Rituals are having a resurgence.
From wellness gurus to influencers, it seems like everyone is interested in what some may consider the rebranding of good old-fashioned habits. But rituals are so much more than that.
Habits are singular actions repeated for a specific outcome. Rituals are about performing something (or a series of actions) with the intent of honoring a specific person or thing. Habits are done on autopilot. Rituals require intention.
When scientists have looked at rituals from a biological perspective, they’ve noticed several things. When we practice them before a performance related task (like a sports match), our neural response to mistakes becomes less sensitive and whether we fudge up or not, we’re more likely to remain calm. In fact, doing rituals before a stressful event has been shown to decrease anxiety levels increasing the likelihood you’ll do better overall.
Rituals offer another way to nourish our minds and bodies by deepening our connection to ourselves. They’re a form of self-care and mindfulness. Studies show that mindfulness can lead to feeling happier and clear-minded. And really, who doesn’t want that?
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Try these five morning rituals before leaving your house. They’ll set the tone for your day and leave you feeling more energized and productive.
1. Turn Onto Your Self, Not Your Phone
For all of you reaching for your phone before opening your eyes, this one’s for you.
There’s no quicker way to turn off happiness than turning on your phone when you first get up, but according to a recent report by IDC Research that was sponsored by Facebook, that’s exactly what 4 out of 5 smartphone users do.
You may already know that checking social media too often can damage self-esteem, but that’s not all we’re using our phones for. Along with learning news and connecting with friends, many of us need them for our jobs and it’s causing serious career FOMO.
According to Flexjobs, 3.9 million people performed remote work part-time. In 2017, The New York Times reported that 43 percent of workers continue job-related activities even after clocking out. As the line between work and personal time blurs, setting boundaries between ourselves and our devices becomes harder. But if you’re looking to become more productive and less anxious, it’s exactly what you need to do.
When researchers had 124 adults limit their email checking to only three times per day, they discovered that their subjects became less stressed and had a greater sense of well-being. Another study found that users who kept phone notifications on were more prone to distraction and less successful at completing tasks.
To avoid the temptation of using your phone when you first get up, commit to keeping it away from your bedside. If it’s been serving as your alarm clock, go the classic route and invest in an old school one. Give yourself a few minutes to acclimate to being awake by practicing some breath control techniques. Focus on breathing from the abdominals instead of your chest to take in more oxygen and expel carbon dioxide from your system. This is also a great time to practice personal affirmations.
2. Replenish Your Body with Lemon Water
This may seem like an insignificant form of self-care, but actively taking part of healthy behaviors has been shown to improve self-esteem. Replenishing your body with a large glass of lemon water is a simple way to do this.
Fluid is lost through breathing when we sleep and mild dehydration is enough to trigger moodiness and fatigue. By drinking water in the morning, we’re rehydrating our cells and revving up our metabolism for the day ahead.
The other health benefits of lemon water? Along with immune boosting Vitamin C, lemon contains heart healthy flavonoids and soluble fiber (when the pulp is used). The fruit’s acidity levels have also been shown to prevent the formation of kidney stones and make it easier for the body to absorb iron from plant-based foods.
It’s still being debated whether it’s better to have this drink warm or cold, but one thing the experts agree on is that the acidity from the lemon can damage your teeth’s enamel. To avoid this unpleasant side-effect, you can use organic and biodegradable straws.
3. Go Outside
You already know that exercise, especially early in the morning, is a good thing. Along with improving circulation and releasing endorphins, it’s been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain linked to memory and learning skills. But even if you can’t spare the time for an hour run, going outside for a short period still holds plenty of health benefits.
Researchers have found that being in nature promotes mental flexibility, creativity and problem solving. It’s also a great way to get Vitamin D which increases productivity. According to one study, 40 percent of Americans are deficient in the vitamin, which is all the more reason to make going outside a priority.
Try taking a leisurely stroll around your block before getting ready for work. Even sitting outside for as little as five minutes is enough to boost your mood.
4. Get Inspired
Instead of seeking motivation, search for inspiration.
Unlike motivation, which is driven by the intent to achieve a specific outcome (ex: I’m motivated to go to work so I can pay my rent), inspiration is a more transcendent and spiritual experience. It’s a feeling that’s triggered by an event, person or thing that awakens your mind or heart.
How do we find it? According to Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at The American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, we can gain inspiration by opening ourselves to something unfamiliar or novel.
When learning something new we receive a rush of dopamine from the SN/VTA part of the brain which is linked to memory and comprehension. Going out of your comfort zone and seeking inspiration preps your mind to become more focused, creative and engaged at work, which means you leave the office feeling more satisfied.
Downloading a language app or enrolling in an online course are some things you can do to learn something new. Podcasts, journaling, and listening to music are also other ways to find inspiration.
5. Map A Daily Plan Instead Of A Basic To-Do List
Although making lists can ease confusion in the day, there’s a right and wrong way to create them.
The problem with the traditional method is that it can set us up to feel bad. As illustrated by a study conducted by Florida State University, when we don’t achieve goals that we’ve written down, we obsessed about them or experience what is known as “goal-intrusive thoughts”.
Instead of simply jotting down what you need to get done, experts suggest mapping out a plan that includes your goal and how, when, and where you plan to accomplish it. Be as detailed as possible, prioritizing the most important tasks first. Another way to create a more effective to-do list is by using the acronym S.M.A.R.T. When evaluating the day ahead, set Specific goals that can be Measured and Attained in a Reasonable amount of Time. If you have a very large project, consider dividing it into pieces using these guidelines so it’s less overwhelming. Because we’re hardwired to prefer instant gratification over delayed pleasure, breaking bigger goals into smaller, more achievable ones increases our chances of executing the plan but makes us feel more accomplished and less anxious about our work.
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