“I Don’t Have Time For Rituals”
I cannot underestimate the power of rituals. This is undoubtedly a fast-paced and frenetic world we are living in. The women I work with hold multiple roles. They are business owners, wives, mothers, carers of elderly parents and usually general dogs’ bodies! So when I suggest that it might benefit them to create a little time in their days for meditation or ritual, their mouths say yes but I read in their eyes a firm “I don’t have time for that!”
But it’s exactly because we have so many roles to fulfil and feel like we are constantly running out of time that we need these practices. They help to ground us, to focus our attention, to make us more productive and to stop us from feeling overwhelmed. They offer us a moment – and genuinely all it takes is a minute or two sometimes – to pause, take a breath, connect to the present and recalibrate.
The power of rituals has been utilised in cultures for thousands of years for a reason. They are a way to connect with ourselves, our environment and if we are on a spiritual path, with our version of the divine.
The Science Behind The Power of Rituals
There is plenty of research that backs up why rituals are good for our wellbeing – even when they are entirely made up. For example, science has shown that rituals can help us feel better after a bereavement or a breakup. This is because rituals tend to restore our sense of control and a sense of agency when things seem overwhelming. You can use rituals that have been passed on to you by a mentor, that you find online or in books, or you can make up your own. As long as you come to the ritual in the right way, they will help you to bring a sense of peace.
Francesca Gino professor at Harvard Business School has studied the science behind rituals – the big ones like baptisms and marriages, but also little personal ones too. Like the ritual of reading to your child before bedtime, or the morning cup of coffee. The link between them is how strongly you feel about them and therefore whether you have a ritual, or just a habit. Take for example something that you do every morning like brushing your teeth and having a shower. Do you care which order you do them in? If not, you have a habit. If you do, and the idea of doing it the other way round is an anomaly to you – and in fact, you think that anyone who does it differently is wrong – you have a ritual.
Photo by Edz Norton on unsplash.co
What Do You Need?
Instagram is awash with images and videos of elaborate rituals using all manner of props and equipment. Aesthetically beautiful no doubt, but the power of rituals is such that this stuff is not at all necessary. All you need to create a ritual are three things. You need to have an intention for the ritual, you need to be mindful and present as it’s happening, and it needs to be repeated – so that your brain can start to recognise that something sacred and important is taking place.
The overarching theme of the research is that rituals can make life better, and ourselves happier, but rituals aren’t just for the hard times. Rituals designed as good luck charms can make us perform better, feel calmer, happier and more confident. There are many examples of athletes, astronauts and performers who have strict rituals to bring them luck before high-stress activities. There is no evidence to suggest that there is a causal effect, but there is to show that they make you feel better. They are effective not because of the physical results, but because of the psychological ones. Again, it is about giving you a sense of control and agency. There are for example an awful lot of rituals in religions from all over the world for when a new baby is born. A time in our lives when we suddenly feel very out of control! They can also be helpful when we’re trying to be disciplined when setting healthy habits. For example, those who were involved in a study for weight loss showed better results having performed a simple ritual before they ate.
Create Your Own Today!
The beauty and power of rituals are that you can find them in the day-to-day. It does not have to be exotic to be sacred. I run cacao ceremonies UK and Surrey women’s circles where we do lots of rituals together in beautiful settings, but you can completely go it alone should you wish. You can even take things that you already do and turn them into a ritual. For example, making your first cup of coffee of the day. Or using the time that you are cleaning your teeth in the evening to think about all the things you are grateful for. Rituals are essentially a form of mindfulness and I have seen the benefits myself and in those I have worked with. Start small – try to add something to your morning that will set you up well for the day. Make it personal and meaningful to you and I promise you will feel better for it.
Would you like to learn more? Read my blog ‘What Is Ceremonial Grade Cacao?’ here.