News just in: you needn’t be an ultra-spiritual, sage-smudging, alt-wellness aficionado to be someone who harnesses the power of rituals to get what you want.
They can be whatever you want them to be and are, essentially, ways of creating small, pleasurable-to-do steps on the road to achieving your next big goal. And what better time to opt for a new strategy in September, when that back-to-school energy is there to spur you on - no matter how long it’s been since you were in a classroom.
‘The purpose of a ritual is to make you pause and become aware that you are at a choice point in your day. It’s an invitation to yourself to choose conscious behaviour that supports your wellbeing,’ says integrative therapist Sally Brown. So, it’s the intention that’s key here - more so than the actual act.
And, best bit, if you design them correctly (pointers coming up) they’ll only make your day more enjoyable. ‘They are, essentially, novel ways to capture your imagination and make you excited about change,’ Sally adds. ‘If you don’t get pleasure from doing your ritual, it’s just another task.’
Coach and wellness consultant Natasha Stromberg also advises her clients to adopt rituals in order to achieve their big work and life goals. Everyone can benefit from them, she explains, but they’re especially necessary when you’re feeling stuck; you know, when you’re wanting more but your actions just can’t keep pace with your aspirations.‘If you are daydreaming about your goal - telling your friends you want to get a new job, travel, or start saving to buy a flat - yet haven’t made any progress towards it, that suggests your current method isn’t working,’ she says. ‘And you should think about implementing some rituals in your life.’
Got that awkward, gnawing sense of recognition? We’ve got you. While both our experts believe that rituals are deeply personal and, as such, an exact formula is impossible to prescribe, Sally suggests that, in order to be maximally effective, it’s worth checking that your ritual meets the following criteria:
- It has a POSITIVE benefit
- It feels AUTHENTIC to you.
- It is SIMPLE
- It is SUSTAINABLE (as in, you can keep it up for the long-run - but bonus points, as ever, if you can make your back-to-school ritual earth-friendly too.)
Time to get our experts’ take on how these will play out IRL…
*The goal: You want to...Find a new job but can’t motivate yourself
The ritual: Daily self-talk
‘Every day, first thing when you’re getting dressed or walking to work, engage in some silent self-talk, like. Something like: “Today is the day I start my job search”,’ advises Natasha. ‘Purposeful self-talk, ritualized at the same time every day, wears that groove in your brain that will help you start looking for a job.’
Keep other distractions - especially podcasts and radio - to a minimum so that you can home in on your intention. (Your mood will probably benefit from beginning your day with something other than the news headlines, too.)
*You want to...Refresh your relationship with social media
The ritual: Rebrand logging off
‘Delete social media from your phone,’ advises Natasha. ‘Breaking that connection in your mind between the pleasure of browsing and picking up your phone is like breaking a circuit and sometimes, physical intervention is necessary.’
Need space not a clean break? ‘Don’t tell yourself that you can’t check Instagram at work - that will feel like deprivation,’ adds Sally. ‘Try making a ritual of muting your notifications at the beginning of the day and telling yourself this is about gifting yourself some distraction-free hours.’
*You want to...Get your fitness levels back
There’s no getting around it, before exercise is a habit, it’s a chore. ‘Take time to make yourself a coffee before you head for a gym workout or out for a run,’ suggests Sally. Or, if you’re trying to reduce your habit, try a matcha tea - or even something herbal; again, it’s not the actual act that matters, it’s the fact that you’re doing something that communicates to your brain that you’re in this together. ‘It’s like you’re saying: “I know this is hard and I really appreciate your effort, so here is my way of supporting you and saying thanks.''’
Now you’ve got it, go get ‘em.
by Claudia Canavan & Roisín Dervish-O’Kane, @allupinyourfeelings