How Rituals Empower Your Routines

Written by on December 12, 2016 in Accountability, Self Awareness with 20 Comments



We all have daily routines. Most are variations on the same theme … roll out of bed, shower, personal grooming, get dressed, coffee and breakfast over the morning paper, check email, off to work we go.

Generally, we give little thought to our routines because they become so automatic. Some would say that’s actually a good thing because it saves time and energy and collectively they do manage to get us from point A to point B, and maybe most of the time that’s good enough.

But if you wake up one morning and realize your routine has become a rut, or that you simply want to improve the quality of your life experience, then it’s time for a change.

If you want life to change, you have to change. If you want life to get better, you have to get better. ~Anthony Robbins

In my last post, I talked about personal standards, and how rituals serve to help us create positive change. To understand the role rituals play we first need to clarify the difference between routines and rituals.

A habit is a tendency or regular practice that is carried out without conscious awareness. The various routines you follow each day are a series of habits that have a specific end result. The steps I outlined above represent a series of habits that combine to create your morning routine with the purpose of getting you up and out the door in the morning to start your day.

A ritual is also a series of actions repeatedly performed. The difference is that they are performed with 100% awareness and focus. So turning a routine into a ritual requires adding the elements of deliberate intention and mindfulness.

Calming Rituals

Calming rituals are the most common and easiest place to begin experimenting. When carried out in the morning calming rituals set the tone for the day ahead and when practiced in the evening they sooth frayed nerves and help to relax away stress.

These are the types of rituals that typically come to mind when we think of self-care.

A few examples include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Prayer
  • Reading

So, for example, a morning ritual might include meditating for 15 or 20 minutes and then sitting outside and with a soothing cup of tea while you read or simply enjoy nature.

Another type of morning ritual could be something to motivate you and get the blood pumping for the day.

You may recognize Lisa Nichols’ name from the movie and book, The Secret. She went from being a single mother from South Central L.A. with just $20 to her name, struggling to get by and raise her son, to authoring seven bestselling books and having the distinction of being the second African-American woman to take a business public.

Lisa’s morning ritual begins with the following mantra.

  • Lisa, I am proud of you because >>> List 7 things
  • Lisa, Forgive >>> List 7 things
  • Lisa, I am committed to >>> List 7 things
Don’t try to overhaul your life overnight. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time. Over time, those small changes will add up to big transformation! ~Author Unknown

Other Types of Rituals

Any habit or activity that you do on a regular basis can be turned into a ritual to improve the quality of your life.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg set a standard that she would always be home by 6pm to have dinner with her children. When she first joined Facebook it was awkward and she felt guilty leaving before dark, but she crafted an end of the workday ritual that allowed her to meet that standard.

Not everyone has the ability to make their own hours, but there are other areas where you do have control.

  • Develop rituals for commuting to and from work – for example instead of news or music listen to audio books.
  • Develop rituals for preparing appointments and meetings to save time and effort.
  • Develop rituals for striving to achieve goals. When I worked in sales my ritual was to achieve my daily sales goal and then “just one more.” Each day instead of starting over with the daily sales quota, I’d build on the previous day’s numbers with my “just one more” mantra. I even had a cup made with that saying on it that always set on my desk! It was that ritual that helped me regularly achieve monthly incentive bonuses.
  • Develop rituals for lunch breaks. Instead of eating and gossiping with your colleagues you might go for a walk in the fresh air or read a self-help book.
Allowing ourselves to enjoy life in all its details and attending to what gives us the greatest happiness can elevate even mundane tasks, refreshing our mind and spirit. ~Alexandra Stoddard

Even something as simple as preparing a meal can be turned into a joyful ritual, and one of my favorites is cooking a recipe from scratch on Sundays.

My ritual begins by selecting the recipe and then heading out to shop for the freshest ingredients. The vegetables and herbs are all so beautiful and fragrant, I love the entire creative process and the wonderful smells that permeate the house.

And to add to the atmosphere while cooking I’ll play music that goes with the theme of the meal. For example, last weekend I made lasagna (yes, even the noodles!) while listening to the operatic singing group, the 3 Tenors.

The fact that this is a weekly rather than daily ritual doesn’t lessen the impact for me, in fact, if anything I look forward to it even more by the time the weekend rolls around.

Where to Begin

The place to begin is with your current standards. Identify an area in your life where your actions aren’t reflecting your values or the level standards you’d like to achieve for yourself.

Because it is so important to your health and well-being, if you struggle to make time for your emotional and physical needs, then I urge you to use this your starting point by making self-care a lifestyle choice rather than a series of quick fixes.

What’s your story? Do you have a favorite ritual that has made a positive difference in your life?

More reading …
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

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  1. William Rusho

    Calming rituals are very important to me. I take time out each day, just to expose the lumps I had taken and to rid them from my mind.
    It has to be a ritual, and not habit, as you described, You must make a conscious effort to rid yourself of this extra baggage. thanks for sharing

  2. Rosary says:

    what a great post! I’ve been wanting to take up yoga or meditation regularly for a while now, but I always make the excuse of not having time. I guess it’s a matter of making time because I agree that all rituals need to start somewhere and it’s very beneficial for your health and well-being. Maybe I should make it my new year’s resolution! thanks for sharing =)
    Rosary recently posted…post-CELTA thoughtsMy Profile

  3. Great post, Marty. I love your insights into the difference between habits and rituals.

    I too, find the process of creating great meals to be ritualistic. I love to drink wine that matches the theme of the meal as I am preparing it, as it helps set the mood. And I try and match the dishes and napkins to the flavour of the meal as well. Somehow that whole process really nurtures my soul, and that is what I think sets the ritual apart from habits or tasks. Rituals nurture our soul.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…the many flavours of MontreuxMy Profile

  4. Hi Marquita,
    Developing rituals around our daily habits are good. It makes us more mindful of our habits and can help to make a procedure we always do anyways to something more pleasant.“The quality of your life is in direct relationship to the quality of your habits and rituals.”-Stan Jacobs
    Thank you for another thought-provoking article.

  5. Sue Bride

    I do have certain routines and rituals but I enjoy the freedom of working from home and being the master of my time. As you say, we sometimes need to assess our routines to ensure they are serving us well. If not, then adding rituals as an alternative is a good idea. If we don’t work out an alternative it’s easy to slip back into ruts.

  6. Ruth Bowers

    I love the idea of turning a routine into a ritual. It feels like it wouldn’t be such a chore that way. I need to be more consistent with my morning routine because right now the only thing I do regularly is write in my gratitude journal. Everything else is pretty much hit or miss depending on what time I get up.
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…[Friday Five] 5 Ways To Use Social Media to Amplify Your MessageMy Profile

  7. The easiest rituals with results to write about would be exercising five mornings a week and writing in a gratitude book each night. I recently traveled for almost two weeks and didn’t take my gratitude journal with me. It made ending the day a bit difficult, but it was good to experiment that way. Back to it.
    I love how you are tying in personal standards to rituals that support them. Makes perfect sense.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…400 hundred-year-old trees & other treasures of the forestMy Profile

  8. Rituals are so important and you have listed some great tips on how to stick to those that we have set up for ourselves Marquita 🙂

    I have set up a ritual daily to write in my gratitude journal and to think about all of the things that I am grateful for in my life. By doing that little task daily, it has helped my overall mental and physical health for the better 🙂

    Great post and awesome tips!!
    Joan M Harrington recently posted…Are You Utilizing These 3 Essential Elements For Growing Your Email List?My Profile

  9. Dave

    After a four day vacation with my family to the Smoky Mountains, it was nice to break from my daily “routines” and embark upon a digital retreat. It gave me time to really focus on self-awareness and just being for a period of time – listening to what my mind, body, and heart was wanting to tell me without the distractions surrounding me.

    This is the perfect article to read upon returning from that vacation/retreat. With two weeks off from work before the beginning of the new year, I am looking forward to starting and ending my day with writing – some of it to explore myself and some of it to explore the fictional characters in my mind 😉

    So much of what we decide (either consciously or implicitly) traces back to our ability to be self-aware. I love the distinction you draw between routine and ritual and really look forward to curtailing those routines that are not productive and replacing them with rituals that add to my quality of life.

    Thanks, as always, Marty – wonderful article with an encouraging and motivating message 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Snail TrailMy Profile

  10. Joy Healey

    Hi Marquita,

    I was attracted to this article by the text on your image “Honour yourself”. It’s something my yoga teacher often says.

    Yoga is part of my relaxing routine (only weekly sadly) but however hard it is to drag myself out of bed for my yoga class, I always feel better for it.

    I will work on incorporating other relaxing routines into life, because I do tend to go at a 100 miles an hour, left to myself!

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Looking Back On 2016My Profile

  11. Tuhin

    Hello Marquita,
    Yet another inspiring post! I have committed to myself to never miss my hour long exercise everyday and to take fresh home made food in the company of family members.
    One more ritual I perform everyday is to pass positive vibes to anyone I meet throughout the day.
    Thank you
    Tuhin recently posted…Infographic: 5 Simple Ways to Invite Peace in LifeMy Profile

  12. Erica says:

    I love that you made your own lasagna noodles! How fun!

    I’ve never really pondered the difference between routines and rituals so this is interesting. I see how awareness is so important. I actually just started a calming ritual that has been working really well in my life. I got a Groupon type coupon for a 2 month membership for a place that leads meditation classes a few blocks from where I live and I’ve been going 5 days a week. I’ve then followed this with calming tea afterwards. And then I diffuse essential oils into my home.

    While I live a healthy lifestyle, stress is the thing I struggle with most and this has really been helping. Thanks for the advice on creating rituals. Will keep that in mind as I move forward.
    Erica recently posted…10 Sneaky Ways To Feed Vegetables To Your Kids (Or Other Picky Eaters)My Profile

  13. Sushmita

    Like you have said in the post
    are the power boosters in my life.
    My each day has specific timings dedicated to the first three in the list when it comes to reading the time differs.
    Quick fixes are temporary while if we focus on self-care it is more effective.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Sushmita recently posted…Grow your Network, as you have fun in the holiday season!My Profile

  14. Jeri

    The distinction between ritual and routine is an important one. My morning coffee has definitely turned into a ritual. From the smell to gripping the hot mug in my hands, I will sit on my couch for exactly 30 minutes and enjoy the experience for what it’s worth. It really does help me gear up for the day. Audio books while walking my dog are another cherished ritual that helps keep my mind in the right place. I am still working on a consistent bedtime ritual though in drinking hot tea to unwind, but it’s been hit or miss.
    Jeri recently posted…#BookReviews: A Man Called Ove’s Curmudgeonly Charm and More…My Profile

  15. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! Prayer and meditation before anything else! The attitude of gratitude first and foremost.

    Awesome Post As Always.

    Happy Holidays My Friend
    Chery :))

  16. I love the goal you mentioned in the last line ‘Make self-care a lifestyle choice rather than a quick fix’ . Having a plan in place helps in effective timeblocking.Have written down the time taken over each activity starting from the time I wake up to the time I sleep and was amazed to see the pockets of wasted time in the day.There is so much we can accomplish if we choose to and when we have that intense desire to bring about the change.We are actually able to see what we can do to make it happen.The struggle to take care of lot of things within the time we have, ends right there… It is a struggle to stick to the revised plan for the day, however I will get there 🙂 . Thanks for sharing.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Tree changes colour just by lookingMy Profile

  17. I think rituals are very healthy, they provide a sameness that we need to stay grounded, especially when life gets stressful. I think that’s why children and animals really thrive on routine. Some people avoid routine, confusing it with being in some kind of rut, but that’s really not the case. Done right, a routine can really enhance your day …
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…Thank goodness the 2017 Toyota Prius is no hairy-chested marauder.My Profile

  18. Lea Bullen

    Hi Marquita,
    I don’t have any one favorite ritual but I do like the routine I have set up for myself in the evenings. It incorporates all the things I need. I’m productive while still able to wind down and relax to end the day.
    When things throw me off and I can’t get to it, I actually miss it. Crazy…
    Lea Bullen recently posted…Stressed Beyond Belief: How to Keep Calm When You’ve Had It up to HereMy Profile

  19. Phoenicia

    I pray in the mornings, collectively by conference call with other church members or individually. I read/listen to the bible in the mornings – usually on the train as I have an early start.

    I wrote some confessions which tie in with my identity and at one stage read them daily. I have not been consistent in doing this and plan to pick it up again.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Think and shop smart this Christmas!My Profile

  20. Mark

    What an awesome and truly enlightening post M!

    First of all, I love how you describe and or coming to the realization, our “Routine” may have become a rut!LOL!

    I can certainly relate!LOL! I just hadn’t been able to so eloquently describe the entire process,quite as articulately as you have.

    And before reading your description of both concepts, I really did not appreciate their subtle differences! Thanks!

    I can definitely appreciate both concepts so much more now!
    Mark recently posted…Why Most Savvy Small Business Owners Prefer To Be Acquaintances Not Strangers!My Profile

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