Making ordinary moments extraordinary.
With in mind the transitioning into dark and cold(er) days, but also the stress and struggling with the current uncertainty, I felt like I needed to take a closer look myself on how my own daily life is constructed. Is it still in tune with my values and beliefs? Am I taking care of myself in the way that I and the ones around me deserve (I am a firm believer of the principle that if you take good care of yourself, you are able to take better care of others)? Am I still practicing what I am preaching? On some parts, the answer is painfully, no. Obviously I am also on the forever path of learning how to LIVE more and better, but I can feel I have lately neglected some of the principles I want to live by. I have not been sleeping well and this motivated me to do some research and come up with a plan to change my evening ritual.
Numerous studies have shown that implementing restorative rituals, when practiced consistently, have proven to have positive effects on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Reducing stress and anxiety and in some cases even depression.
Whereas I start my mornings quite intentional, mindful and slow with a regular meditation and a stretching (yoga-ish) routine, a cup of tea and taking the time to sit and stare out of my window before I start with a productive day, I feel I have lost track of a healthy routine in my evenings. Resulting in a lack of good uninterrupted sleep and waking up in the morning feeling like I have been, well…. runover by a truck :).
The reasons for my lack of good sleep aren’t so surprising and maybe not even so unique. I have been taking in more news lately in the evening, I have been watching series and taking less walks than I used to. And then there’s the good old social media trap.
So why is it so hard for me, or anyone for that matter, to implement healthy habits which might help improve my nights?
Because you need a certain discipline to create new habits. And that is exactly where I go off track. I am quite tired in the evenings so I tend to go for the quick fix - the short term satisfaction. The reward is that I literally don’t have to think about anything anymore. Sounds familiar?
So, why create a new ritual?
I came across this quote by Van Gennep and I think this sums it up pretty good.
‘In rituals, the most ordinary of actions and gestures become transformed into symbolic expressions, their meaning reinforced each time they are performed'.
Self-care rituals bring moments of mindfulness to our daily lives. And these mindful moments are important steps towards improving our mental health.
So whether you would like to start off your day more calm, whether you would like to add a self-care routine to your weekend or whether you would like to come up with a new ritual for the evening (like I do), read along.
To craft your own new restorative ritual I would suggest breaking it up in a few steps and possibly even writing down the process. It helps to go about this with a clear and true intention. When you take the time to prepare it means you are taking it seriously. You are giving it attention and what you give attention grows.
identify the need.
There might be a need to slow down, to be more present, to disengage to the thinking mind and connect to the heart. Maybe you often feel like your day is going too fast, or you feel stressed most of the time.
identify the reward.
Visualize how you would like to feel during and after your daily ritual? Would you feel calm or energized? What effects might it have on the rest of your day or night?
what you would like to do?
There are different things you can do, depending on what you love to do and what you would like to do. Here are a few examples:
Putting pen to paper. A daily or nightly journaling practice can allow us to look at our own web of thoughts with a certain distance. Organizing them, making sense of them. It allows you to self-reflect on the spot while you relieve stress.
Slow, intentional and careful movement.
Pay attention to your body. What does it need? Where does it hurt? Dance, walk mindfully, stretch, move and breathe towards areas that need it.
Breathe consciously. Use your breath as an anchor to remain in the present moment. Observe whatever arises, without judgement. You can use an app such as Insight Timer to guide you. It can take as little as 5 minutes.
Consciously give some time into being grateful. Think about what it is you already have in your life to be grateful for. They don’t always have to be ‘great’ things. It can also be being grateful for a fresh brewed cup of coffee, a shadowplay on your living room wall, the scent of a flower. The moment you train your mind to notice details, is the moment you will start to notice them more and more. Opening up to little magic is eventually opening up to big magic!
Write down the things you want to implement in your new sacred ritual and now here’s the thing; make it special.
Make it an act of devotion! Find a space where you can retreat to, bring objects to bring symbolism to your ritual. Like some crystals, a flower, a rock. Anything that means something to you. Light a candle if you feel like it.
Set an intention and bring presence.
I have done some research and without going into details behind the neuroscience of how the brain works in terms of creating new routines and breaking with the old, here’s a few bullet points that you should might want to keep in mind:
Breaking a bad habit is about rewiring your brain.
The more often you do something, the more it gets physically wired into your brain, and chances are higher you will repeat the same pattern (whether it’s good or bad).
To change an old habit, you have to replace the routine but still look forward to the same reward.
When your brain expects a reward even after changing a bad habit, you are more likely to pursue the new routine and stick to it.
Creating a new routine is not the difficult part, committing to it is!
Be consistent and patient.
Now I think I have enough to work myself and I will put in the time and effort to create my own new evening ritual, which will hopefully bring some calm into my evenings, preparing my body and mind for a good night of sleep. If I have in some way inspired you to do the same I wish you good luck. Would love to hear how it goes.