The Power of Ritual
We tend to be creatures of habit, rituals, and tradition. Rituals, or routines, are the root of every lifestyle choice.
Whether it’s a conscious choice or subconscious, everything you do is either setting your life up for success or “failure.” I use the word “failure” with quotes because I believe the only true kind of failing is when you stop trying, but you can always turn your circumstances around.
The first step to creating a lifestyle that keeps you genuinely happy is becoming aware of your rituals.
Identify Current Patterns
I love hands-on learning, and many people absorb lessons better that way. So this article won’t be your typical “read & leave” deal. When it comes to success habits, one of the best ways to get the ball rolling isn’t to talk about, listen to, and read about “theories.” It’s to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and create an action plan. Right here, right now.
That is what we will do!
Exercise: Grab a sheet of paper (or open an Evernote file) and write down your habits. The good, the bad, and the ugly! Get it all out.
Beside every habit that serves you, put a star or check mark. Examples of good habits could include:
- Going to the gym
- Eating healthy
- Family time
- Journaling time
- Making coffee
- Taking a technology break
- Sleeping well
- Starting your morning with a glass of water
- Expressing gratitude
- Opting for a stretch break, instead of a treat break at work
If you have trouble pinpointing a good habit, think about what you would advise your child, a friend, or family to do. A lot of times we give better advice then we take, so viewing yourself as a friend can help you be objective.
To help you get into the flow of gratitude, you may enjoy this article and handy tool.
Now, you will be left with bad habits. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Watching too much TV
- Sitting down for hours without taking a break
- Eating too many sweets / junk snacks / foods
- Drinking too much soda
- Too much / too little sleep
- Negative self-talk
- Not expressing gratitude
- Being too hard on yourself / others
- Looking at your screen (computer /phone / tablet) for too long
The best way to know if a habit is bad, is when you feel like there is still a void that needs filling in your heart and life when you’re done.
Next to the bad habits, write down a positive habit you can replace it with. If you want to get serious, I would also sync you phone alarm or calendar reminders at those times to remind you of the new habits.
The best way to break a negative habit is not just dropping it altogether, but replacing that time with something constructive that will help you.
For instance, if your typical evening routine is catching up with your favorite TV show while munching on snacks, then tomorrow night, try yoga!
Amazon Prime has great yoga programs. Or if you still want to watch your favorite TV program, then do a workout while watching instead of sitting.
At work, if your typical break includes donuts, ditch it and bring your own snack. Apples, yogurt with goji berries, veggies and hummus. There are lots of healthy options that are also tasty. If possible, take a walk around your building to get fresh air. If it’s too cold, take the stairs, then take them again. Exercise and movement is likely what your body is actually craving over the sugar that ends in an inevitable crash.
This whole process can be made all the more enjoyable if you can recruit family, friends, and co-workers to join along. Science proves that when your environment supports your habits, you are much more likely to be successful in maintaining your lifestyle.
Change Ups & Creating Memories
Let’s face it, as much as we love routines, habits, and our ‘rut’ of living, we also love the thrill of something new! That’s why it can be easy in the early stages of a diet. You’re excited to start a new thing, then the “bright shiny object” syndrome wanes and you’re back at the old.
Cheat Treat Meals
I love treat meals, I bet you do too! We like to call them “treat meals” around here, instead of the common “cheat meal”, because the amount of guilt associated with “cheating.” Treats are fine so long as it’s not a daily thing.
I don’t want peanut butter ice cream with a side of guilt, shame, and negativity. I want peanut butter ice cream with some chocolate drizzle.
“Treat” means: “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.” So this should be an occasion for you to celebrate the change you’ve made. Be fully present in the moment and enjoy every bit! You’ve earned it and there is nothing wrong, or to feel guilty about.
Choose your treat carefully, relish it, appreciate it, then be done with it.
A cool thing you will notice when you start making healthier choices in all aspects of your life is that even your treats will get healthier. Before I cared enough to be more health conscious, a treat for me was Starbucks pastries, super bready, carb-loaded stuff, and sugary coffee drinks. Now, it’s a treat to have a pomegranate! Though I still love cake, I’m learning to make healthy “cakes”. Next on my list, might be learning to make healthy “Reese’s”. 😉
Exercise: Write down which day of the week, or every two weeks, you will allow yourself to have a treat. If you have trouble sticking to not having a treat till that day, then set a reminder on your calendar and just embrace the good habits.
The key is not obsessing over “treat day” and allowing your body to detox and readjust to a new way of life.
Get Out of The Rut
When you’re looking for a treat experience, then look for active activities. The word “activity” itself eludes to moving around. Instead of TV viewing, maybe gather around and do art projects with family and/or friends. Instead of going to the gym or working out at home, take an excursion.
My family loves bicycling, so we like finding trails and new places to bike.
Just like having an occasional dessert, the point is that it mixes up the routine, creates fun memories, and you don’t get “bored.”
If you have dogs, consider spending the afternoon hiking with them, or taking them to the dog park. It’s all the better if you have other pet-owner friends. Your dogs need the exercise as much as you! And it’s so much more rewarding for them than just getting cookies. 🙂
Exercise: Schedule a playdate excursion. It can be with friends, family, partner, or just some me-time. Even treating yourself to a mani/pedi is a healthy change of routine.
Walking the Line of Balance
“What is the “balance” thing you speak of?!”
In this day and age, where everything is “GO! GO! GO! GO!” it can be hard to pause and take a moment. That’s why we must.
Take a Break
As an entrepreneur and creative spirit I know it can be hard to just stop and take some time to re-center yourself. No matter what walk of life you’re in, giving yourself space to connect inwardly is not only healthy for peace of mind, but it allows you to focus on what’s important in your life.
Your family, relationship, work opportunities, the friends and connections around you, travel, children. Whatever it is you right now, give yourself a moment to reflect.
Personally, I’m not a journaler, but many people find writing their thoughts down to be a restorative process. This might be an avenue for you to express what you’re thinking or clarify what you want in health, fitness, and life.
I tend to prefer short guided meditations. As someone who really doesn’t have the attention span it takes to meditate for hours on end (or even 1 hour), starting my day with a short 10-20 minute Deepak Chopra & Oprah meditations.
Balance is a seemingly hard thing to achieve, but allowing yourself even a few minutes to just sit and breathe can help you in the midst of stress or just too much chaos. I highly recommend it!
Devani Anjali Alderson runs a marketing agency helping business owners, artists, and creative minded people spread their message in the modern online world. She is also an avid fan of science fiction, photography, creative and fiction writing, master-minding with like-minded people, fangirling over Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, BBC Sherlock… And her Maltese dog Caspian (as in the Prince from Narnia, not the sea).