"The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them." Pat Conroy
I have daily rituals that help me think clear, improve my health and reduce stress. I'm betting that you have daily rituals too. The word ritual is usually associated to religious practices and ceremonies. But I promise that I'm not going to go there.
I'm more interested in the practical definition of ritual: A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed.
Daily rituals are powerful because over time they become deep-seeded habits. Do you wash your hands before you eat? Do you even have to think about it? You've probably practiced the ritual of washing your hands before you eat so many times that you now do it automatically with little thought. It is a habit.
The cool thing is that you can create new daily rituals and therefore new habits. You can also get rid of destructive rituals and habits.
A resource for you to check out is the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I've read the book and found it to be a useful tool for understanding and changing habits. Here's a video from Charles explaining how to break a habit.
Establishing a new habit is the act of creating a new daily ritual that you practice over and over again. For better or worse, eventually you have a habit. Let's look at 5 Daily Rituals you can start today to create powerful habits that will lead to health, clean energy and reduced stress levels.
5 Daily Rituals for Health, Vitality and Longevity
1. How you start your day is a major influence on the rest of your day. One daily ritual that I've found increases my energy and helps wake me up is to drink a tall glass of cold water as soon as I wake up.
I've found that drinking a glass of cold water first thing in the morning wakes up my mind, increases my energy, helps with digestion and ensures my body is getting all the benefits of drinking water.
Instead of running straight to the coffee pot in the morning to get a shot of caffeine have a glass of water. Soon you'll wake up reaching for your water glass without thinking about it and you'll be enjoying all the health benefits this new habit brings. I'm not suggesting you skip your coffee. Just make sure to have some fresh water first.
2. Another ritual to practice first thing in the morning is to show gratitude. I keep a gratitude list in my journal. Usually my journal is on my nightstand and I can grab it as I go out to the kitchen for my glass of water.
There's no set number of things you have to write down. All you need to do is write one thing in your journal that you're thankful for. It could be as simple as being thankful that you woke up today.
I used to believe that I could just think about things I'm grateful for and that would be good enough. But the truth is that there is something more significant about actually writing these things down.
I've not made this an actual habit, yet. I have to make a conscious effort to write my gratitude list every morning. But taking that time in the morning to concentrate on what I'm grateful and happy about puts me in a more productive state of mind for the rest of the day. I also find that I appreciate my life more and it helps me realize that I'm surrounded by abundance.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
Sorry to sound a little new age with this gratitude stuff but I believe that I have to tell my mind what to focus on or else it finds things on its own... and what it finds is not always good. A cool site to checkout is Gratitude Log which is coined as "The Happiest Place on the Internet."
3. Get outside in the afternoon for a walk and some Vitamin D. This might sound crazy but I think you would actually do your body, mind and spirit more good by skipping lunch and taking a walk outside with fresh air and sunshine.
Lunch is one of those meals during the day that I feel is more of a ritual then it is a necessity. Do you have to eat lunch? I'm not convinced that you do.
If I follow my regular schedule of eating a high protein and fat breakfast I find that I'm usually not hungry until late afternoon around 5 o'clock. If I'm staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water my energy levels actually improve as the day progresses and I might even make it until 6pm, or later, before I'm actually hungry.
I hear from a lot of people that they feel sluggish after lunch. They might even need a nap! This is especially true for people who eat the typical sub sandwich for lunch with a bag of chips and a cola on the side.
Lunch or no lunch one thing is certain, we sit too much. I also think that most of us don't get enough natural Vitamin D from sunlight. Usually you're inside eating lunch during the part of the day where you can get the most Vitamin D from the sun.
I encourage you to try a new daily ritual. Get outside at lunch time. Take a walk. If you want to eat something take an apple or a handful of nuts with you along with a water bottle. I promise you it will be the best lunch ever and you'll have more energy for the second half of your day.
Bonus points if you grab a friend and have fun talking as you take your walk. Of course, everyone is different so test it out and see if it's right for you.
4. Practice mastery in an endeavor outside your normal work and obligations. I've had the goal to learn to play guitar for a while. I've dabbled and picked up some chords but I haven't really dedicated myself to practicing a little each day.
When I was practicing on a regular basis I felt a calm and presence that is hard to come by during "normal" daily activities. I get this same type of feeling playing sports or going to the gym. It comes from having a clear mind and focusing on one objective.
Think about something you've wanted to learn and go do it. It's exciting to learn new things and to become good at them. To learn more about practicing mastery I encourage you to read Mastery by George Leonard.
"How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself." George Leonard
5. Turn off your phone, computer, laptop, tablet and TV at least 90 minutes before bed. This is another ritual that has been hard for me but I'm persisting.
When I practice the no screens before bed ritual I find that my body naturally winds down and I get sleepy. If I'm on the computer or reading on my phone my mind starts going and I could stay up until 2 am. This leads to not getting enough quality sleep and the next day my energy and productivity suffers.
Instead of staring at a screen that two hours before bed you could practice mastery in your new subject from ritual number four. You could spend that time reading a new book or writing in your journal. It could be a great opportunity to spend time with your family and loved ones. The possibilities are endless.
Good sleep is so important to our overall health and well-being that it deserves serious attention. Here's a great article from Mark Sisson on how light can impact your sleep.
"Blue light regulates our secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Exposed to blue light, we limit the production of melatonin, and we stay alert and awake; in the absence of blue light, melatonin production ramps up, and we get sleepy." Mark Sisson
Turn off those screens and immerse yourself in something "offline." Disconnect and let your mind wind down naturally. Sometimes deadlines and obligations get the best of us and we have to burn the midnight oil. But if you're able to make this ritual part of your normal day to day life it will pay dividends.
5.5. Here's a quick bonus ritual that you might want to try. Meditate or practice positive visualization for at least 5 minutes a day. It doesn't matter what part of the day you do this as long as you do it for at least five minutes every day.
I like to visualize the goals I have and picture what it will be like to achieve them. It's actually a lot of fun trying to see how bright and clear you can make the pictures in your mind. Take this five minutes and do some deep breathing as well.
Sometimes I find myself taking shallow breaths. This is especially true when I'm stressed out. Taking deep, mindful breaths can relieve stress, increase energy and boost your immune system. Check out this clip from NPR.
Going forward be mindful of the daily rituals that are part of your life. Have you consciously chosen these daily rituals? Do you have habits that have chosen you that you would like to change? It all starts with recognizing our current daily rituals and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of.
Make sure to share these ideas with your friends. Good ideas and good health are worth sharing.
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