Routines + Rituals That Shape Us

daily rituals, rituals and routines, routines, ritualsI have always been an orderly person who considers time valuable. I like to plan as much as possible and then, plan some more. It takes a lot for me to get uncomfortable with the monotony of a solid schedule, which can be an advantage or disadvantage. I like routines and rituals because they can thwart stress and anxiety. They offer structure and, in my opinion, are an important element of life.

In recent years, I’ve tried to establish routines or rituals for my mornings and nights. Of course the hours between the start and finish of a day may get muddled and that’s ok. If I start the day with familiarity or end it with a reliable routine, I feel better. My R+Rs are not as set in stone as what I read of other’s, but they still provide me with peace of mind.

Lately I’ve been pondering a few questions: Are routines and rituals the same? Do a lot of people follow them? How do they shape who we are and the lives we lead?

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings recently did a post on “The Difference Between Routine and Ritual: How to Master the Balancing Act of Controlling Chaos and Finding Magic in the Mundane” in which she talks about Anne Lammott‘s “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair” and eloquently shares her own thoughts on R+Rs:

I frequently contemplate the difference between the routine and ritual, these two supreme deities of habit. They seem to be different sides of the same coin — while routine aims to make the chaos of everyday life more containable and controllable, ritual aims to imbue the mundane with an element of the magical. The structure of routine comforts us, and the specialness of ritual vitalizes us. A full life calls for both — too much control, and we become mummified; too little excitement and pleasurable discombobulation, and we become numb. After all, to be overly bobulated is to be dead inside — to doom oneself to a life devoid of the glorious and ennobling messiness of the human experience.


Last year, I was gifted the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It was written and compiled by Mason Currey and highlights the rituals of well-known people of different occupations. It’s intriguing to see the rituals that produced certain works. Every person has their own approach when it comes to creating, but even the time not spent creating is impactful. How much we sleep, eat, drink, socialize, do drugs, spend time with our own thoughts — these things are all significant when it comes down to the finished product. I suggest you check out Polio‘s interactive infographic (here) that shares details from the book or read how Currey summarizes his work:

Kafka is one of 161 inspired, and inspiring, minds — among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians — whose daily rituals are recorded in these pages. Like Kafka, they worked in the face of countless obstacles (some of them self-inflicted) and developed a fascinating range of “subtle maneuvers” to get their work done each day, from waking early to staying up late, drinking vast quantities of coffee to taking long daily walks and precisely timed naps. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing in the kitchen, using the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations.” Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day. Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep “through woods, gardens and enchanted palaces” where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.


I’ve also been avidly following Waiting for Saturday, a blog dedicated to discovering how various creatives spend their Saturdays. The interviews are more intimate and telling than one might expect. It’s interesting to see how people choose to spend their weekends — usually a time when they are freed from their jobs and other work-week demands.

Not all routines and rituals need to be related to work and productivity. Some just exist to make you feel good, mentally and physically. For instance, my mornings wouldn’t be quite the same without an early wake-up call, stretches to stimulate blood flow, a moment for meditation and prayer, and a satisfying breakfast (more on my morning routine in a future post). Our R+Rs shape us. They direct our daily lives and, consciously or not, structure our character.

What do you think of rituals and routines? Do you have any?

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  • This is such an enlightening and thoughtful post. I’m feeling inspired to making all my routines into rituals.


    • Dee

      Thanks for reading. 🙂 I’m glad you were able to take something from it!