“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault
“Routine” can seem like a dirty word; we can get stuck repeating the same actions over and over again and feel like slaves to our habits.
Yet there are some things we simply cannot get around—sleeping, waking, eating, working, and engaging with others. There are also repetitions that we embrace as rituals—Friday afternoon with its promise of the weekend, weekly religious observances, a favorite TV show even.
What if we could turn regular, seemingly mundane daily activities into ritualistic celebrations instead of nagging chores?
Turning quotidian activities into rituals, or creating new daily practices, transforms the little stuff into opportunities to stop, show gratitude, and marvel at the beauties of regular life.
One of my rituals is praying. I pray on my knees every day and have been for 20 years. For me, it is a place of comfort and self-love. I love it. It’s like breathing—just happens no matter what.
1. Affirm, affirm, affirm again.
Affirmations remind us of what we value and put us on a path toward a happier, more mindful day. An affirmation is a statement about what we would like to experience, stated in a way that invites this new reality because we state it as already being true.
Studies show that repeatedly saying affirmations physically creates new pathways and connections in your brain.
Write your own affirmation to repeat to yourself at a pre-determined time each day. When writing, remember:
- Make it personal. Use phrases such as: I am, I do, I have, and I receive.
- Be positive. Always have a positive focus of what you desire to experience. (For example, change “I don’t complain” to “I see the positive.”)
- Use present tense. For instance, if you say, “Love is coming to me,” this actually means that it isn’t here now and leaves you waiting for love to show up. Instead, say, “I am loved.”
- Be precise; be specific. Imagine you ordered something from a catalog or website, and all you specified is, “I want a dress. Something pretty.” The company wouldn’t have a clue what to send you. What size? What color? It’s the same with creating what you want to experience. If you don’t know what it is, you can’t create it.
2. Set aside five minutes each day for a little pampering.
What does your body crave at the end of a long day? A hot bath, perhaps a foot rub or an afternoon snack? Mine likes my favorite tea every morning.
Whatever it may be, schedule five minutes each day to indulge in that gift to your body. Five minutes can go a long way toward relaxing yourself, both physically and mentally. This practice will help you come back into your body at the end of every hectic day and put you in a place to relish the night ahead of you.
3. Breathe—you have to anyway!
I cannot say enough about how nourishing, vital, and transformative conscientious breathing can be. Breathing is a perfect example of a daily habit that can be transformed. To call it a “habit” is a little silly; we don’t have a choice but to breathe! But that of course makes it all the more valuable to be able turn the breath into a mindful practice.
While sitting at your desk, driving, riding the bus to work, or doing laundry, tune into your breath. Where do you feel it in your body—your shoulders, your chest, your stomach?
Once you’ve focused in on your natural breath, begin to expand it. Perhaps you count out your inhales and exhales to make them even, or work on expanding the breath to fill the entire chest cavity in all directions.
Yoga and meditation websites and classes offer great suggestions for specific breathing activities that can all be done while you’re reading a memo or vacuuming the living room.
4. Cook dinner.
Just as we have to breathe, we have to eat. Food is fuel; there’s no way around it. Through cooking, we can turn a daily activity into an exciting and relaxing chance to explore our palates, and express our love for our bodies and our loved ones.
Thought-out, home-cooked meals are invariably better than fast food. Find recipes using whole foods such as vegetables, proteins (can be meat or tofu), and whole grains (such as brown rice).
Cooking for yourself or your family can be a great way to unwind. Get your partner and kids to help, and relish your time together as a family as you slice, dice, and chop your way to better health.
5. Hug someone.
Showing affection makes us calmer and happier, so show some love on a daily basis. It could be hugging your children when they get home from school, embracing a pet, or even a total stranger!
One thing I did for a while to move out of my comfort zone and practice love was to hug a new person every day. I quickly learned that this didn’t have to be awkward.
I would simply strike up a conversation with a colleague, friend, or even someone I happened to connect with that day, and when it was time for either of us to leave I would say, “You know what, if you don’t mind I’d just like to celebrate you for a moment. Mind if I give you a hug?”
Not once was I turned away, and many people would comment later how much that gesture made their day and changed their idea of hugs as somehow limited to a select group of people. Remember, “in giving we receive.”
One thing that has been consistent in my own life and from the hundreds of stories I have heard through the years is that people really crave routine. They feel hungry for structure. Ironically, it is the structure that keeps flow and freedom and movement forward.
And every once in a while, I suggest we take a break from the routine, with days off and vacations. That time away from it makes the routine that much sweeter when we get back to it. At least that is how it is for me. Life is so sweet. And for me, structure and routine make it even sweeter.
Photo by Tess Mayer