03 March 2010

The Benefit of Rituals

In our modern era we are so caught up in the idea of no rules, no boundaries, nothing is going to slow us down. It has gotten to a point where we seem to believe that if we plan or prepare or seem responsible - we are obviously boring and not having any fun. The reason I believe this to be true, you ask? I have often caught the wrath of others - because I am a planner. I have been criticized - because I am "not spontaneous." Yet, I am pretty darn happy.

Why is this do you suppose? I think I am happy because my life tends to be pretty peaceful. I am happy because I am not in debt. I am happy because I often find the extra time to do the things I want to do. I am happy because...I know the benefit of rituals!

Rituals really help me to improve my life...not slow me down. I know most people will want to balk at this idea. I mean surely, if I do the same things day in and day out, I will be miserable and I will get in "a rut." I have actually been led to believe from so many people I meet that if they were to do the same thing for more than one day they would be giving in, losing out, even committing some sort of crime. Where did we get this type of thinking? I am not sure, but I think culturally we have had a history of celebrating non-conformity. And I think that bucking the system can be a great thing and that rebelling can lead to important revolutions. But at some point we forgot that we should pick our battles. Instead, we adopted the idea of non-conformity so well that it has permeated pretty much every aspect of our daily living. I think it is time for a paradigm shift.

If you have stayed with me to this point, I hope that you are willing to consider a different way of living. One, I think, could prove to be more beneficial than you might at first imagine. Think about it, when we get stressed out what do we do? Grasp at any sort of ritual we can find. Really, we do! We need our bubble bath...with the special bath bubbles, just the right scented candles, the one CD (you know the one...you always pull it out when you need to relax,) and a glass of wine. Just like always. Hmmm, funny when life gets a little shaky...we find peace in our rituals. So why do we forsake them in everyday living, I wonder?

Let's consider embracing some rituals instead. Look at children. Children thrive on structure. Why should we be any different? Incorporating ritual into our homes gives us a sense of peace. It can be the one place we will know what to expect. It will be the one place where we can let our guard down, because there won't be innumerable unexpected "surprises." Coming home will be like finding ourselves in a warm and comfortable embrace.

Take mornings. They are more often than not HECTIC! And why are they hectic? Because the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. There is an entire day ahead that needs to be addressed in the seemingly few moments before we are swept away by the rushing river that is life. Maybe we should just go back to bed. But wait! Morning can be so much more. Let's just add some ritual.

You can call them routines, rituals, or whatever you prefer. Just think about enriching your day with a little serenity! Wouldn't it be better if we started our day gently rather than with a crisis everyday? Here is where we benefit from rituals. And they can be simple. They don't have to take a lot of time. They can be easy to add in. Here are some ideas:

Start your morning the night before.

  • Prepare tomorrows breakfast - while you cook tonight's dinner. (Special Extra! *see bottom of column.)
  • Pack your lunch for the coming day - during dinner clean up.
  • Special Idea: Create a lunch kit - use it everyday, then there will be no guessing. *Look for a future column on this fun indulgence!
  • Gather the items you will need for the coming day and put it in a designated spot (I use a specific "work bag.") (This can be a really great way to jog your memory regarding anything you said you would finish during the evening.)
  • Lay out your clothes for the next day. (This really adds peace to the morning when you aren't scrambling to figure out what to wear and then hunting down all the pieces.)
  • Have everyone in the family adopt these evening rituals.
  • Finally, sit down for just a few minutes (with your planner) and review your coming day, making sure you have everything ready so you can have a peaceful morning!

Just imagine how smoothly the morning will seem if you have everything ready to go! You will be able to enjoy your morning rituals even more because you don't have to scurry and try to prepare a full day upon waking. What morning rituals could we adopt to have a great day, I wonder...

Peaceful morning rituals.

  • Make the bed upon rising (eliminates the temptation to get back in and you will have a lovely bed to greet you at the end of the day.)
  • Make and eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, you might be surprised at how great it makes you feel!
  • Have a special something everyday at breakfast. For me it is a cup of hot, black tea in just the right cup. My special treat to start my day right.
  • Get ready - this in itself should be a ritual. Seriously, if you do generally the same thing everyday, you are less likely to forget a step or something important. This alone will help you to feel more prepared to face the coming day.
  • Tidy Breakfast/Prepare dinner (take out things to thaw, make a list of things to pick up while you are out, etc.) *A weekly menu can make this incredibly simple (look for a future column!)
  • Finally, give your day one last moment of consideration, gather your lunch and goods for the day. You are ready to face the challenges ahead!

These are just a few ways to incorporate rituals into your everyday. Imagine not feeling rushed, not feeling unprepared. Imagine feeling "together," ready, and calm. Many of these things seem like they would take over your life, but you might be surprised by how little time they actually take, especially after you get used to your new system. If you don't believe me grab a timer and find out exactly how long it takes! (Timers are one of my favorite tools - check them out in Mrs. Merl's Must Haves!) And the results are so very rewarding. You might be surprised too at how much more time you find in your day, when you aren't wasting time catching up with life. Time to do something spontaneous even! You might find that you even have a few extra bucks in your budget. Don't believe me? Consider this. If you have time for breakfast, you might not spend those dollars on that snack when you feel like you hit the wall mid-morning. If you treat yourself to that morning treat, maybe you won't be tempted by the coffee stop on the way to work. And lunch is far cheaper packed at home than bought out! And more, if you already have dinner planned, prepped and waiting, you won't panic and spend the extra cash to grab takeout on the way home. And these are just a few of the benefits of rituals. It makes planning and being prepared seem a lot less "not fun!" Find a more beautiful life with The Benefit of Rituals!

*Look for more ideas on rituals you might want to add to your life, coming soon here!

Special Extra!

Breakfast doesn't have to be extravagant during the week. Simple eggs and toast don't take long to make and you will feel so much better having had breakfast! Other quick breakfast ideas include:

Yogurt, Granola and Fruit Parfait! (Get fun glasses to layer in!) This can be entirely prepped the night before (cutting fruit, spooning layers into the cup) and the granola will digest easier after being "soaked" with the yogurt overnight! If you want crunchy yogurt - you can always just prep the fruit and then mix in a bowl in the morning!

Porridge or Oatmeal Soak regular oatmeal, steel cut oats or any porridge overnight and it cooks in minutes in the morning! Add in yummy fruit preserves, honey, maple syrup, dried fruit, peanut butter, whatever you like and you have a simple and hearty breakfast!

Oven French Toast Buy a french bread, slice, layer in a greased pan, whisk up an egg mixture, pour over and refrigerate. In the morning pop in the oven while you get ready and when you are done you will have a yummy, hot breakfast just waiting to serve up! Add seasonal fruit to your pan and suddenly you have fruit french toast! It doesn't get better or easier than that!

Breakfast Burritos I know these seem labor intense. But the trick is to pre-make these! Make a big batch of breakfast burritos, wrap in tin foil, place in a plastic container and freeze! The night before you want breakfast burritos take a few out to thaw in the refrigerator. Then in the morning pop them in the oven to heat while you get ready. Dress these up with salsa, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, whatever you like! (These even travel well - just wrap them up in a towel and put them in an insulated lunch container. Breakfast to go. But I recommend eating at the table as often as possible - you deserve it!)

With a little imagination, a little preparation, and a good set of daily rituals breakfast can be a joy - not a bother. So sit down and have a little breakfast, you will love it and feel great!

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