Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Role of Ritual

by Lisa Grant-Feeley, MS, LPC


As time appears to be paused and everyday feels like Blursday, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to give structure and meaning to our days, weeks, and months. As we spend increasingly more time with our families and less time out in the world, the routines and rituals of coming and going that signaled the start and finish of activities throughout the day have faded. The act of leaving and rejoining family or our pets or commuting to and from our work provided structure and created a rhythm to our day. Before the pandemic, getting up in the morning meant the start of a specific day with specific things to do and included interacting with others in a real “in person, in the same room, within reach” sort of way that we didn’t even know we could miss. 


All of these things naturally created rituals throughout our lives. We might not have thoughts of them as rituals, necessarily, but they were. Stopping for coffee and chatting with our favorite barista (or others who are waiting for their coffee), is a ritual that signals the start of the day and provides connection. Going into your workplace and working beside co-workers is a ritual that provides community and purpose. Coming home from work, greeting your family, and changing into comfortable clothes is a ritual that signals the end of the work day and provides safety and belonging. Making a big breakfast and sitting with family on the weekend is a ritual that signals it’s time to slow down, rest and enjoy being together. As Erika Keswin explains in her book, Rituals Road Maps, rituals ground us and provide a psychological sense of safety through connection, purpose and belonging.


By getting in touch with your most essential values, you can create rituals that can provide a higher level of meaning in various aspects of your day. For example, if you value nature, you can create a ritual of bundling up at the start or end of the workday, stepping outside for five minutes to look at the sky, and taking a few deep breaths as you listen for birds singing. If you value nourishing time alone, you can create a 20-minute bathing ritual at the end of the day - lighting a candle, playing some spa music on your phone, and using a body wash that appeals to your sense of smell and touch. If work feels like it’s overwhelming, you can set an alarm at the top of every hour and do a 2-minute rest and rejuvenate ritual where you walk away from the computer and stretch, breathe, and drink some water infused with mint, lemon, or basil. 


The trick with rituals is to be fully absorbed in them, totally focused on the purpose and value. Instead of allowing your mind to stay on a stressful assignment while you attempt to rest and rejuvenate, ritual invites you to be fully aware, to commit to this time and really feel your breath, connect with your body as you stretch, and to taste the life-nourishing water you are providing your body. It is by being totally present in the moment that your ritual has the power to release stress and increase the feel-good hormones in your body and mind.


Two of my favorite daily rituals involve how I begin and end my day. I set an intention for the day either by taking a few deep breaths first thing in the morning when I wake up or as I sit quietly with my morning coffee. This intention is always value-based and preferably in touch with what I feel will be life-enhancing. The other is to end the day with gratitude for some thing or things that happened during the day for which I am grateful. Maybe it’s a conversation with a family member or friend, the walk I took, or the dinner I cooked and shared with my husband. 


I’ve included a link to some core values for work and life. Feel free to take a look, consider what you value and explore how you can create rituals for your days, weeks or months to add meaning and value-based structure to your life. Hopefully this will make the coming months, as we continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic, a bit easier to manage. 


Lisa Grant-Feeley, MS, LPC works with individuals and with children and teens in the context of their families. She specializes in working with individuals with ADHD and related behaviors, including anxiety and depression.  She is dedicated to helping families work to create peace in their homes by working with all members of the family.  To connect with Lisa, please call 267-625-2565 or visit her website  


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