The phrase ‘daily rituals’ has been trending for a while. Head over to Instagram and you’ll find over 62,000 posts using the hashtag. The feed is chock full of people showing off enviable moments. You’ll find trim women practicing yoga on a pristine beach, morning meditations with the sun rising in the distance, a cozy living room complete with a fireplace, book, and a steaming cup of tea. But, wait for it. #dailyroutine has it beat with over 486,000 posts!
Why are we humans so fascinated with these words? What do they mean to us? And are we – perhaps unintentionally – glamorizing them on social media for the world to see and react to?
We need ways to ground us now more than ever. With today’s rapid news cycle and new technologies’ non-stop distractions, it’s our inner voice and our inner spirit that can suffer. If we’re not careful, our thoughts, feelings, and values can get swept away with the over-abundance of media, trends, advertisements, emails, texts, and overall busy-ness. So much that we can misplace our core beliefs.
Picture this: you’re busy working on a task, assignment, or project, when “Ping!” You get a notification on your phone. You pick up your phone and answer the text that just came in. Then, you open Instagram and scroll, scroll, scroll, then check your email (again for the tenth time because something urgent and important might have come in), and before you know it, you’ve wasted 30 minutes on your phone, checking all the notifications, news alerts, WhatsApp chats, and emails.
This happens over and over throughout the day, and by the time the sun is setting, you wonder where the day has gone. You get frustrated and annoyed with yourself for not accomplishing more of what you set out to do. Multiply this by days and weeks of the same distractions, moment after moment, and it stands to reason that our core goals and beliefs get swept up in the latest Instagram stories on our feed.
It’s no wonder #dailyrituals is a trending hashtag. Collectively, we’re yearning to slow down, to feel more grounded, more at ease, more comfort in the simple things. But are we using these rituals in the best way? Are we using them to align with our highest good, or are we glamorizing it to our collective detriment? Or, are they just one more thing to add to our ridiculously long laundry list of “things to do”?
A few months ago, I went on a long weekend vacation that got me curious about my own daily ritual. I was looking forward to seeing family and spending time in nature. I brought my journal, meditation timer, and my yoga clothes with me. I had every intention to incorporate some yoga, meditation, and journaling into each morning while I was away.
But, I didn’t make time for it and everything stayed tucked in my bag the entire time.
In the plane heading back to New York, my brain felt scattered more than usual, and I wondered why I hadn’t made more of an effort. Was it that, because I wasn’t at home, in my own space, I didn’t feel like my daily routine would be good enough? Did I give myself an excuse to be lazy because I was away?
The following morning, back at home, I did some gentle yoga, sat on my meditation cushion and meditated, journaled a bit, and felt much more centered and at ease. Feeling proud of myself for getting back into the swing of things, I took a photo and posted it to Instagram. Did I use the hashtag #dailyritual? You bet your ass I did!
Later that day, after checking my post to see how many Likes I got, I had a rather uncomfortable realization. Was my daily ritual contingent on other people’s likes and approval? Was I trying to prove to myself and others that I had my shit together in life? Why did I need the validation from other people’s likes and comments? Was my daily ritual inauthentic or insincere?
Taking a hiatus
It wasn’t long after that I took a break from social media (for this reason, among others). I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and didn’t check in for many months. At first, it was hard – I noticed that I picked up my phone for no reason at all, multiple times a day. But after a week or so, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I slowed down. I devoured books and wrote more. My thoughts felt less scattered and disjointed. I tried out new meditation techniques. My connection with the Tarot deepened and I began reading the cards more.
It was the perfect reset I needed to get back to living with intention, to reassess my values and what’s important to me. And yes, it helped me uncover a new daily ritual that was simpler. One that suited me better and resonated with my needs. And the best part? No one but me knew about it. It was private and it was mine. And because it was private, it felt all the more special and wholesome.
Lately, I’ve noticed more and more people taking a social media hiatus, which proves that there is only so much stimulation our minds can take before we burn out. And, I’d argue the anxiety and pressure to be perfect, to have your life “figured out,” is one of those reasons we burn out.
The thing is, daily rituals are profoundly powerful! They can help in moments when our minds are ‘at capacity’ and can’t seem to take any more stimulation. But, because they’ve been popularized, they’ve been grouped into this cookie-cutter, ‘I have my life figured out’ mentality.
My time away from ‘the gram,’ reinstated what I’ve always believed: that daily rituals are deeply healing, they are rooted in our instinctual, wild nature and they need devotion and attention just like any other part of us.
Then why are daily rituals so hard to maintain?
Even during my social media break, there were still times when I resisted my daily routine. Personally, I find that I lapse into self-sabotaging behaviors without realizing it. I’m not quite sure why I do this to myself – perhaps I enjoy the challenge of getting back into an aligned state or it could be that I’m just plain lazy sometimes. Whatever the case may be, here’s what happens: I’ll get into a good habit for about two weeks or so, then, something within me will resist. I’ll sleep in instead of rising early to meditate, I’ll put off writing because I’d rather watch Netflix, or I’ll eat takeout because I’m too tired to cook. Is it fatigue? Complacency? Perfectionism? Meaning, if it’s not perfect, then what’s the point in trying? Is it procrastination? Or maybe it’s a fear of growth? Of what will change within me if these habits take hold?
If we know that daily rituals have such healing power, why do we sometimes resist them? And why can they feel like work? Because daily rituals are very similar to habits and habits are tough to maintain. I think everyone can agree on that. But let’s go a little deeper. One possible reason they’re so hard to maintain could be that the daily ritual you have ascribed to isn’t aligned with your personal values or beliefs.
Here are some questions I asked myself that helped me gain some clarity: Does it feel forced? Does it feel like a chore you must get done or something you have to cross off your to-do list each day? Is it because you want to show it off to the world on social media?
As I began asking these questions, I realized there are a few additional things that make a consistent daily practice so difficult. Let’s break some of them down, shall we?
Decision fatigue – Yes, it’s a thing. It’s estimated that we make about 35,000 decisions every day. Sound exhausting? That’s because it is. When our minds are spent making one decision after the other all day, we often come home too tired to make any more.
A daily routine that’s simple and straightforward can help with this. If you’ve already decided that you will go for a walk after dinner, then you’re more likely to go for a walk after dinner. The more times you do it, and the simpler it is, the more it will stick.
It feels forced – It may not feel natural to get up and meditate first thing in the morning. Just because it looks like a great way to start the day on someone else’s Instagram feed doesn’t mean it will resonate with you and your personal needs. And forcing it could actually create more harm than good. It’s time to be real with yourself and find out what YOU need. Not what you “think” you need, or what other people are doing.
If you’re not sure what you need, ask yourself: What are my core beliefs? What brings me joy? What connects me with the Earth and our universe? What relaxes me? What helps me to feel grounded?
Cognitive overload – Our phones are really just tiny computers that contain a massive amount of information at our fingertips at any given moment. And we take them EVERYWHERE with us. We are absorbing more information and more ‘data’ on a daily basis than we ever have in the history of mankind. 24/7. We are tired. Our brains are tired.
Again, the simpler a daily ritual is, the better. Personally, trying to practice yoga, meditate, and journal each and every morning was too much. I could never fully dedicate the time and it just felt too overwhelming. Since then, I’ve simplified it down to just 10 minutes of meditation and if I feel moved to journal afterwards or draw a tarot card, so be it. But, I leave that pressure behind.
Procrastination – Ahh, procrastination. Such an easy excuse to lean into. Chalk it up to laziness, but procrastination is often rooted in fear. Fear of not getting it right, fear of messing up, fear of looking stupid. So, delaying for when you have ‘more time’ or ‘more energy’ is a pretty convenient scapegoat.
When procrastination rears its ugly head, I try to simplify my actions down by just focusing on the next step towards what I’m trying to accomplish. That could mean simply placing one foot out of the bed in the morning when I really don’t want to get up, or just unrolling my yoga mat. Usually, if I just focus on one task — that logical next step — the rest follows suit. I get out of the bed to start my day, and I end up getting on my mat to practice a bit of yoga or sit in meditation.
Perfectionism – This is where I feel like social media can really cloud our judgement when it comes to forming a daily habit. If it’s not pretty enough to share, then why even do it? For all my fellow perfectionists out there: Do NOT feel like an utter failure if your daily ritual doesn’t look like someone else’s. Don’t judge yourself if it isn’t ‘pretty’ or ‘picture perfect.’ Do not beat yourself up if it’s not the same each day, if you skip a day, or two days, a week, or even a month! And, if it changes into something completely different down the road, amazing! It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means you’ve listened to what your body, mind, and soul needs and have provided it.
Life isn’t perfect, and daily rituals aren’t going to be perfect either. In fact, I’d argue, it’s better if they’re not the same each day. That’s when you ride the waves of life and go with the flow. Shit happens, obligations come up. Daily practices are there to bring you ease and joy, not stress and anxiety.
Here are some practical daily rituals that I often come back to, because they’re super simple and don’t feel overwhelming:
Spend time outside. Whether it’s a walk in the woods, a nearby park, or just around your block, spending time outside can be incredibly healing. Just getting fresh air and allowing the sun to warm your skin can feel rejuvenating.
Move your body. This is a great way to escape the endless chatter of the mind and be fully present. It’s also good for our joints and muscles, especially if we spend the majority of our day sitting at a desk or behind a computer. Get up and stretch, do some light yoga, or go for a walk. I invite you to leave the phone behind, as well. Let your movement be your focus.
Be still. This one is so simple yet it can be the hardest of them all. Try to be still at any point in the day – no phone, no computer, no book, no nothing, and just let the stillness of the moment wash over you. I like to practice this when I’m sipping my first cup of coffee of the day.
Transforming the concept of daily rituals
Social media has glamorized daily rituals. But in reality, they’re not glamorous at all. They’re messy and unreliable and sometimes they feel like work. We may feel super inspired one day, and lackluster the next. Sometimes they happen and sometimes they don’t. There will be days when discipline will be by our side and days when we throw discipline right out the window.
The thing is, that’s okay. Like everything else, it’s all a work in progress.
I think it’s time we transform this concept of daily rituals. All of this sharing and proving and pressuring is setting us on a straight path towards burnout.
What if our daily rituals weren’t tangible, daily routines at all? What if our “daily ritual” was more conceptual than visible? What if, rather than a physical act, it was a set of beliefs that we tried our best to live by each day? A way of experiencing life that resonates all the way to our core?
By tuning in to our bodies, contemplating what our core beliefs are, and striving to be authentic, we’ll open up to new experiences and get to know ourselves on a deeper level. And whether shared or not, it can still be something that’s celebrated and cherished.