In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care. Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.
In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds! The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!). Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.
Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness. When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy. The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation). Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.
Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!
- Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up. It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!
- Spend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffee
- Move your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morning
- Listen to music
Rituals before a meal:
- Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!
- Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!
- Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.
- Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.
Rituals before meditating:
- Light candles or incense.
- Water your plants.
- Do some stretches.
- Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.
- TIP: I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items. I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.
- Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
- Sip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy time
- Take time for a bathroom pampering ritual
- Take a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender
- Slip into something that makes you feel sexy
- Read a great book
Other self-care rituals:
- Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual. Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.
- End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home. Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.