So you get up in the morning, brush your teeth, use that comb you really like to do your hair, eat your favorite cereal and start the day. Or perhaps you count to ten before you blow out your birthday candles. Or perhaps there is a specific order that the ornaments go on the Christmas tree. Or maybe your family has a certain religious thing that they do every time someone is born in the family. Or perhaps you end every text message with a smiley with the tongue hanging out – not just the regular old smiley. Same ol’ same ol’. Predictable. Comfortable. Your thing.
So what’s with the “rituals and routines” phrase, I bet you are asking. Well, I guess I got a little psychological on you all. Rituals and routines are things that are very important in keeping relationships and people sane. It’s also all those things I listed above (which is what they all have in common in case you were wondering).
But rituals and routines are two slightly different things. Routines are things they we do every day. Without thinking about it. Like brushing our teeth. Like eating dinner at precisely six pm every day. They provide the structure. You know things are going to happen a certain way every day because they always do.
On the other hand, rituals are special things because they don’t happen all the time. Like what we do on the holidays or on other special occasions. Like making a snowman together and then drinking hot chocolate with exactly ten marshmallows on the first snow day each winter. They are things that you and your family have done since you were little and that you look forward to (even if you grumble about having to attend a religious ceremony or listen to your Grandfather give his extra-long toast before you can wolf down Thanksgiving dinner). Things wouldn’t be the same without them.
I bet you can think of tons of routines and rituals that you do all the time. Some of them might be better than others (eating pumpkin cheesecake on Thanksgiving would definitely rate above taking out the trash every Saturday), but they provide a sense of comfort all the same.
So how about starting something new? As people get older, it sometimes becomes more difficult to participate in rituals and routines that you have always done before. You have commitments: a job, friends, dates, homework. Besides, maybe they aren’t as meaningful as they used to be. While it is important to maintain rituals and routines, it is also healthy to change things up every once in a while.
Changing routines can even be good for your mental health. Doing the same thing over and over again can be comforting, but it can also be boring. Walking the same route to school or eating the same lunch gets old. How about finding a new route or trying a new food? Or maybe adding a different exercise or activity on the weekend would be nice. Sometimes it is even fun to do absurd things like eating dessert first or having pancakes for breakfast. Shake things up!
Changing rituals is a little trickier. People are very emotionally attached to rituals and so I wouldn’t recommend doing anything drastic. For example, I wouldn’t suggest trying to trade in your annual Christmas tree for a Christmas flowerpot. On the other hand, you might want to think about adding a small new ritual. It is best to pick something you care about. Maybe you love the New Year and want to have everyone – friend and family – write down and share their goals. Or perhaps you love the changing of the seasons and would be interested in learning about and sharing with your family rituals from other cultures around the changing of the seasons (called the Solstice). Or maybe you just want to create your own personal ritual, wearing a certain color on Fridays for example or eating a certain food on the first day of the month.
Why don’t you give it a try and add something new that can help make your life more colorful!