Table of contents:

The Science of Rituals: Why They Are Needed and How to Use Them
The Science of Rituals: Why They Are Needed and How to Use Them

Guiding threads in the chaos of life.

The Science of Rituals: Why Are They Needed and How to Use Them
The Science of Rituals: Why Are They Needed and How to Use Them

Why does a person need rituals

In ancient times, numerous rituals accompanied a person's entire life - from birth to death. Many of them were associated with religion, but their action was not limited to strengthening the faith.

Rituals helped people maintain order in society, pointed everyone to their place, removed doubts and created a clear structure in the chaos of life. People spent a lot of time on seemingly unnecessary ceremonies, but in return they received confidence and psychological comfort.

In terms of psychology, we are not so different from our religious ancestors. The life of a modern person is permeated with rituals: from meaningless, like spitting over the left shoulder, to practical ones - making a to-do list for the morning.

Despite the development of medicine, science and technology, our lives remain unpredictable, chaotic and dangerous. No one is immune from misfortune and disease, we are still mortal, and sometimes - suddenly mortal.

In such chaos and uncertainty, the poor human brain is simply obliged to find an island of peace for itself, so as not to tremble in horror every day, but to gain confidence that we are doing everything right and life is going according to plan. This is what rituals are for.

And this is not just a theory. The necessity of rituals for our peace and well-being has been proven by science.

How the brain responds to rituals

With the help of EEG, scientists have discovered how the human brain reacts to an error. 50-100 milliseconds after the incident, a reaction occurs in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is called error-related negativity (ERN).

As a rule, the ERN value is associated with the ability to identify their mistakes and perform well on tasks. The more ERN, the more attentive and focused a person is, the fewer mistakes he makes.

However, in an experiment by psychologist Nicholas M. Hobson, this dependence was broken by rituals.

Hobson decided to test how the new rituals being played on a day-to-day basis would affect people's ERNs. One group of students made the same hand gestures throughout the week. The control group also performed the movements, but each time they were different, so they did not turn into a ritual.

On the day of the test, students passed two tests: before and after the ritual. Students accustomed to the ritual had a high negative reaction to mistakes before it was performed, and after that it decreased significantly. At the same time, the accuracy of the answers did not fall.

Students performing a random set of movements had approximately the same ERN value in both tests. Scientists have concluded that rituals help to calm down, feel more confident, but at the same time do not reduce the quality of the answers.

The benefits of rituals have also been confirmed by research by Alison Wood Brooks. Ritual actions before completing tasks reduced anxiety and improved participants' performance.

Rituals help a person deal with anxiety, build self-confidence, and reduce negative emotions from mistakes.

How to create beneficial rituals

Three easy steps will help you start a healthy ritual:

  1. Think about what makes you calmer, more productive, and satisfied. If something makes you feel better, you can make a ritual out of it.
  2. Make a plan of the ritual from 3-5 points. It should be simple and easy to remember so that you don't have to peep every time what the next item is.
  3. Repeat the ritual every day, without missing a beat. It should become a permanent part of your life.

What rituals to perform in the morning and evening

To make it clearer, we will provide good options for rituals for the morning and evening. Use if they suit you.

Morning ritual

It will help you start your day without stress or anxiety. Do it right after waking up.

  • Meditate … helps you to be more calm and focused during the day, resist stress well and experience fewer negative emotions. Meditate for 5-10 minutes immediately after waking up. You can concentrate on your breath or what is going on in your head.
  • Do your exercises … A few physical exercises and gentle stretching can help you release post-sleep stiffness and feel refreshed and energized.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast … Train yourself to eat and you won't feel hungry or irritated until lunchtime.
  • Make plans for the day … Just pick a few top things to do in a day, or use others. This will help you get in the mood for completing tasks and bring a little more definition to your day.

Evening ritual

Perform your evening ritual one hour before bed. It will help you calm down, fall asleep quickly, and get a great night's sleep.

  • Keep a diary … what happened during the day: what worried you, saddened, made you happy. It teaches you mindfulness, helps calm your mind, and even improves your health.
  • Prepare everything for tomorrow … Decide what you will go to work in, prepare your clothes and clean your shoes. If you exercise in the morning, pack your bag to the gym. Wash the dishes, decide what you will have breakfast - do your best in the evening. So you unload the morning, you can spend it more pleasantly and calmly.
  • Read a book … Unlike watching social media or watching movies, reading is great soothing. A study found that just six minutes of reading reduced stress levels by 68% - more than listening to music, tea, and walking.
  • Meditate … Meditation helps to calm down, clear the mind of problems and worries. So you will not be looking at the ceiling until the middle of the night, digesting the events of the past day and worrying about the future.

These are just examples of rituals. Feel free to change items if they don't suit you. For example, if you don't feel like eating at all in the morning, breakfast can be replaced with delicious tea or coffee - this will also be part of the ritual.

The main thing is to repeat the invented ritual every day, without skipping. Once you get used to it, your day will be much more relaxed and happier.