3 Short Rituals a Day for a Happier You

There aren't any tools that I'm aware of to bring about spontaneous long-lived-happiness. But there are a number of tools that when practiced consistently help erode unproductive thought patterns and foster an environment more conducive to happiness and peace.
Many of us have a scarcity of time and money. Many of us are around people a large portion of the day. Many of us have trouble starting and maintaining new routines.These blocks are real BUT they don't need to prevent us from being happy.
Here are some step-by-step suggestions for incorporating rituals in your life. Each of them can be practiced for short periods of time, many in your car or at your desk.

To begin....from the list of suggested rituals below:
  1. Pick 3-5 rituals that appeal to you
  2. For the next 7 days try 1 ritual a day. It can be the same ritual or a different one each day.
  3. Allow 10 minutes for each ritual.
  4. After 7 days, start practicing 3 rituals a day. They can be practiced one after the other or at different times of the day. It doesn't matter which rituals you select, or if you create your own rituals. The purpose is to develop a ritual, not to perfect a ritual.
  5. If you miss a day, forgive yourself, and start-over the next day.
Suggested Rituals:
  1. Write it out. Purge your brain chatter by letting it out on paper. Nowhere have I seen this better described than in The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity Chapter, "The Basic Tools". The author, Julia Cameron calls them "Morning Papers" - and suggests writing 3 pages every morning before you do anything else. It's meant as a form of meditation, and not intended to be a work of art. Just let what ever come to the pen come, even if it's "I don't feel like writing anything". These 3 pages can be affirmations, complaints, conversations with God, questions, requests, or anything else as long as there's not a lot of thinking involved. Just write, don't think.
  2. Mantra. Chant a mantra anyway your like....in English, Sanskrit, Latin, Hebrew, silently, out loud, along with a CD, with mala beads, using a rosary. There's no right way - just choose your mantra (more on mantra meditation) and work with it for 10 minutes a day. My friend Heather, owner of the Roslindale Yoga Studio chants her mantra using mala beads in her car, in the driveway when she gets home from work each day.
  3. Hatha Yoga Postures. Allow your spine to move, and it may be a different sequence each day depending on your energy level and location. Here are a few ideas.
  4. High energy days: 3 sun salutations, crescent lung with a twists for 5 breaths toward each side, half-moon for 5 breaths on each side, conclude in rag-doll for 10 breaths

    Low energy days: lie on your back in savasana for 10 breaths, extend arms long overhead and stretch your entire body for 5 breaths, roll onto your belly and come into sphinx pose for 15 breaths, move through 4-6 cat/cow poses, ease back into child's pose with arms extended in front for 5 breaths, staying in child's pose walk fingertips toward the right until you feel a stretch on the left side of your rib cage and hold for 5 breaths, walk fingertips over to the left side and hold for 5 breaths, come onto your back and ease into a gentle reclined twist, taking 10 breaths on each side, conclude with 20 breaths in savasana.

  5. 10 minutes of listening to ambient music. Some suggestions for CDs and to stream on your computer.
  6. Walk it out. Take a brisk or a slow meditative walk, depending on your energy level. Try not to carry anything in your hands or over your shoulder or to wear anything uncomfortable. The more comfortable your body is, the less your mind will have unnecessary distractions to cling to. Just let your mind go where it goes and keep moving.
  7. Say it loud. Speak out-loud whatever, and REALLY whatever is bouncing around on your mind. It's not a conversation, you're not talking to anyone, rather you're using your voice to let go of what you're carrying in your mind. Scream, whisper, speak firmly or gently...just say it out loud and let it out of your mind. This may be most appropriate in your car or when you're alone at home, but I know people who put their phones to their ears and do this while walking down the street. Might feel a little goofy at first, but verbally purging and not having to worry about anyone else's feelings during the process can be powerful for mental cleansing.
  8. Step inside a house of worship. Ideally, this is done when an event or service is not taking place and the house of worship is empty. Just allow the silence or sounds seep into you and feel the sensations of being in a place with spiritual energy. It doesn't even need to be a house of worship of your chosen religion. Just allow the sensations to ensconse you for 10 minutes before re-entering the busy world.
  9. Smell it. Expose yourself to a favorite, calming scent for 10 minutes and close your eyes. Lavender, cinnamon, vanilla, sandalwood are some that work well for me.
  10. Pranayam (breathe). Drawing from traditional yoga breathing practices, we can raise our energy level (kapalabati breath), balance our mind (nadi shodhana breath) and use many other pranayam tools for dramatically altering our state of mind in a short period of time. Yoga Journal has some great instructional articles on pranayam.
  11. Disconnect. Shut of everything for 10 minutes. Really shut off. Don't just avert eye contact with that blinking red light on your blackberry, actually use the "off" button. Turn off your computer (i.e. shut down for real, without letting the motor keep running) and turn of any other gadgets, radio, GPS, phone, etc. Just be disconnected for 10 full minutes and sit or lie down with your eyes closed or softly open.

    More on yoga rituals, in this post from Everything Yoga.


miro-gal said...

Thanks for this info--it is exactly what I need to hear & do, now that the first month of the new year has yielded not too much in the way of positive change. Still cutting thru the overgrowth of bad habits & procrastinations, and in this climate of uncertainty I need to connect with my best self but in a realistic way. This will definitely help!