The passing of the seasons and our enjoyment of the changing landscapes and festivals infuse our lives with a rhythm and routine that can help keep us grounded when the world around us seems to be falling apart.
Scrolling 24 hour news, global conflicts, the devastation of tragedies like the latest school shooting in Uvalde, Texas – they can compound and threaten to derail us, more so if we are feeling vulnerable and on shaky ground at any time.
Our daily routines give us structure to our day, in the same way that the rhythm of the year gives a broader based framework. Yet how we perceive these routines can be the difference between understanding them as a foundation for freedom, or an instrument of entrapment.
Simon Marshall, author of The Brave Athlete said about routine – “Concentrate on the little things hidden in your daily routines and actions that you might otherwise take for granted. These positive droplets create a micro-squirt of dopamine (pleasure) and serotonin (happiness).”
The most successful entrepreneurs and millionaires around the world are often quoted as attributing their successes in part to maintaining strict daily routines around exercise, meditation and nutrition to help keep them focussed and maintain a clarity of thinking. Richard Branson, for example, is famously up at 5am to exercise and watch the sunrise.
Many top athletes combine daily routines with pre-game rituals that allow them to ‘get into state’. Tennis player Rafa Nadal is well known for his quirky pre-match ritual. He takes a cold shower 45 minutes before every match. During the match he towels down after every point (even for aces and double faults). He meticulously points the labels of his drinking bottles toward the end of the court he’s about to play from and he never stands up from his chair before his opponent. Adhering to these principles of behaviour has helped him become a global phenomenon on the court.
It’s all well and good developing and maintaining a positive, healthy routine that is going to lift you out of any doldrums that may be threatening your sense of wellbeing.
Too often, we allow ourselves to develop routines that are not so healthy for us. Whether it is snacking on high sugar, high fat foods, binge watching too many box sets late into the night, doom scrolling through social media, self sedating with alcohol or drugs.
We do it knowing that they are not good for us. The question is, why? Why do we finish that bottle of wine every evening when we know that it is not doing us any good?
We do it because it is the ‘comfort’ of routine. The fact that we are seeking to self sedate suggests that our lives may be feeling uncertain, vulnerable, and clinging to the serotonin-producing effects of these temporary pleasures.
Taking a step back and looking at the landscape of the year, the festivals and holidays that we celebrate also give structure and framework to each passing season.
Christmas, Chinese New Year, Passover, Eid, Eid ul-Adha, Diwali, Ramadan… whichever religion you practice, they all have a rolling annual timetable of holidays and festivals that have deep significance on a spiritual and philosophical level. But more importantly, they allow you to focus on taking time to meet up with family and friends, enjoying their company with food and drink, thinking about those that have passed.
Without these rituals and rhythms, without these holidays that mark the passing of the seasons and the years, our lives would feel rudderless. The framework that routine, ritual and rhythm can never be underestimated in helping us to maintain emotional wellbeing.