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Make Those Midlife Habits STICK With Meaningful Rituals That Are Uniquely Yours

Welcome to the Easy Aging Show. Well, I've got to ask, did you like the 80/20 extra tip that I gave you in Wednesday's email? I've been trying it and it works. It actually works. So Insiders, give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Today we're going to be talking about how to turn a habit into a ritual. Ooh, sounds deep and intense or profound, doesn't it? Well, actually, it's quite simple.

Rituals can make daily actions or habits more meaningful. They can give you more confidence, and they can even make you feel safe. Today, I'll explain the difference between a habit and a ritual, give you a few examples as we go, and then I'm going to leave you with a three-step process so you can see if there are any actions in your life that you want to turn into a ritual.

First, let's define habits versus rituals. Habits are things that you do without thinking like brushing your teeth or washing your face or conditioning your hair. Most of us don't put a lot of thought into these actions. We do them because they are things that need to be done. Pretty simple, pretty basic.

But rituals require more thought. They require more mindfulness from you. They require your full attention, and that attention is what makes them more meaningful.

What are rituals?

Rituals mark the beginning of a new action or a new routine. This can include anything like getting a cup of coffee before you sit down at your desk or lighting a candle before your yoga practice.

Any of these types of things may seem simple, but they're the pre-action to the action. If you have a habit, if you have a routine, the ritual is going to serve as the preparation for that habit or action or routine.

There are different types of rituals. Some are symbolic, some are spiritual, some are simply meaningful and create an emotional connection with you.

For example, when the American flag is folded, there are 13 folds created in this ritual, and there is great meaning behind each of the 13 folds. The first fold is a symbol of life. The second fold signifies belief in eternal life. The third fold is in honor and tribute to the veteran departing ranks and to that person who sacrificed his or her life to defend our country, and so on.

If you've ever been to a funeral for a veteran, you'll see this happening with great solemness and decorum. That's because this is a formal ritual.

Most of the rituals for our personal lives are pretty informal. Rituals move you from doing things on autopilot to being thoughtful about your actions before you do them. By becoming more mindful, you can connect more emotion to actions. You can have more feeling about them.

Rituals can even make you feel safe, and they can comfort you. This example is a little different, but I do want to share it with you.

When I was grieving the passing of my mother, I created a ritual without even knowing it. I had no idea I was doing this. If you knew my mother, you remember that she was always quite stylish and always looked amazing in her clothes. So when I was cleaning out her closet, there were a lot of clothes to go through.

I was overwhelmed at the beginning but as I was pulling them out of the closet, I decided to start picturing her in each piece of clothing. I would picture her going to church and say, "Oh my gosh, she looked so beautiful that day when she was wearing this," or...

"This was a snappy little outfit that she wore to run errands around town or when she ran to Walmart." (Walmart is the big place in town when you live in Del Rio, heh!) I'd picture her in golf outfit, in her skorts, and she looked adorable.

These pictures made me smile, and I found them quite comforting at a point when I desperately wanted to feel comforted. Honestly, just clearing out the rest of the things in her house was quite comforting to me. And I did take the time to make that a ritual. It soothed me. It brought me comfort, and it made me feel safe.

Rituals can look different for each of us.

Here's an example from Twila Tharp, who is one of our country's greatest choreographers. Let me read you a passage from her book, "The Creative Habit." She says,

"I begin each day of my life with a ritual. I wake up at 5:30 AM, put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron Gym at 91st Street and First Avenue where I work out for two hours.

The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym. The ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual. It's a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning, habit, ritualizes, it makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces a chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines and one less thing to think about."

When I was reading this, I initially thought her ritual was going to be the moment she leaned over to start stretching, but no. Her ritual is telling the cab driver where she wants to go. It's pretty simple.

One of my rituals is the sound of my Pilates mat every morning. A Pilates mat is a little thicker than a yoga mat; it's not one of those thin pieces of material. It's got a little weight to it. So when I roll it out, it makes a "zuuuuup" sound, a zipping sound.

The moment I hear that, it triggers something inside of me and immediately takes my mind to a deeper place. In that moment, I know that it's time to focus and be mindful of my body for the next 20 to 30 minutes.

There are times when I miss that zipping sound because I'm in a rush and not paying attention. When that happens, I rotely go through my Pilates routine without much thought, kind of like I'm in a trance.

There always comes a moment in my routine, though, when I come off of autopilot and I'm so out of it, I can't even remember which exercise I'm on. I don't know what's coming next. I have to sit and think, "Wait. Did I do that movement already?"

That's why paying attention is so important when you do a ritual, because it's waking up your mind, your emotions and all those feelings inside of you by whispering, "Pay attention. This is important. You're going to do something that matters in a second."

In her book, Tharp also says the ritual erases the thought of whether she likes the activity or not. It's not an issue of whether or not she likes it. This is important, especially if you don't like the action but you see the benefit of doing it.

Maybe it's exercise, maybe it's rush hour traffic. Whatever it is, you can create your own rituals to help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the action or set of actions that you're about to do.

3 steps to create meaningful midlife rituals

So how do you do this? Three little steps.

1. Look at your current habits and select one that you want to add a ritual to. It doesn't matter which one, just start with one.

If you don't like the action or the habit, your question is going to be, "How can I make it better?" If you do like the action or the habit, ask yourself, "How can I enhance it even more to increase my enjoyment of it?" So that's going to deepen your experience with that particular action or routine or habit.

2. Write down a list of five to 10 things you can do to make this action more meaningful for you.

For example, if you find tackling your inbox to be painful, what can you do to be more mindful or more present when you're doing it? What's going to make it better?

Enjoying a cup of your favorite tea while you're doing it? Can you take your laptop outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine? Get on the back porch and just get it done. Get through that inbox. And if you're inside, maybe putting some essential oils in the diffuser will help. I mean, that's my go-to when I'm doing QuickBooks.

If you've listened for any length of time to this podcast, you will know that QuickBooks is not my favorite thing to do so I have to have a little perk, a little something to get me going on that.

3. Try each of the potential rituals you wrote down to see what resonates with you, to see what feels best for you.

Because if it feels right, you're going to keep doing it as your pre-action to the action you want to take.

One more thing to know, rituals are not designed to be hard. They're designed to be something that you want to do. Wanting to do them means that you're going to have less resistance to them and to the habit that follows them.

That's it for today. Here's a quick recap: Rituals can make habits more meaningful, and they can give you more confidence in what you're doing. They can act as a preparation for the action that you want to take. There are different types of rituals, and your rituals are uniquely yours.

And the three steps to creating a ritual are, 1) Select an action or habit that you are currently doing; 2) Write five to 10 things you can do to make that action better or more meaningful for you; 3) Play with them to see what resonates most with you.

So that's the scoop on rituals. I'll see you in the next episode. And until then, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care. Bye-bye!

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