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Some people use the terms routine and ritual interchangeably. They are actually quite different though and serve us in different ways. Routines can boost productivity and comfort us in their familiarity. Rituals, on the other hand, serve us on a deeper, more spiritual level.
So how do you create a daily ritual? In this post, find out the one ingredient missing from routines that is essential in creating simple yet potent daily rituals.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with routine.
A routine is a sequence of actions that we follow regularly.
For my morning routine, for instance, I wake up at 7:00 am and tell Siri to play something on Spotify while I make the bed. I then trudge into the bathroom with my phone so I can continue listening to music. After washing up, I take Siri with me into the kitchen to make coffee, and I always empty the dishwasher while the coffee brews. By the time the coffee maker beeps, my husband walks in after taking Jagger on his morning walk, and we have breakfast together. We usually watch Frasier while we eat. This happens almost every day, especially when I’m not teaching in person.
Why do humans crave routine so much?
We are creatures of habit. Routines are familiar and cozy, which makes us feel comfortable and safe. Feelings of security are necessary for our emotional well-being.
Another reason we are so drawn to routines is that they are mindless. We do them automatically and don’t have to use our brains, which is a welcome break for most of us.
Too much routine, however, may lead to auto-pilot.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with productive routines and the conservation of mental energy for more challenging situations that may arise throughout your day, too much routine puts us into auto-pilot.
When our everyday actions become so routine that we barely notice we’re doing them, that’s a problem.
So, how can we prevent routines from zapping the creativity and drive out of our lives?
How can we turn off the auto-pilot and be more present and inspired in our day to day lives?
How can we turn a mundane routine into a powerful daily ritual?
A mindless, mundane routine can be transformed into a powerful daily ritual simply by adding intention to the task. So, to create a daily ritual, just add intention!
Emma Loewe and Lindsay Kellner, authors of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self-Care, articulate the difference between routine and ritual nicely. In their words, rituals “are deeply personal practices, separated from our routine by intention.”
In other words, unlike routines, rituals are actions that hold great personal meaning and are fueled by powerful intentions. This intention is what separates rituals from everyday routines. Once you infuse intention into an everyday activity, you’ve created a daily ritual.
It is much simpler to create a daily ritual than you think!
For instance, a morning shower is typically just a necessary routine of good hygiene. But what if you repeated a mantra or affirmation as you lathered and rinsed? Suddenly, your mindless routine becomes an intentional act of self-love and you have created a daily ritual.
Or, to use myself as an example, having to empty the dishwasher used to be pure drudgery. But now I see it as an easy way to be productive and responsible first thing in the morning. I silently congratulate myself for being such a responsible and conscientious partner as I methodically put the spoons and forks and glassware away. I express gratitude for the opportunity to be productive and feel good about myself.
Want another example of an easy daily ritual? One of the most famous scenes from the 90s legal drama, Ally McBeal, involved Ally teaching a colleague how to prolong and then sensually relish the very first sip of coffee at work each morning rather than gulping it down the second the secretary brought it over.
Overtly cheesy sexual innuendo aside, it was a perfect example of tuning in, being present, and spiritually connecting with an otherwise mundane moment. Ever since I saw that episode, I take a slight pause before my first sip of morning coffee to express gratitude for this simple pleasure I have the privilege to experience each and every day. Then, I close my eyes and smile as I swallow my first sip and feel it warm up my belly.
(Real talk though: Your coffee better be good or all positive vibes will flow to a screeching halt.)