This past week I was listening to a podcast where the discussion was based on exploring habits, ritual and routines and how they can add simplicity to our lives. The idea intrigued me and I wanted to learn a little more about them and take a look at how they have added value in my own life. First, I needed to get a good grasp on the similarities and differences between the three, so I turned to the all-knowing Oz…Google, for the basic definitions.
Routine- “A sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.”
Habit- “A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
Ritual- “A solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”
The similarities were fairly easy to spot, all three of them include following a regular set of actions, or practice. The differences seemed to be in the motive for doing each set of actions. Routine seems to be the most flexible and non-committal of the three, with habits being a set of actions that are hard to give up and ritual involving a solemnity and almost sacredness around the set of actions being completed.
Now that we’re familiar with what they are, how do they relate to living simply?
As I thought about this, I realized in my own journey towards a simple life, they have played a big part. At times I have created a ritual, other times habit and sometimes a routine to accomplish simplicity. Sometimes on purpose, and other times they just formed on their own. It was eye opening to see where each one plays a part in my life.
The commonality between them all is that through performing each of them on a regular basis, they have become an ingrained part of daily life, which leads to increased simplicity because I no longer have to consider and think about doing each of them, they happen on their own because they have become habit, routine or ritual.
Morning Ritual- I find in the mornings that I have more of a ritual, a quiet, or solemn set of actions that I complete to help me start my day off with the right mindset. My morning ritual consists of-
-Waking & lying quietly for 10 minutes
-Getting a drink of water and coffee
-Doing 20 minutes of meditation
-Writing or doing some type of reading related to this blog
This ‘alone time’ helps me clear my mind and feel peaceful and content as I start the day and get ready for the morning when my kids wake up.
Cleaning Routine- I realized my cleaning was more of a routine, in that it is definitely a fixed program for me, but it is not one that is hard to give up, nor does it have to be a quiet or solemn affair. I also realized that I have routines for cleaning up at different times of the day as well.
-Making the bed as soon as I get up.
-Making sure the kitchen sink is clear and clean after each meal.
-Putting in a load of laundry as soon as I get home from taking the kids to school.
-Detailed cleaning routines that I follow are here and here.
Walking & Other Habits- I debated about my regular walking trying to determine if it was a habit or a ritual, but in the end, habit won for the definition. I like that the definition says it is something that is ‘settled’ and a ‘regular tendency’ that is hard to give up. Walking is just something I do. I take the dogs with me, I usually listen to a podcast or two and I walk up and down the main streets in our community for 30-45 minutes. I do this 3-5 times a week and I definitely feel like it is a ‘settled’ habit. It is something that would definitely be hard for me to give up, when I miss more than a few days at times, I can feel it physically and mentally. Other habits I recognized include-
-Decluttering. My husband would say I’m a little addicted to decluttering. I would say I’ve just made it a strong habit to recognize items that we don’t use anymore and get rid of them. This habit would be next to impossible for me to give up with all the benefits I’ve seen from it.
-Sleeping 7.5 hours a night. I know I need a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep a night to function on my best level, so I have created a habit of going to bed and waking at certain times to make sure I get that much.
All of us have routine, rituals and habits in our lives that we have created with intention or that have come about just by how we live on a daily basis. Hopefully most of these bring positive benefits to our lives, others may not be healthy for us and may have come into our lives due to being over-scheduled, over-worked and over-tired. Most of us probably have some of each. In either case, consider the following as you take a look at the habits, routines and rituals in your life-
-Is this intentional, or did it form as a response to my current lifestyle?
-Is it uplifting or is it causing negativity?
-How is it affecting my physical or mental health?
-Would I miss it if it were gone?
-Is it in alignment with what is important to me?
Once you have taken a good look at how and why you have certain actions and practices in your life, evaluation is key. Decide which ones are valuable and adding simplicity and positivity to your life, and identify those that need to be changed or discontinued completely. It will take some time and effort to cultivate only positive habits, routine and ritual in your life, but in the end it will make life much simpler and intentional.