I used to think that rituals were just abstract concepts that had no place in my daily life. But that all changed when I started watching a new series on Netflix called New Amsterdam.

Dr. Floyd, a cardio surgeon, performed a ritual before every surgery he conducted. He recited Invictus while scrubbing his hands, making sure to scrub each finger exactly 10 times. I was fascinated by his routine, and as I watched him closely, I noticed that his actions were more than just a series of steps to prepare for surgery. They were his rituals. 

In this blog, we will uncover the significance of rituals and share three reasons why you should start incorporating them into your daily routine, along with some examples.

What are Rituals?

Rituals are actions that are performed in a specific way, with a set of physical features that are rigid, formal, and repetitive. These actions are often broken down into smaller parts that are repeated in a fixed or bounded way. Unlike habits or routines, rituals are typically performed in the same way every time. To perform a ritual correctly, strict adherence to the rules is required.

Dr. Floyd’s ritual fascinated me because it was not only a protocol but also had a deeper meaning. His presence of mind and recitation of the poem added an emotive value to his protocol, making it a true ritual.

Three reasons to begin your rituals today: 

1. Emotional regulation

Rituals help us feel more in control when things are chaotic. Researchers have found that people who do rituals when things are chaotic feel less sad and more in control compared to people who don’t do rituals. Rituals give us a way to create a mental space between ourselves and chaos.

2. Goal Regulation

Rituals help prepare us for important events by energizing and focusing our actions. Athletes use pre-game rituals, students use study rituals, and people have morning tea rituals to prepare for work. These rituals inspire us to focus on our goals and feel more personally involved in the task at hand.

3. Social Regulation

Rituals are powerful tools for social harmony. They help individuals balance different social forces and connect with others who share the same rituals. By participating in group rituals, people can also learn about their culture and community.

Four rituals that you can start any learning experience with:

1. Mindful Breathing

Taking a few deep breaths to center oneself and clear the mind before beginning a learning activity.

2. Setting Intentions

Setting clear intentions and goals for the learning experience can help individuals stay focused and motivated.

3. Visualization

Taking a moment to visualize the learning process and imagine oneself completing the task can help build confidence and increase motivation.

4. Journaling

Taking a few minutes to reflect on prior learning experiences or to set goals for the current learning activity can help individuals focus and prepare mentally for the task at hand.

Unlearning Thought

Ritual actions do not produce a practical result in the external world—that is one of the reasons why we call them rituals. But to make this statement is not to say that ritual has no function . . . it gives members of the social confidence, it dispels their anxieties, and it disciplines their social organizations.

— George C. Homans, Anxiety and Ritual, 1941