Ritual – noun – a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.
I think it’s safe to say that over the last month or so, everyone has had their daily routines, habits and rituals interrupted, uprooted and altered. I think it’s important to define the difference between the above 3 nouns, as I often confuse them and may call one by another name.
Routine – a sequence of actions regularly followed. Wake up at 05:20, brush teeth, eat breakfast, put make-up on, drive to work etc.
Habit – a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Morning coffee, taking medication, exercising regularly, putting your car keys in the basket on the stairs, sitting in a certain spot on the couch etc.
Ritual – a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone. For me, this is some sort of a synonym for a routine, but the term ritual strikes a different note with me. It’s something meaningful, special, important.
The roots of the word ritual all connect with religious rites or activities. I think this is why it seems a more solemn idea for me than just what I do each day. I’m thinking deeply now about what a ritual means to me, and I can conclude the following:
-Something that assists my professional development
-Something that helps my mental wellbeing
-Something that helps my physical wellbeing
-Something that improve my life in small or large ways
I don’t think I ever had rituals before lockdown. I had routines and habits – things that I just did automatically or tried to do because it was good for me. I believe I’ve found some solace in developing and putting rituals in place since our lives changed so dramatically. I have a couple of rituals that I will now explore:
Daily yoga: I wake up at 05:20, take 10 minutes to make my bed, tidy up, lay out my yoga mat and get YouTube open on my television, then I do a yoga practice with ‘Yoga With Adriene’. I have, up until now, done this ritualistically for 10 days by following a 30-day program. She has several of these so I fully intend to continue with them. Yoga had provided me with a clear starting point to my day. It gives me time to reflect, think and connect with my body. Every session is different and some are more challenging than others. My abs still hurt from day 7, but then on day 8 it was a healing practice that didn’t consist of any strenuous movement. I fully intend to continue with this practice when lockdown is lifted as I worked out that I can stick to that ritual and still reasonably get ready for work and leave the house at a sensible time.
Meditation: I’m working on making this a ritual. I don’t do it every night because at the moment my bed time varies from my usual routine to 2 hours later after reading endless blogs and perusing Twitter and Instagram. I’m still not entirely sure what day it is! Before the lockdown, when school routines were normal, I couldn’t go to sleep without following a Headspace meditation wind down. I would never reach the end because it would work its magic and I’d be asleep within 10 minutes. I’m still dipping in and out of Headspace and exploring the different meditations they offer. This again gives me time and space to reflect and evaluate my day and help me to make sense of anything that’s troubling me.
Those are the two rituals most important to me right now. Sure, I have other routines I now follow. Video chat with the girls on Wednesday, NHS clap and virtual pub quiz on Thursday, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on a Friday night, family FaceTime quiz on a Saturday evening. Those are short term routines though and I don’t consider them as rituals for me right now. They are still important and worth noting as behaviours and activities that are having a positive impact on my mental health at this time.
Yoga and meditation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. There’s even times when I listen to some of the stuff they say and talk about and an internal scoff echoes through my head. Not in a disrespectful way, but in a ‘you would never say these words aloud to anyone’ type of way because it’s just not in my personality. I can’t suddenly start rocking up to drinks with the girls full of chat about inhaling love and melting my palms into my heart space. However, I respect those elements of yoga and meditation and commit to them fully during rituals.
To conclude, whether you focus on your routines, habits or indeed rituals, you need to focus on what is right for you. If the current climate isn’t the idea one for you to start building new routines and rituals then don’t. Find what feels good for you.