Nothing spells structure like routine. The very nature of the word says you do it consistently, regularly, the same way every time. When you do it without thinking, then muscle memory kicks in and it becomes habit: almost involuntary.
Routines provide structure or is it more accurate to say without structure you cannot have routine?
When my boys were younger, we were adamant about their bedtime routine. Sleep was a top priority in our house, and we did everything in our power to structure our daily activities to ensure they were in bed at the same time every night. We taught them the importance of a good night’s sleep. And it payed off in the long run. They are all in their twenties now and sleep is still a top priority.
Routine. Habit. Structure. All very clinical sounding words. Practical. Unemotional.
When your world gets thrown upside down, whether by choice or circumstance, routines, habits, and all manner of structure are usually the first casualties. That can lead to even more internal and external chaos as we claw our way back to some semblance of normal – even if it’s a new normal.
Even before new routines and new habits, one way to create calm is to establish a ritual. Perhaps two rituals – one to begin and another to end your day. Consider them bookends so that no matter what happens in the middle, you at least have these two points in time to keep you grounded.
Like habits and routines, rituals are something you do repeatedly. The big difference is you do it with intention. Deliberately. And with an attitude of happy anticipation for whatever that ritual is (as opposed to being on autopilot and merely going through the motions).
Even something as mundane as making your bed can be turned into a pleasant ritual. Instead of thinking of making your bed as just another chore, be deliberate. Take a moment to plump your pillows. Smooth out the creases. And create something that you will look forward to sinking into when your day is done.
On the days that my work required me to be in downtown Chicago, I always had a choice of how to return home – the Kennedy Expressway or Lake Shore Drive. The expressway got me home quicker – that was habit. But when I was being deliberate, I chose Lake Shore Drive. Not only did I choose it, I savored it. I admired the beauty of the lake at every opportunity. It was my reward for working downtown. It was a ritual I enjoyed.
It’s time to create your own rituals. One to get your morning started and another to help you unwind before you sleep. You don’t even have to create new rituals. Just make a few tweaks to your usual routines and transform them into rituals.
Are you a coffee drinker? Maybe you could invest in a beautiful mug or a special blend of coffee. If you’re not in the habit of making your bed in the morning, turn that into your morning ritual. My morning ritual includes Morning Pages and a few stretches ending with Tai Chi swings.
At night, plan to wind down. Power down one hour before bed – if this is too much of a stretch, start with fifteen minutes and work your way up to one hour. What else could you do with that time instead of spending it on a screen? Stretch? Take a hot bath? Read a book?
My evening ritual includes writing five “great things” that happened to me today in my gratitude journal (I spend my day looking for those “great things” so I can write them down!) and jotting down a few lines in my five year diary.
Whatever you choose, try it on for a few days and see if it has the desired energizing/calming effect. Adjust as necessary until you have at least two times during your day when you know what to expect and you look forward to it.
What do you do now out of habit? How can you change it, even slightly, through how you think about it to make it into a soothing ritual? I’d love to know below!