Happiness For Dummies
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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.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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