10 everyday rituals for a more meaningful life

Yesterday I stood on a lushly green college campus and watched as 500 fresh-faced twenty-somethings threw their caps into the air. It was an event appropriately filled with pomp, circumstance, and century-old traditions still firmly rooted in place. But as my husband and I drove out of the bucolic small town and back to the big bad city, we got to talking about the importance of ritual and tradition, and how they both seem to vanish in adulthood.

Our early lives are filled with ceremonial doors to pass through, with the beginning and end of each school year (not to mention semesters and midterms) providing structure and a feeling of progression for the first eighteen years of our lives. Then, without warning, we are thrust into a world with its seemingly never-ending progression of days, commuting, working, and paying bills until the next big punctuations of marriage, childbirth, and death. Fun, right?

This is why bringing rituals into our everyday lives is such an important--and often overlooked--way to usher in a sense of meaning. Rituals bring shape and connection to our days beyond the confines of the work week. Meg Cox, author of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everyday, recommends "simple, heartfelt rituals that work for the way people actually life right here, right now--not in some parallel Utopian universe where we have tons of time, oodles of creativity, and money is no object." Amen, sister. With that in mind, here are ten ways to start incorporating rituals into the life you have right now.

  1. Greet the day. Whether you relax in bed for a moment after your alarm goes off, ease the Mondays with coffee at your favorite cafe, or welcome each daybreak with a few sun salutations, give yourself a morning ritual that makes you feel cheery about the day ahead.
  2. Recurring meet-ups. Participants in a book club know that sometimes these are the friends we see most often because the meeting is carved in stone on a monthly basis. Use the same principle with other people in your life. Get together the first Tuesday of every month with your knitting pals, or the last Saturday of each month with your best friend.
  3. Family meal. Your "family" can be a your co-workers, your sweetie, or your best gal pals, but bread was meant to be broken together. Have at least one meal a day, every day if possible, with others as a chance to connect and catch-up.
  4. Get alliterative. It can be Taco Tuesday, French Friday, or Sappy Movie Saturday, make one day a week a cue for a special activity, and you'll start to look forward to this weekly holiday.
  5. Choose the hour. The Brits have their four o'clock tea time. Why not have your own four o'clock latte? Or a noontime call to a friend, just for a quick check-in? Or an 8pm, post-dinner stroll? (The Italians even have a name for it: passegiata.)
  6. Connect over necessities. We already go to the gym and hit up the farmer's market on a regular basis and usually by our lonesome. Make the usual events in your life a time to meet up with others and you might find yourself a bit more excited about that evening step class.
  7. Make the most of what arises. You can always count on the unpredictability of life to usher in celebrations and set-backs. Take hold of those opportunities to rally around the people in your life, whether they've gotten a promotion or lost their job. Keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge, and think about the kind of support you would want if you were going through a rough patch.
  8. Something on the horizon. In addition to our daily coffee breaks and monthly meet-ups, it's always nice to have a bigger event in the distance to look forward to. Maybe it's an annual mother-daughter camp out that all the women in your life attend, or an annual picnic. Whatever you choose, remember to start planning early and make it meaningful by making sure it's an event that's personal and reflects your values.
  9. Close the day. An end of day ritual can calm you, release the worries of your day, and get you ready to konk out to dreamland. Maybe you try an evening meditation where you consciously let go of the resentments and stress that arose during the day, or simply sit up with a novel before turning out the light.
  10. Gratitude. One of the surest ways to bring meaning into our lives is to recognize how much we have going for us. Make a list in your journal of all the people, things, and feelings you're grateful for, or make it a ritual you share out loud with your partner before you two drift off to sleep. Sounds like a pretty good set-up for sweet dreams.
Do your family and friends have daily, monthly or annual traditions you love? Or are there old rituals you're holding on to even though they're not working anymore?

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