Contentment is often found in the simple routines and rituals we establish for ourselves each day. That first cup of coffee or tea in the early morning. A prayer before a meal or bedtime. Setting out tomorrow’s wardrobe the night before to make getting ready for work easier. Attending a regular support group at the same day and time. Maybe you have habits like these—or maybe not. But as you think about what purpose these types of actions might serve, you begin to understand the power of ritual and why it could help your lifelong choice of sobriety.
What Is a Routine?
Whether you think of a routine as a fixed program or as a set of actions followed regularly, scientists state that certain routines are vital for our wellbeing. Northwestern Medicine lists numerous benefits of routines, including:
- Improved health by creating a consistent plan that features an exercise regimen, whole foods diet plan, and other wellness goals
- Better sleep and daily performance with the help of established bedtime habits and sleep schedules
- Reduced stress levels through comprehensive stress management techniques
- Continual motivation to believe you’ll accomplish whatever you set your mind to and boost your self-esteem
Does this mean you have to become a robot that never sways off-course? Of course not. Rigid patterns in life often shatter during challenging moments, creating even more chaos. But most humans benefit from structure, especially when they design it themselves to have meaning and purpose.
Brianna West is the author of The Mountain Is You, a book that helps people examine self-sabotage and how to change course. In this article for Thought Catalog, she explores various ways to consider routines less as sacrifices and more of what you deliberately choose. In brief, she believes you craft routines for these reasons:
- Habits create mood, which is “the filter through which you experience life.”
- Learn to have your conscious decisions dictate each day, not impulses or fears.
- It’s not about how many things you do that make you happy, but how well you do them.
- Regulating actions through routine helps reduce your “fight or flight” response.
- Structure provides a sense of purpose.
- Contentment comes from routines that reaffirm your deliberate decisions.
- At some point, your routines become rituals and create an effortless flow in your life.
- A lack of structure provides space for procrastination, but routine reinforces deliberate actions.
What do you recognize in your daily life from this list? What changes do you think dedicated routines will help you establish?
Here are some books that might help you form steady routines:
- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World by William H. McRaven
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
- Manage your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei
What Is a Ritual?
A ritual is an activity that you assign more importance to or that serves you in a particular way. It’s also something that evolves from a particular routine.
Why do rituals help you? The Art of Manliness outlines these potential benefits:
- They “center your mind and build your focus” helping you act with care and stay in the present moment.
- Rituals “encourage embodiment,” which means you’re not running on auto-pilot, but instead physically engaged in whatever is happening in the moment.
- They require you to act consistently, which is “a greater enticement to the muses than irregularity.”
- Rituals allow you to “create sacred time and space” to understand what’s truly significant in your life.
Can you manifest all routines into rituals? Not necessarily, as that level of existence might be hard to maintain.
The Difference Between Rituals and Routines
Writer Nataly Kogan says the difference between routine and ritual is intention. So for example, when you attend a 12-Step meeting, it’s part of your routine. But it might feel more ritualistic for any number of reasons, specifically because you recognize its value in your life. Kogan offers a video to help you turn ordinary routines into meaningful rituals.
Rituals are the cornerstone of spiritual practices as well, which many people use to support their sobriety. Prayer, meditation, fellowship, charitable service—there are numerous ritualistic elements that enhance spirituality.
If you’d like to learn more about elevating routines to rituals, try:
- Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips
- The Rituals: Simple Practices to Cultivate Wellbeing, Deepen Relationships, and Discover Your True Purpose by Natalie MacNeil
- The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile
- Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Get Ideas From Others
Understanding how routines and rituals influence focused sobriety is a wonderful topic to bring up at one of Willingway’s continuing care community groups. Throughout the Southeast, these free meetings are open to the public, providing you with a regular opportunity to experience the benefits of positive support.