"This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet." Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
The holiday season is a time of celebration and rituals. But I'm not just talking about rituals such as trimming the tree or lighting the Menorah. I'm talking about personal rituals. Do you have any? I do. Maybe you seek inner peace by meditating each morning with mantras or writing in a gratitude journal. Or maybe you have an especially tranquil place that you go to each day without fail to center yourself. And why not? Rituals in our lives can offer lots of benefits.
I recently saw a Time.com piece on rituals by Eric Barker which caught my eye with its intriguing title: This Is the No. 1 Ritual You Need to Do Every Day. So what is it? More rituals. Why? Because rituals, Barker says, can make us happier, help us overcome grief, stop procrastinating, and more. "It doesn't matter that Warren Buffett does it before breakfast-the most important thing is that you do it. It's your ritual. And the more personal you make it and the more consistently you use it the more powerful it can be.
"Often we just rush from thing to thing but having a little ritual you always do before a big (or little) moment that sets you at ease, focuses your attention or steels your resolve can have a huge effect on how you feel and how well you perform."
Raising a glass to mindfulness
Now that we're entering the mad rush, rush, rush of the holidays, perhaps we should pull on the reins, slow down and savor the special moments of the season, such as when we're at the holiday table.
"Ever do a toast before you drink?" Barker asks. "It made the drink taste better. Really." He adds, "By focusing your attention on what you drink or eat, little rituals help you enjoy these moments more."
Harvard professor Francesca Gino and author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan has researched the power of rituals to improve our lives, too. Barker quotes her as saying: "Think about rituals that you engage in prior to consumption experiences. What they do, they make us a little bit more mindful about the consumption experience that we are about to have. Because of that, we end up savoring the food or whatever we are drinking more, we enjoy the experience more, and in fact, we're also more willing to pay higher prices for whatever it is that we just consumed. Once again, rituals are beneficial in the sense that they create higher levels of enjoyment in the experience that we just had."
Savoring, Barker notes, is a powerful happiness booster, according to research. Below are his words on specific ways we can incorporate rituals:
- Savoring Ritual: Make the good times better by having something you do to focus on the good things. Share good news with a partner or have a regular mealtime with your family.
- Grief Ritual: When something has you down, write about your feelings. It'll reduce the pain and help you cope.
- Personal Starting Ritual: Beat anxiety and procrastination by having a fun ritual that says it's time to get to work.
- Peak Performance Ritual: If it makes you feel lucky, you will be Rituals increase confidence and performance.
Rituals: 'the spiritual technology of the 21st century'
Barbara Biziou, is the author of The Joy of Ritual and The Joy of Family Rituals and a leading expert in practical spirituality and rituals. She recently told Rewire Me: "In our modern technocentric society, we're unfortunately more likely to get stressed out and frustrated with our family members, friends and colleagues during the holidays than we are to connect deeply with them, show our appreciation and express our gratitude. Relationships have become more complicated and strained because we are all so busy and spend less time than we'd like with our family and friends."
Boy, isn't that the truth! To combat this, she shared her special method using ritual to deal with holiday stress:
"This is one of my favorite go-to rituals to prevent holiday stress. This technique is based on polarity and connected to the art of Jin shin Jyutsu, a Japanese acupressure technique. Each finger on your hand represents an emotion. As we neutralize these emotions, we then have the energy we require to move forward to create the new with more joy and ease.
- The thumb helps release insecurity;
- The index finger releases fear;
- The third finger releases anger;
- The fourth finger releases sorrow and grief;
- The pinky (little finger) releases denial and confusion.
"As you hold each finger, breathe in deeply; recognize and acknowledge the strong or disturbing feelings or emotions you hold inside yourself. Breathe out slowly and let go. Imagine the feelings draining out your finger into the earth. Do this for a few moments until you feel a pulse."
I highly recommend you try this. I did and it really helps! To see this in action, watch her video on how to Shift Your Vibration Instantly.
"Ritual is the spiritual technology of the 21st century. Without practical spirituality and powerful rituals in our lives, it's like having a body without a backbone," she says-and I couldn't agree more.