Ever wondered why pro basketball players go through the same little routine every time they line up to shoot a free throw?
These repeated habitual acts are called rituals, and they help these ballers achieve consistently high performance by taking some of the guesswork out of shooting a free throw.
Practicing the same routine before each free throw leaves less to chance, which allows bball players to relax, both physically and mentally. Rather than reinventing the wheel every time they line up at the foul line, players begin with their standard ritual, which helps them get into the groove of their shot without overthinking it.
And basketball players aren’t the only ones. Professional athletes (and fans) are infamous for having all sorts of rituals, like wearing the same underwear (no judgement) or eating the same meal before every game. It sounds like superstition, but actually, practicing daily rituals helps you perform at a consistently higher level. It’s not just Hocus Pocus.
You don’t have to be Michael Jordan to benefit from the power of daily rituals. (I’d be down though… I’m obsessed. This is coming from the girl that used to have a life-sized cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan in her room.) Anyone can use rituals to intentionally up-level your daily routines.
Let’s be real, we all already have daily routines, good and bad. Every single day, you wake up and get out of bed (hopefully). You probably start your workday 5ish days a week with a morning meeting or by checking your email. But chances are, you aren’t purposeful or thoughtful about these routines, you just kinda do ’em.
(Now let me stop and say if you’re resisting what I’m saying, I feel you. That was my reaction too. I’m all about efficiency; I’m not exactly a meditation and journaling type of gal. I place a premium on your time and mine, so trust me, I wouldn’t go through the effort of writing this if I didn’t have good reason to bathe in the ritual Kool-Aid.)
Ok. Now that that’s out of the way. Let me explain why this shit really works.
Rituals are repeated, intentional, and give you more energy. They can be used to punctuate low points of your day where you need an extra energy boost.
Here’s an example. I’m not a morning person, like, at all (much to my fiancé’s chagrin). I’m a night owl and dread getting up early, so I set my alarm to the last possible minute where I can still squeeze by and *barely* have enough time to get ready for the day. This makes mornings stressful. I’m rushed and usually running late. Sometimes I forget ultra-essential items like my phone or keys. It’s not the best way to start the day.
But there is one way I slow myself down in the morning – I always make my bed. I never skip this ritual. For at least a minute, before I get ready, I have to slow down and tuck in my sheets, pull up my duvet, and fluff my pillows. It gives me a sense of control, and makes me a little less delirious. Once I make my bed, I feel more prepared to tackle something else.
This isn’t just in my head. Studies show that bed-makers are happier, more productive, enjoy their jobs more, work out more, and get more sleep. Here’s why a little ritual like making your bed can make a big difference.
- You set yourself up for a win. Whatever your ritual, once you accomplish it, you feel good about yourself. This one small success gives you a sense of purpose and confidence that empowers you to take on your next challenge.
- You gain a sense of control. When you mindfully practice the same routine every day, it gives you a focused, calm energy that gives you more control (and has even been known to alleviate grief.)
- You condition your mind. When you perform the same ritual at the start of a low energy period or before a big challenge, your mind grows accustomed to how that period or challenge begins. It allows you to relax, get out of your own way, and easily get into the flow of the task at hand.
- You’re more engaged. Rituals force you to be mindful, involved, and consumed in the experience (rather than just going through the motions haphazardly.)
- You perform at a higher level. During rituals, you’re mindful and break down the task into individual steps. You can improve upon each step individually, bettering your overall level of performance.
THIS IS GOOD NEWS. You don’t have to meditate for 2hrs every day to practice mindfulness!! THANK GOD.
The best time to integrate a ritual into your daily routine is during a low point in your day, or at the start of a challenge. Since rituals relieve stress, they allow you to focus all your energy on performing your best. Mornings are a great time for rituals because they set the tone for your whole day. If the start of the workday is always chaotic, that’s a good time too. If you have insomnia, a nighttime ritual is important.
- Make your bed
- Pour yourself a glass of my fave at-home iced coffee or calming tea and enjoy it alone. Chill out WITHOUT your phone or laptop to distract you
- Hop in the shower and tingle your scalp with tea tree shampoo while you go over 3 things you’re grateful for in your head
- Be active. Go for a walk. Do yoga. But instead of thinking of the 2373489 things you have going on that day, forget everything and savor the you-time
- Close your eyes and visualize the day ahead. Visualize what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, how you’ll feel, and what you’ll accomplish
- Set your self up for success by clearing your head before something big (like a presentation, pitch, or date). For me, it’s music or the My Favorite Murder podcast (for all you Murderinos out there, plz stay sexy)
- Take a break to focus your energy on something physical. Work out. Stretch
- Instead of delaying doing something you hate, make a commitment to do it right away. A good example of this is doing the dishes right after you eat
- Journal. Write down your gratitudes. I’m not going to lie, I don’t do this. But if journaling is your thang, it’s an awesome ritual. If not, you can go over your gratitudes in your head too
- Light your fave candle (mine’s Voluspa Mokara), and just be. Without any distractions
- Take a bubble bath. (Lavender calms and bubbles make you happy)
Even if you’re totally motivated right now, chances are you might lose some of the excitement around your ritual at some point. The best way to commit and ACTUALLY following through is to 1. Tell someone else about your ritual plan (so they can hold you accountable) and 2. Calendar your rituals (and you’ll be much more likely to follow through).
We’re always going to have a billion things on our to-do list. If you don’t have a commitment strategy, your ritual will likely be the first thing to get cut when you’re feeling overwhelmed. So it’s essential that you block out the exact time and place you’ll do your ritual, and even better if you have someone to check in on you.
I challenge you to add ONE ritual to your routine and do it for at least a week. After a week, check in with yourself and see how you feel. Did anything change for you? Share your ritual and story below!
Helloooo – I wouldn’t ask you to do something I’m not going to do myself. I’m adding a new ritual to my routine, and it’s in the morning, so naturally I’m nervous about it. Every morning, instead of frantically pouring my iced coffee and racing off to my computer to start work asap, I’m going to take my coffee into the living room, and have some me time with no devices. I’m going to thoughtfully visualize how I want my day to go, instead of diving into the biggest thing on my to-do list before I’m even awake. My fiancé is going to be shocked (surprise babe!) So, check in with me! I’ll let you know how it goes.
What ritual are you committing to? Let’s keep each other accountable!
Originally published at brainsoverblonde.com