Self-care rituals have gotten a lot of attention over the last few years. While growing in popularity for protecting against “burnout”, ritualistic self-care has existed for millennia as a way to bring one’s spirit and physical existence into balance. Even for people who aren’t particularly spiritual, research shows that rituals can be effective in helping to implement structure and balance even if the individual doesn’t fully believe in them. Here are 5 scientifically-backed reasons to ritualize your self-care.
Rituals are a form of mindfulness
In a world that encourages high performance, staying still seems counterintuitive. However, bringing your mind into focus does wonders for your mental wellbeing and productivity. Slowing down to do something nice for yourself brings you into the full experience of your existence and countless studies show that the simple act of being present can alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression.
Rituals perpetuate gratitude and confidence
Planning and executing regular moments of intentional joy does wonders for our gratitude. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to only fixate on the ways that things around us are failing and forget all the blessings we have in our lives. What’s worse, is that these negative beliefs become automatic so that we develop confirmation bias around negativity, making it easy to become completely consumed with discontent and insecurity. Self-care rituals can protect us against this bias by redirecting our focus on activities that make us feel good. Consistency around self-care can not only boost our mood, but build our self-esteem as they are reminders of our self-worth and agency.
Structure is crucial to our well-being and gives us a sense of control, purpose and balance. When an activity (like self-care) is regularly repeated, it compounds in efficacy by promoting a sense of personal control. Furthermore, when we don’t proactively schedule time to decompress, we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be stretched too thin and can experience burnout. Once fully exhausted, it can be difficult to choose activities that promote wellness as we’re more likely to pick activities that alleviate stress quickly (like overeating, drinking, binging Netflix, etc). While there is nothing wrong with indulgence, it’s better for one’s overall health to treat these as celebratory activities rather than coping strategies.
Try starting a self-care routine by committing to an activity (exercise, journaling, sex, massage, etc) at the same time on the same days of every week. After about three weeks of a new habits, your body naturally comes to anticipate the activity and rewards you by releasing feel-good hormones for completing the task.
Help in managing emotions
By slowing down and being present, we become more in touch with our own feelings and discomfort. When we become more aware of our emotions, we are better able to take proactive measures to self-soothe rather than become reactive during high stress.
Being aware of our emotions also helps build our individual resiliency as we learn to trust in ourselves in difficult situations. Scheduling time for intentional self-care can alleviate some stress by giving you something tangible to look forward to and teaches you that you prioritize yourself. This isn’t selfish; taking time to care for oneself is the best thing you can do for those around you as you give yourself some time to recharge. You can only give the best of yourself to your partner, family, friends and work if you’re taking the time to keep yourself well.
Connect us to others
Ritualistic self-care does not always have to be a solo venture. In fact, it’s benefits can be magnified when done with others. Whether rituals are performed through a larger religious community or through small connection with your immediate friend group, having a connection to other people is crucial for our wellbeing. Some easy ways to add more social-connection in your self-care can be inviting friends to exercise with you or scheduling a couples’ massage for you and your partner. Ultimately, you want to pick activities that leave you feeling rejuvenated and don’t require a lot of managing or caregiving on your part.