Rituals have been an integral part of human culture throughout history, serving various purposes such as religious, social, and psychological. The power of rituals is a well-documented phenomenon that extends across different cultures and belief systems.
While there are group rituals, there are also personal rituals that each of us adopt consciously or unconsciously. For example, some cricketers will look up at the sun each time time they come to bat. Or we might bless ourselves or say a prayer before a long journey.
The Power of Rituals
When things feel a bit confusing or scary, rituals can make us feel more in control and less stressed. Doing familiar things over and over again in a ritual can calm us down and make us feel safer.
Rituals help us structure our lives in practical ways and so help to bring order to our minds and our days. My morning rituals of affirmation, reading and reflecting on scripture and writing my Morning Pages make me calm and ready to face the day. I feel rather lost on days when I don’t do these rituals.
Rituals also let us express our feelings. Sometimes, we keep our emotions inside, but rituals give us a way to let them out in a safe way. The actions and symbols in rituals can help us understand and deal with our complicated feelings.
During times of grief, loss, or other challenges, rituals can serve as a coping mechanism. They provide a structured way for individuals to navigate difficult emotions and find solace. When we lose a loved one, social rituals like funerals help us to grieve and find closure. I’ve found it therapeutic to write letters to people who I’ve unfriended. Once written, I destroy the letters, but the act of writing is very therapeutic.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Harvard discovered that doing a little ritual can make eating chocolate even more enjoyable. Before letting people eat a chocolate bar, the researchers had them do a ritual: first, break the bar in half without taking off the wrapper, then unwrap and eat one half, and finally, unwrap and eat the other half. The interesting part is that those who did this ritual not only said they liked the chocolate more but also ate it more slowly to really savor it. They even thought it tasted better. It seems like rituals make us feel more connected to our experiences.
Rituals are a way to foster social connections. The shared experiences within these rituals foster unity, empathy, and a profound sense of belonging, contributing significantly to emotional well-being.
Ultimately, the power of rituals is deeply personal, influenced by individual beliefs, cultural context, and unique life experiences.
For me, rituals form an integral part of my journey towards emotional and psychological well-being, offering comfort, expression, connection, and resilience.
This is Day 50 of My 66-day Journey of Healing Through Writing and Sharing.