituals can provide a much needed calming effect.  During times of sadness they give us something to look forward to.  During times of change they can give us something to count on.

The most important thing to recognize about rituals in our lives are the negative ones.  There are so many positive rituals we have each day and they are a fabulous thing in our life.  But just as the positive rituals are a good influence in our lives, negative rituals can be incredibly destructive.   For many it can be rituals that affect your good health, such as smoking or drinking, or overeating.  For some it can be excessive playing of video games, or excessive internet surfing, or excessive technology addiction, or any destructive addiction that takes you away from being the best you can be.  For me I have a negative dieting ritual where I diet to lose weight, and then when my weight goes down I instantly decide its okay to indulge again and the weight comes right back again and then I start the cycle over.  It’s a ritual in my life that I am finally realizing is an actual ritual, and it is a ritual that I am determined to get rid of!  I do not want to be held captive by any negative rituals in my life.  What are the negative rituals in your life that you want to get rid of?  Do you have a plan for how to do that?  It’s definitely something to evaluate about yourself.  Identify the negative rituals and then set a plan to get rid of them for good!

Now let’s get back to the happy rituals! They are so much more fun to talk about.  Speaking of which, tonight is one of my very favorite rituals each week. My daughter and I have a TV show that we look forward to all week long and each Monday night we get our dinner ready and snuggle up to watch our favorite show together while my husband makes fun of us for watching silly girly television shows.  He is just mad that his ritual of playing X-Box with our son on Monday nights while we watch our show got put on hold while our son is gone serving his mission for the next 18 months.  Now he ends up sitting in the family room with his computer out trying to pretend he isn’t watching our girly TV show with us, but he isn’t fooling us, we know he is just trying to protect his “man card” by acting like he doesn’t enjoy it.   Ah, yes, how I love my Monday night ritual, so I am off to enjoy it. 

Enjoy the Little Ritual’s in your own Life.   Perhaps it’s a good time to add a few new rituals as well.  Here’s to a Happy Day Tomorrow!

~Amy

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