The Importance of Ritual to Mental Health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". After Your Scam
In a world that often feels chaotic and unpredictable, developing personal rituals can help you feel in control over your own life.
Rituals are actions that have special, personal meaning and that become a regular part of our life. They benefit our mental health deeply.
The rituals with the most positive impact are the simplest of rituals because they reduce, rather than contribute to stress and exhaustion.
Rituals also help you reconnect with your physical, emotional life and reconnect with the day/night cycles. These can be significantly disrupted after a traumatic event.
This simple list of rituals might inspire you to create your own:
- Sipping hot tea or coffee in the early morning hours, when the world is quiet and calm
- Stepping outside during the day to breathe deeply and appreciate the beauty around you
- Taking a bath surrounded by the flickering lights of scented candles
- Going for a long walk or bike ride through your favorite part of town
- Walking to a nearby store, instead of taking the car (you can walk at about 2-3 miles an hour, so a mile walk actually is not hard at all)
- If you are working – take breaks outside, sit in the weather and notice the world outside
- Write a post in the group every day or write in your journal. It can be anything, even saying “I am still struggling, but another day closer to recovery”
- Have something delivered on the same day each week – groceries, take out food, etc. Not something that has uncertain delivery dates – but something you know will happen at a specific date and time as a treat for you
- Brush your dog or cat or pet (yes even a lizard if you have one thought pet spiders don’t like it much) – they will like this ritual too
- Perform 5 minutes of yoga or exercises before taking a shower in the morning
- Deliberately eat chocolate or candy only at a specific time as a daily reward
- Once a week, go and visit a pet store or a garden – someplace that makes you smile – pet stores, aquariums, plant or flower shops, someplace with abundant LIFE is good for the soul, your mood, and reconnecting you to real life
- Is there a place you can go to feed ducks or some other animals? Try to do this on the same day and time each week! You may have your own pets, but feeding ducks or geese or swans is amazing for your mood
- Sit quietly and visualize someplace for 5 minutes that you know and love – it does not have to be a memory, you can invent it in your mind – watch the waves on a beach, walking through a forest, viewing mountains, etc. Practice creating your own place – just 5 minutes a day – this is best if done before bed or in bed before sleeping.
Try to avoid things that require too much preparation or you may lapse into avoidance and procrastination. All rituals should serve to reconnect and reward you.
The key to rituals is to try to do them at the same time each day to help you get back into a regular rhythm. Chaotic lifestyles and the loss of regularity can lead to or enhance depression. Rituals can help regularize and reconnect you. Rituals serve to also reward you when you acknowledge them and complete them.
How Rituals Benefit Your Mental Health
- The mental health benefits of rituals are numerous. Personal rituals can:
- Reduce stress and, by default, blood pressure and heart rate
- Improve sleep (this is a big one)
- Calm the mind
- Increase a sense of peace and contentment
- Facilitate deep connection to ourselves and the world around us
- Decrease the symptoms of many mental health conditions that can come from trauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS.
Take care of yourself and your mental health. What enjoyable thing do you already do? Consider intentionally doing more of it. Create a ritual for your mental health.
Things To Avoid:
- Do not do any ritual on your computer or phone, in fact as a part of your ritual – deliberately turn off your computer, tablet, AND phone!
- The ritual should be just for you – not for anyone else – except animals or nature – involving another person can be more stressful – with the possible exception of spending time with a baby or young child
- Don’t tell family or friends about your ritual – it is just for you
- Avoid games – they can create tension, though coloring or drawing is great
- Avoid talking to others during your rituals if possible
- Avoid listening to music during your ritual – this shifts your focus away from the ritual to something else – the music. Though if the ritual is listening to music as its purpose then that is good
One Final Thought
You can replace rituals as time goes on. If you do a specific thing for too long it can become a burden. Do the ritual for as long as it feels like a reward, when that stops switch to something else.
Remember the NIKE ads?
“Just Do It!”