Thinking about ways to take better care of ourselves can get particularly overwhelming. This is especially true in our modern world as we have access to so many beneficial practices that we might start to feel the pressure to do it all — but none of that is good for our mental health. Starting small with daily rituals vs. throwing ourselves to the wellness wolves is actually much more effective (and sustainable) in promoting a healthier mind while giving us the structure and organization that keeps us growing and progressing.
“Daily rituals not only help us stay organized, but also provide intentional time for us to connect with ourselves, engage in activities that nurture us, and ground us throughout our day,” Laura Sgro, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles explains. When these rituals become routine, that is where the magic happens.
“Routines are comfortable for many people because they help us feel in control of our environment, which in turn creates predictability and confidence in knowing what to expect” says Sgro. “When we incorporate daily rituals into our daily experience, we’re giving ourselves a meaningful, grounding experience that also boosts our sense of security and comfort,” she adds.
Rituals for Mental Health
Adopting a new daily ritual doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. In fact, some of the most influential daily habits — the ones with the most profound impacts on our minds and well-being — are quite simple. Here are four daily rituals to adopt for a healthier mind.
“Journaling has been shown to have many benefits for our mental health,” says Sgro. This includes “promoting focus and organization, reducing anxiety and worry, and providing an outlet for our feelings,” she adds. When adopting a daily journaling habit, there aren’t any strict rules. Sgro says some people prefer to “free-write when they wake up” while others are more keen on “responding to a journal prompt at night before bed.” Regardless of how and when you journal, the ritual of writing down our thoughts “helps us be more creative while also providing space for us to express our feelings and reflect,” says Sgro.
Exercise is a well-known mental health tool but, if we aren’t careful, it can also cause a lot of stress, pressure, and even some negative feelings about ourselves — depending on what our intention is. That’s where intention comes in. “Incorporating at least 15 minutes of intentional movement per day can help to relieve stress and boost our feelings of productivity and accomplishment,” says Sgro.
To up the ante, Sgro says it’s even better if this intentional movement happens outside as “low levels of vitamin D can contribute to feelings of depression and pther dysregulated mood symptoms.” As for what types of movement to try, it helps to use your intuition to guide you. However, if you need a starting space, Sgro says “adding a 15-30 minute walk into your day” is a great idea and it’s extra beneficial to do so later in the day when you might be experiencing that afternoon slump as it “can lead to improved energy and better overall mood.”
Making the Bed
It might sound silly but small acts of cleaning throughout the day can also promote a healthier mind. “Not to sound like your mother but, making the bed in the morning can have mental health benefits outside of improved sleep,” says Sgro. “Making the bed in the morning can increase one’s sense of calm and promote relaxation.”
“Because humans are social creatures, it’s important to create intention social connection with others,” says Sgro. “Whether it’s telling someone you love them, texting to check in on a friend, or making space for a quick phone call with a loved one, there are so many benefits to practicing daily social interaction,” she adds. With that said, it’s important to not completely burn ourselves out through overcommiting to others but “doing something small that boosts social connection may not only improve our relationship with others, but decrease feelings of loneliness, isolation, or anxiety.”
Making Rituals a Habit
As with most new activities, daily rituals require a bit of habit creation. But, creating habits can take time (and a little patience if we are being honest). When adopting a new daily ritual, Sgro says one of the best things you can do is to start small. “If you have a lot of ideas for daily rituals you want to incorporate, great! Pick one or two to start with this week and check in with yourself at the end to see if they feel like sustainable habits — and if they truly do nourish you as much as you envisioned,” Sgro explains.
“It’s also important not to get caught in the trap of having quantity over quality,” says Sgro. “It can feel exciting to create an entirely new ritual with lots of different activities and plans but, having fewer, more meaningful activities can be beneficial to prevent overwhelm and feeling like your ritual has become a chore that you have to do,” she adds. “Remember, this is about creating time for authentic connection with yourself and making your day easier, not checking off a list of things you have to do to feel productive.”
While getting used to your new habit, a great thing you can do is add the ritual to your calendar. This can serve as a helpful reminder for the first few weeks as it starts to become naturally ingrained in your daily life.