Every day, we practice rituals—we brush our teeth, eat breakfast, watch our favorite news program. We do them with ease and often without much thought. Spiritual rituals hold more meaning—they resonate with us—and it’s important for our spiritual health and overall happiness to engage in some on a regular basis. “They allow us to step into the sacred,” says Julie Haber, M.Div, director of spirituality at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. Even simple rituals can be made spiritual through our intention to bring love and awareness to them. The meaning and repetition you can bring to it help to remind you that it’s sacred.
What can become a spiritual ritual may surprise you—and may be something you’re already doing. “Whatever it is, you’re bringing consciousness to it, which allows you to turn inward and reflect,” she adds. These rituals can be personally meaningful whether performed alone or with others.
Haber shares some of her favorite suggestions for incorporating a spiritual ritual into your life:
Enjoy a Hobby
“Explore your creativity as a spiritual ritual,” advises Haber. Expressive dance, poetry, drawing, writing, singing—even cooking and gardening—are all examples of activities that can provide a deeper experience. “Hobbies are personal, and when you make time for an activity that means something to you, it feeds your spirit.”
Connect with Others
Calling a friend or family member each week, or gathering with a group of friends who are uplifting to you each month, can be a ritual that becomes sacred and nourishes your spirit. The same goes for volunteering or engaging in a community group. “It’s the ritual of showing up to help someone—no matter the cause—that can be deeply fulfilling,” says Haber. “The relationships that are formed in those situations also contribute to your spiritual health.”
Though moving your body is certainly something you do for your physical health, it can also be a spiritual practice. “Many people feel spiritually connected when they’re running,” says Haber. But any form of exercise—lap swimming, walking, indoor cycling—can offer you that. Often, exercise can be a vehicle to help calm and still the mind, which allows us to be in the present moment. Yoga, tai ch’i and qi gong are particularly helpful, as they’re mind/body practices that help you find focus as you consciously move through poses and positions.
“Affirmations, whether written down or said aloud, are a daily reminder to yourself that you’re moving in the direction you want to move in or that you’re becoming the person you want to be," says Haber. Saying these words is a method of acknowledging that your spirit is fulfilled in certain ways and that you’re continuing to achieve feelings of contentment and happiness. Try a few when you wake up or before you go to sleep, such as:
I have energy and am filled with joy.
I am healthy and my mind is sharp.
I am blessed to have such wonderful family and friends.
Taking a few minutes each day to breathe with purpose is one of the simplest rituals you can include in your life. “Your breath is connected with your spirit,” says Haber. Mindful breathing increases your awareness and brings you into the present moment, allowing you to focus on you.
Spending time outdoors and observing your surroundings can help you feel connected to the larger world around you. Watch the sun rise or set, notice the wildlife on a hike, or listen to the wind pass through the trees as you stroll with your partner. Just sitting outdoors and taking in all the colors, smells and sounds can provide comfort, increase your energy and mood and reduce stress.
Set Your Intention
“Whether it’s daily or weekly, reflecting on your intention helps you go through life with consciousness,” says Haber. It allows us to think about what we want to work on and what we hope to achieve in order to maintain our spiritual health. Write it down, say it out loud, tell a friend. This is also a great annual ritual to adopt—how do you want to feel fulfilled this year?
Practice Gratitude and Forgiveness
Keep a gratitude journal—jot down three things each day—or tell your partner or friend what you’re thankful for. “It can change the way you feel pretty quickly,” says Haber. “Particularly in times of stress or difficulty, practicing gratitude can be helpful. Focusing on the positive helps ease worry and pain, and brings forth an indescribable sense of well-being.” Practicing forgiveness is a similar ritual. “Take an honest assessment of what happened during the day and, if something doesn’t feel right, find forgiveness so you don’t carry it with you,” Haber advises. These practices are great end-of-day rituals that require you to reflect internally.
Pray and Meditate
“The nature of the mind is to bring us off track, which can lead to stress and lack of clarity.” says Haber. “But if you’re committed to a prayer or meditation practice, even for just five minutes, you can bring yourself into balance.” Whether you say a prayer for yourself or for someone else, it’s about connecting with something larger than yourself.
Relax Your Body and Mind
Receiving a massage can be a wonderful self-care ritual, and can also offer you a chance to breathe mindfully, think things through and assess what you need. “Water, for many people, is peaceful and purifying, and represents letting things go,” says Haber. “Soak in a bath or sit by a running fountain.” Using other tools, like essential oils, candles or music, to create a personal experience can also become rituals that help you feel spiritually sound.