Between the pandemic and protests happening right now, things are feeling a *tad* stressful in America. Everyone's torn between the monotony of being quarantined, and the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next civically. And this is why your family's daily rituals are more important now than ever.
I know the idea of a daily ritual may sound a bit counterintuitive when we feel like our lives are literally a Nine Inch Nails song — Everyday Is Exactly the Same, anyone? — but doing something similar every single day and having it be a “ritual” is actually helpful, according to Dr. Carla Manly a clinical psychologist. “During the uncertainty of the pandemic and resulting quarantine measures, daily rituals and routines can be all the more important and precious,” she says.
Manly says that whenever stress and anxiety are high, these rituals can instill a sense of peace and calm for you and your family. "Whether lighting a candle, saying a mantra, or sipping a restorative cup of tea, small rituals can bring a great deal of positive, healing energy into the most challenging times."
Now what constitutes a “ritual” is different for everyone. In fact, some people may look at something they routinely do every day as a “ritual,” while others are more metaphysical about it and enjoy activities such as meditation, cleansing spaces, performing some sort of ceremony, or praying. Manly notes, however, there is a bit of a difference between a ritual and a routine. “Routines tend to be the procedures we follow during the day that allow us to achieve our overall goals with predictability,” she explains. “Rituals, on the other hand, have a ceremonial flavor; we tend to imbue rituals with a sense of preciousness and, at times, even sacredness. Rituals are often highly symbolic in nature. This does not mean that they are religious; it simply means that they are set apart as being precious and beyond the normal routine.”
With that said, whether you decide to have a routine or an actual “ritual,” both are important to humans for us to thrive. We thrive on predictability, whether we like to admit it or not. Manly says, “When life feels rather unpredictable, our little rituals bring us a sense of safety and security. Whether a family is eating breakfast together, having an afternoon walk, or enjoying a before-bedtime reading session, these small, predictable acts give life a sense of stability and normalcy,” she explains. “When rituals are in place, the psyche says, ‘Ahhhh… When so much is out of my control right now, this little ritual is something I can look forward to — and count on — each and every day.’”
According to Manly, one helpful daily ritual you can do is taking time to share a few words of gratitude every morning and evening. “Research shows that those who express gratitude every single day tend to feel better physically and psychologically."
Another example of a daily ritual includes getting outside and taking a family “togetherness” walk. “A walk as short as 12 minutes is sufficient to boost mood for several hours. And, of course, sharing exercise time benefits the body and family connection, according to research,” Manly says.
A five-minute meditation in the middle of the day every day is another “easy and doable” ritual. “When children see parents taking stress-reducing breaks for mediation, they learn very quickly that simple self-care is important and doable," Manly says. Additionally, family reading time is a “truly bonding experience” for families and can be part of your daily ritual. “Whether carving out a half hour after dinner or before bedtime for reading, children learn to value the reading as a most beautiful journey into the worlds of imagination and curiosity."
And lastly? “Eating dinner together — without the television — is a truly vital ritual in this busy world. When families share dinner together in a loving way, this sacred ritual becomes a place where laughter and stories of all types are shared,” Manly says. “When dinners are seen as a sharing space for both hearty food and meaningful life events, families tend to form strong, caring bonds.” This would also be a good time to discuss some current events — such as BLM and the protests — and touch base on how everyone is handling things emotionally.
Having daily rituals are not only important for you, but also your children. “Children look to the adults in their lives for stability. When parents feel overwhelmed and uncertain, children of all ages tend to be very aware of their parents’ anxiety,” Manly says. “Daily rituals, although they may be simple, stand out to a child as being extremely meaningful and comforting. As well, when parents slow down to make time and space to enjoy a ritual with a child, the child unconsciously will feel reassured knowing that the ritual is a priority.”
Dr. Carla Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams By Making Fear Your Friend