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The Importance of Rituals in a Happy Life

This might be tough to believe, but rituals are actually necessary to achieve happiness. Much of everyday life is made up of rituals — established, predictable, patterned behaviors that structure the day.

There are morning rituals (brushing your teeth, showering, reading the newspaper), midday rituals (everything from the so-called “power lunch” to a simple baloney sandwich in your office), and evening rituals (a cocktail or two, dinner at 6 p.m., a few minutes of intimate conversation with your spouse, and — if you’re lucky — sex).

Rituals are a form of structure that makes life flow more easily. They’re mindless — you do them without thinking. Perhaps most important of all, they orient you as to where you are and what you should be doing. Rituals are like an invisible watch — if you’re taking a shower, it must be morning! Without rituals, every day is a new day full of unpredictability, uncertainty, and the possibility of unhappiness.

Here are some examples of rituals you can incorporate into your life (if you haven’t already):

  • Exercising first thing in the morning

  • Having morning coffee with friends at a local restaurant

  • Sitting for a few minutes of quiet contemplation, in meditation or prayer

  • Getting a professional massage once a month

  • Browsing through your favorite bookstore every Saturday morning

  • Checking in via e-mail with loved ones once a day

  • Enjoying a quiet cup of tea while reading the newspaper

  • Taking an afternoon nap

  • Enjoying some quality, one-on-one time with your pet

  • Writing letters to long-distance friends once a week

  • Watching your favorite evening news show on TV

  • Attending religious services regularly

  • Reading for a few minutes at bedtime

  • Spending five minutes every day reflecting on all the things you have to be grateful for

Don’t become a slave to rituals — otherwise, they become tedious. If something more interesting comes along at the same time you normally take your afternoon nap, go for it! You can always nap tomorrow.

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