Do you have certain routines or rituals that reliably help you to flourish?
Rituals give us a sense of meaning and control over our lives. They are actions or behaviors that come to occupy special significance in our minds. Also, rituals can positively support mental health.
Some of the simplest rituals are extremely beneficial to the mind and body because they reduce stress levels and heighten well being. For example:
- Stretch, meditate, sip a cup of tea in the morning when the world is quiet and calm.
- Walk and breathe fully during the day for a break and to savor the beauty of the moment.
- Bathe by candlelight in lavender epson salts to calm your nervous system.
- Write in a gratitude journal to tune into the obvious and subtle pleasures from the day.
Benefits of Rituals on Mental health
- Diminishes anxiety, depression, stress and pain
- Improves quality of sleep
- Increases feelings of well being and joy
- Improves experience of connection within ourselves and the world around us
What are some of the rituals that support your experience of joy and equanimity?
Thanksgiving is for most Americans the mother of all family dinners and rituals. As a ritual, it has all of the important elements—a specified time and place and predictable and prescribed foods and guests (though these are of course subject to change). Every year we add a new layer of meaning and memories so that the ritual is strengthened and reinterpreted.
There is a build up to this ritual because of the smells, the tastes, the lighting of candles—all of the sensory components that are woven together on the day. The planning and the team effort usually make the emotional connections strong. It not only has relational implications but also intergenerational ones. Year in and year out the traditions become more deeply embedded into our collective consciousness regardless of what else may be going on in our lives.
Rituals like Thanksgiving come to represent what it means to be a member of a particular family or community. During these occasions we clearly see and feel that we are part of something bigger that ourselves. These connections make us more resilient and healthier physically and emotionally.
It’s important to remain mindful of negative interactions so that we can remind ourselves to remain on the positive, grateful end of the continuum. Electronics, the wish for the perfect meal, and any resentment between family members or friends need to be checked at the door—with the emphasis being to be grateful, to connect, to laugh and to take pleasure.
Successful rituals over time are about combining predictability and flexibility. We maintain the familiar and keep our mind and heart open to new possibilities.
The tradition of Thanksgiving along with other annual holidays reminds us of the continuity of family life—linking the generations against a backdrop of turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and football.
We predictably band together in ever evolving traditions with the old players and the new ones—in joy and in sorrow—anchored in the beauty of our connections year after year.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving ritual?
Wishing you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving holiday!