Ritualize to Revitalize in the New Year


ritualizeHave you ever thought of your daily routines as rituals? Learn more about ritualizing to achieve your goals for the new year.

January brings the season of fresh starts – our calendars start again, we set new goals, we reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. In many ways, we put a lot of pressure and expectation into the January’s of our life – pressure to create change and improve ourselves and our surroundings, pressure to somehow put off all our imperfections once and for all and become new, improved versions of ourselves.  By February.

Just like how the cold, harsh realities of winter often hit in January we, too, may experience harsh realities when we try and change our behaviors and put so much pressure on January.  What if we didn’t? What if we were able to streamline our goals, dreams and desires into a plan that didn’t create the cold turkey abruptness that 12:01 a.m. on January 1st represents in our lives? One tip that may just revitalize your 2017 is to consider the power of ritualizing in your life.

First, what is a ritual?  One historical context we have for rituals is religious ceremonies where certain words or actions are performed in designated locations, in particular orders, or within a set of specific guidelines.  One might expect the result of religious rituals to be things like deep connection or personal enrichment; you might think it’s the religious component of a “religious ritual” that makes us experience those feelings.  One stream of thought is that it’s actually the ritual and not necessarily the religion.

According to Borten, P. & B. (2016) “Ritual brings order, specialness, context and focus to our lives. The opening and closing, or the initiation and conclusion of a ritual aligns our intentions with our actions, and it sets the stage for the action to be as effective as possible.  Ritual grounds us in the present; it rescues us from dwelling on the past and worrying about the future.”  In this context, rituals don’t have to be connected to religion at all; the principle of order or repetition can be applied across many elements of our lives.

Another word you might relate to this concept is “routine” – you might have a “morning routine” or a “bedtime routine” where you do the same things in the same order every time. Think for a moment about what that process offers to you – predictability, stability or a sense of grounding.  Why do we have morning or bedtime routines in our families?  Do you find that it helps things run more smoothly if you’re able to find more enjoyment in your personal interactions and are less on edge or anxious?  In what other areas of your life would you like to have those feelings?

Creating a new ritual or fine tuning an already existing routine in your life will take focused effort – just like those New Year’s resolutions you have made in the past.  Consider the bigger picture of what you want to accomplish.  Maybe your goals are related to improved health or losing weight.  Break your dream or goal down into manageable steps including when you’ll implement those steps, and be intentional about carrying out the process.  By recognizing that your immediate action is related to a bigger intention or goal, you’ll find more motivation and satisfaction in completing the task.  Let’s face it, putting on the exercise clothes every day might feel like a drag until you start putting them on with the intentionality of how that process is connected to something so much bigger.

Remember, every day is the start of a new year!

This article was written by Rebecca Mills, Extension assistant professor in family consumer sciences and 4-H youth development

Borten, P. & B. (2016) Rituals for Living Dreambook & Planner. Available at: http://www.thedragontree.com


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