Liz McNamara, our Natural Health Expert, shares how she invites ritual throughout her day. From mindful mornings that start her day feeling good, to evening wind down practices that allow the day to close with a sense of gratitude, there’s something here for all of us.
From day to day, we do a lot of things, many of which can start to feel mundane as we traipse through the normal rhythm of the Monday to Friday routine. Of course, there are times in our week that make it special – time with friends or family, achievements within our personal, academic, or working life, but some weeks can pass us by without us taking a moment to appreciate the mundanity of them!
I’ve been pondering on ways I can create more conscious moments in my week in order to support wellbeing, through creating rituals. I’ve come to the conclusion that for me the difference between routine and ritual is my intention, presence, and mindfulness. The word ritual is often associated with ceremony or religion, but I associate it with intentional mindfulness and special moments.
At this time of year, it can be especially easy to be caught up in the busy, and the days rush by, draining our vital energy and keeping us distracted from the present moment. As we head towards Christmas, the pace increases, and before we know it, we can be mindlessly knocking back wines in the evening to help us cope with the long day behind us, or perhaps not eating as well as we normally like to. The list of chores grows, and the stress starts to compound.
Suggestion: If something feels like a chore, look at how you can change certain elements of it to feel more special. Making the bed everyday could be a routine chore or it could be a ritual because when you choose to make the bed, you know you’re doing it because of how great it feels to hop into a tidy bed. So, it’s a gift for yourself for later.
I’ve pulled together some of my favourite rituals that I’ve used during different chapters of my life that you might like to adopt that enable you to weave more mindfulness into your day. You can pick one or a few, just do what’s right for you. Every lifestyle is different, and there is no one set approach, just do what feels like a good addition in your day.
Rituals from morning to evening
- Drink water with lemon or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
This gift of hydration stimulates the digestive system and liver to ‘wake up’. Apple cider vinegar may also be useful for supporting balanced blood sugar. The zingy vinegar is a stimulating flavour to wake up to.
Along with water, tea carries a beautiful range of phytonutrients that it draws from the hot water extraction. Spend a mindful moment while the jug is boiling to take some deep belly breaths and ‘check in’ with your body, mind, and emotions setting yourself up with clear intentions for the day ahead.
- Wake your skin up well.
Spending a few moments with your favourite skincare products can make all the difference to a healthy complexion and can make you feel glowy from the inside-out. Add in a scrub every other day to slough off dead skin cells and help your skin look brighter. While applying your favourite moisturiser, use upward massage strokes around the face and neck to defy gravity and relax tension in the face. Breathe in the beautiful natural fragrances. Remember, set your intention to make this a special moment that is dedicated to you.
- Move your body
It might be going for a walk, a run, a swim, yoga, dance, kickboxing, paddle boarding – whatever it is for you that makes your body feel good and eases stress from the mind, embrace movement. Exercise can be a ritual too – and adding in the element of nature to your movement ritual can bring more benefits of grounding, fresh air, improved mood, and stress reduction. Running in the bush instead of the road can give additional strength, coordination, and agility benefits as you have to focus on the uneven ground. You can add social connection by having a movement ritual that involves people you love spending time with.
- Aromatherapy and easing stress
After a long day or hard meeting, it can be good to go for a walk and clear your head, get fresh air and a different perspective. Essential oils can support this too! The Herb Farm have created some gorgeous smelling Mists that can create a cloud of goodness around you. They’re a synergy of beautiful smells that support a happy mood and ease stress.
Using essential oils in the bath is another way to create meaningful moments for yourself at the end of the day. Mix a blend of 3 drops each of Sweet orange, Frankincense, and Lavender with a squirt of your usual body or hand wash to disperse the oils. Once in the bath, you could use a mindfulness app to train the brain.
In the morning shower, you could enliven your day by putting a couple of drops of lemon or rosemary at the bottom of the shower and inhaling. These stimulating oils will support healthy blood flow to the brain, a good mood, and clarity of mind.
Mealtime rituals can create positive eating patterns over a lifetime. Choosing to eat at the table and creating space for conversation if we live with others can deepen relationships and help us to connect with each other. Taking a moment before eating to pause, take a few breaths and become present is a lovely ritual that not only allows more enjoyment of the first bite, but gives the nervous and digestive system a chance to enter the ‘rest and digest’ state where digestion is prioritised because our nervous system isn’t pumping our stress hormones from being in ‘fight or flight’.
Popping your phone down and thinking through the things that you appreciate in your day helps create a positive mindset that can stick with you in the days ahead. This nightly routine can support you to make choices about what you want more of in tomorrow and remind you of the simple things that can bring joy. Being aware of the things you are grateful for can help improve aspects of those close relationships that we might take for granted.
- Deep Belly Breathing
This is a great technique to slow down a busy brain and can be incorporated any time throughout the day or lying in bed before sleep. Place your hands on your belly and breathe in for a count of 7, hold for 2, exhale for a count of 7, hold for 2. It might take a few breaths to get out of your head and into the flow of breath.
Our wellness is a result of everything we do, both big and small, from choosing vegetables over takeout for lunch, the belly laugh we had with friends, or the early night we made ourselves have last night, and it’s often the small things done regularly that can make the most profound changes. Feeling more valued begins with the behaviours we show ourselves, and small rituals in our day can offer us a chance to be more present to the moments of joy in our day.
No one day looks the same but in the countdown to Christmas I’ll be weaving some of these rituals throughout my day. They act as an anchor for me to stay mindful and present, in what can often be a stressful time. No matter how busy or full your days feel, small rituals offer us a chance to reconnect to ourselves and stay grounded.