Even if you’re not religious per say, this time of year does feature a lot more traditions in the collective consciousness than any other. There’s the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, the significance of which I learned at some point during Hebrew school and now just remember as something to do with freaky super-strength oil that justifies our mass consumption of greasy fried potatoes. Then there’s the lighting of the Christmas tree, and the eating of countless mini crab cakes off cater waiter trays, which, depending on who made them, could very well be a religious experience.
I haven’t had too many traditions to speak of in my life aside from the Jewish ones I arbitrarily observe, depending on the year and whether fasting falls on a weekend. Because of this, I never thought about the difference between these annual acts and the individualized rituals that people perform every day. But after my Wellness Wednesday hangout last month with Barbara Biziou, I now see the idea of rituals in a whole new (Maccabean strength) light and realize that my life could use more of them.
During our chat, Barbara defined ritual as an intentional act that shifts you from one level of consciousness to another. Rituals anchor us and give us a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. Traditions are often passed down, and therefore don’t necessarily have the same consciousness. And habits have no consciousness at all. They’re just something you do.
While we observe more traditions than ever this time of year, it’s also when we take a more critical eye to our habits. I’ll have a whole lot more on my wellness-related resolutions for you come the New Year. But as a starting point, and perhaps one resolution in and of itself, I want to craft some new daily rituals.
Doing so doesn’t have to have a huge impact on your lifestyle. It can be as simple as adding intention to the things you already do everyday. For instance, if you walk your dog every morning, perhaps you can make that your sacred time to bond with your pet.
The rituals I’m trying to create in the New Year are all about infusing meaning into some of the things I already do, and creating space for the things I’d like to do more of. These are nurturing rituals, focusing rituals, and nighttime rituals—things that don’t have to take up a lot time, but can have a real impact.
I’m going to attend a workshop with Barbara to really craft some new tactics. But in the meantime, I’ve pulled some of these ideas from our hangout, her book The Joy of Ritual, and from recommendations I’ve received throughout the years and never acted on.
What are some of your daily rituals? Let me know in the comments!
Creating a morning routine has been one of my biggest struggles this year. I wake up with my cell phone alarm, and before I deactivated my email notifications, the first thing I would see was that inbox full of pressures awaiting. I want to get better at starting the day with 10 minutes of me time. I try to not go to the computer, or check my messages. Instead, I sip tea, write in my journal, or oil pull. Especially for freelancers, setting a purposeful tone for the day is so important, and you just can’t do that by deleting emails from Gilt on your iPhone before your feet have even hit the floor. Buying an alarm clock may be the first step to making good on my ritual.
2. Productivity – Wearing a writer’s shirt.
One of my favorite examples that Barbara gave during our hangout was that of the writer’s shirt. Writers have so many rituals to help them shift from normal mode to a place where they can face the page in a productive way. It’s something that I really struggle with, especially with the 10,000 emails that always need to be sent or answered. It can be hard to create space for being creative, and that’s something I’m going to really need to do in the New Year. People have spaces that they go to that are sacred for writing. To a certain extent, Martha’s Vineyard has become one for me.
But my favorite tactic that Barbara talked about was to literally designate a writing shirt in your wardrobe. When you put it on, you really mean business. I’ve been thinking about what my writer’s shirt will look like. I’ve always wanted to have a signature uniform, like Martha Stewart with her crisp white collared shirts and Ina Garten in her dark blue button downs. I’m thinking of going with a little chambray action for my writer’s shirt, something cheap enough that I can afford enough of them, so my writer’s shirt is not the smelliest item in my wardrobe.
3. Cleansing – showering to wash away the day.
My end of day shower is how I unwind. It’s also coincidentally when I do my best thinking. For Barbara, showering is a ritual of release. Some days are more productive than others, and this is the time I want to take to let go of my to-do list and wash off the day’s work. Water has been used in every tradition around the planet for purification and cleansing. It can be a way to start your day fresh if you’re a morning showerer. But for me, it’s about washing away the worries that have collected over the work day in order to be ready for social hour or bedtime.
I try to “live my message” and practice what I preach most of the time. But on the cooking front, it can be somewhat haphazard depending on what I have to make that week for work. In the New Year I want to get back to the Sunday ritual that I preach to so many of my students. It’s the best time to shop for the week, fill your fridge with good food, and make the initial steps towards preparing healthy nourishment that will last you until the weekend.
5. Partnership – weekly date nights to nourish my relationship.
My friend Whitney and her husband do a date night every Friday. This is something I’ve long admired. It’s also something that feels borderline impossible in my own frenetic life. But Charlie and I have tried to adopt a once-a-week date night policy. We’ve been pretty good about it so far. But I know we can be better about making it a real ritual for connection. Most of the time we cook for one another, which has its own significance for nurturing the relationship. Now I also want to find experiences that will spark newness, excitement and adventure in our shared lives.
Gratitude practices are among the trendiest things in the wellness world right now. But they’ve always felt so awkward to me! I feel self conscious enough when I’m trying to journal in the morning. Putting things on paper gives your feelings a whole added weight. So for my gratitude practice I’m going to start by getting into bed and just thinking about the best thing that happened that day and one thing I’m particularly grateful for. One day I’ll write them down. But for now, it will be my bedtime gift to my mind.