The human race has always created rituals, sacred ceremonies to bring about positive changes. But today, rituals seem to have little room in our sophisticated, evidence-based modern culture. Or do they? Science is catching up with antiquity. Researchers are now paying more attention to rituals because they seem—believe it or not—to be beneficial in more ways than one.
According to sports psychology researchers, the benefits of rituals span from improving attention and effectiveness to increasing emotional stability and confidence levels. As a functional medicine practitioner, I also see these same benefits in my patients when I help them cultivate healthy rituals.
Great rituals can transform your life.
When I talk about healthy rituals, I'm not just talking about food. Health is so much more than what you eat. Health is about what's in your mind and the type of space you create for yourself on a daily basis. And in fact, many of these non-food factors are what determine your ability to make good food choices in the first place. Here are my favorite health rituals to zen out your life:
1. Start and finish your day with a mindfulness reset.
How you start and end your day will determine the quality of your week. Do you want to be the victim of whatever life throws at you or have what it takes to thrive through whatever happens? Mindfulness meditation has been used for thousands of years as a ritual to create inner peace, and today, mindfulness for lowering anxiety and increasing focus is very well-researched.
Just like your fitness goals, you have to be consistent with your meditation practice to grow that mindfulness muscle! Start with just a few minutes twice a day. I love my friends' Light Watkins' and Charlie Knowles' video classes to help you get started.
2. Create a personalized morning elixir.
After you nourish your soul with your mindfulness reset, make sure to nourish your body. I am a big fan of something warm for your morning elixir. Try hot water and lemon, your favorite tea, or anti-inflammatory turmeric milk. Get up early enough to be able to enjoy this drink sitting down, creating a sacred space of calm before your busy day.
3. Take adaptogenic breaks.
Now that your day is going at full speed, find time—even just little moments—to center yourself with mini-rituals. Adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola are a family of herbs that has been shown to balance stress hormones and calm even the most type-A personalities. Check out my favorite adaptogenic herbal and mushroom recipes to sprinkle into your schedule.
4. Establish a ritual that engages your senses.
5. Smudge your space.
This may be too New Agey for some of you, but have an open mind! Smudging or burning dried plants like sage or palo santo has been a ritual for thousands of years to cleanse living spaces of negative energy. Today, researchers have found that medicinal smoke is an effective way to clean the area of airborne bacteria.
So whether you choose to believe in negative energy or not, give smudging a try. Like the air after a rainstorm, smudging really does bring about cleansing feelings. My friend Dana Claudat gives some great pointers on the subject of clearing negative energy.
6. Bring the outside inside.
Create a sanctuary for yourself by bringing nature into your home and workspace. Surrounding yourself with beautiful plants, rocks, crystals, and a water feature will create a positive environment for your day.
7. Connect with the earth.
Make it a point to get outside as much as you can during your day. Taking small breaks to connect to nature is a great centering ritual. On nice days ground yourself by taking your shoes and socks off and touching the grass. Earthing has been shown to be an effective healing and calming tool. The earth's surface electrons are being seen as an untapped health resource in some groundbreaking (pun intended) medical literature!
Feel the breeze, be in awe of sunsets, observe clouds and any part of nature that speaks to you. In our busy schedules we need to find time to stop and smell the roses.
8. Declutter your life.
Clutter in your living space will create clutter inside! Donate what you don't use, and clean and organize your space. Try out the KonMari method and create tidying festivals to clear out your outer and inner spaces.
9. Detox regularly from your digital life.
Now, don't panic, but I suggest that my patients create rituals of silence with digital detoxes. Turn off the smartphone, TV, computer, and any other electronic device. Try to give yourself "no screen time" at least two hours before bed. If you are up for more, check out my digital detox and smartphone detox guides!
10. Indulge in a detox bath.
At the end of your long day, unwind with a detox bath ritual. Use 1 cup of Epsom salt, 1 cup of Himalayan sea salt, and a few drops of sandalwood essential oil in a warm bath and soak for around 20 minutes. If that's too intense, try five or ten minutes instead.
The truth is, consistency builds character and shapes us as people. Creating healthy routines is an essential tool to live the vibrant life you've always dreamed of. So make the mundane magical! Be your own modern shaman and create sacred spaces to calm your stress and bring peace and balance into your life.