One of the questions I often get asked by my clients is “what do I do to feel less anxious on a daily basis”? My answer to this is always a daily morning ritual.
Rituals have been around since the beginning of civilization and have formed the basis for every religion for thousands of years, from prayers, to counting rosaries, to holy communion, to Buddhist mediating. However, you don’t have to be religious to benefit from a daily ritual. In fact, you already carry out several largely unconscious rituals in the form of habits every morning, such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and browsing Instagram.
I view rituals as conscious habits that provide routine, structure, and a sense of internal organisation that help to manage the many uncertainties that we face on a daily basis so that we don’t feel completely overwhelmed. I liken it to a life jacket that keeps one’s head above water when floating in a vast ocean. Rituals or ‘certainty anchors’ are a process or practice that contribute in a positive way to your life. Research has found that having a morning ritual reduces anxiety, depression, and enhances creativity. Many great philosophers and entrepreneurs have a strict morning ritual that they swear by because it frees up time and space in their minds to create.
A morning ritual can help to give you a sense of control, so for the anxious types who dislike uncertainty setting yourself a morning ritual that doesn’t change may help reduce pressure and overwhelm. Also, if you have no set weekly schedule, work part-time, or have an inconsistent job or relationship, then a morning ritual- no matter where you are- can be used as an anchor to help you stay grounded and motivated for the rest of the day.
My morning ritual starts when I wake up at 6.30 am. I do between 20-40 minutes of exercise (either a jog, interval training or both), followed by 20 minutes of meditation, a prayer, and a hot water with lemon. For me, these are the three activities I do regardless of where I am and what else I’ve got on in the day. I’ve found that in the past when I don’t do these I feel scattered, lethargic, and hungry all day.
You can turn any behaviour into a ritual. However, you might like to choose one or several that honours your mind, body, and spirit in some way. For example, dance, movement, and voice are used in sacred ceremonies around the world to promote health and wellbeing. Perhaps you could do one or a combination of these: Three deep breaths before you leave the house, light a candle and make a wish, 5 minutes of stretching when you wake up. Below are some more examples of nourishing morning rituals.
- Deep breathing from your heart
- Sing or chat
- Herbal Tea
- Stare out the window and notice what you can see
- Dance to a song
- Light some incense
- Eat breakfast mindfully
- Water the plants
- Chi Gong exercises
- Moisturize your body
- Go to the same cafe everyday to get your coffee
- A daily prayer or affirmation
- Heart breathing
- Play with the dog/cat
Some key points when creating a ritual.
- Have your first hour of the day vary as little as possible
- Plan your ritual the night before and have everything ready to go such as jogging gear handy, alarm set, work clothes out.
- Get up at the same time every morning regardless of what time you went to bed.
- If you’re running late try to do some of the ritual (e.g., two minutes of breathing instead of 20 minutes meditating)
Can you think of anymore? I’d love for you to share your ritual ideas!