Rituals and Habits for Staying Centered in Turbulent Times
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner. As tempting as it may be to raise a middle finger to the previous year and soldier on, there are important lessons to be gleaned about how we fared in 2020, including lessons about resilience.
Let’s be clear — that’s not a process of judging ourselves or others, laying blame or finding fault. Instead, it’s an honest audit of our capacity to bounce back, pivot, maintain optimism and keep ourselves resourced in the face of nonstop uncertainty, distress and calamity.
I learned a lot about myself and my family in 2020. Specifically, I can see that the rituals and habits we had in place before 2020 combined with the ones we instituted when the poop hit the fan helped us to stay steady on the corona coaster.
Resilience isn’t fixed. While we all have a capacity to bounce back, there are things we can do to help ourselves and our family bounce back better, quicker and more consistently. As you look to 2021, consider incorporating some of these rituals and habits for a more resilient year ahead.
Get Outside Every Day
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have started the ritual of a daily walk outside since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s an excellent idea. You’ll not only get a dose of vitamin D (much-needed for immune health), but the fresh air will do wonders for your state of mind. Our deal at the Manieri household is that whoever is on the 7:30 a.m. walk gets a warm breakfast made for them when we get back. My 12-year-old grumbles some days, but she’s always the one happily chattering away to me as we stroll. It’s connective, it’s exercise and it’s 30 minutes of looking at a wide-open sky instead of a screen.
Practice Intermittent News and Social Media Fasting
We’ve all heard that setting aside blocks of time without eating helps our digestive system rest and reset. The same is true for taking a rest from news and social media. Our nervous system needs a break from all the dopamine hits and anxiety spikes that are constantly served to us in our feeds and apps. Plus, when we take a break, we notice a visceral change in how we feel. In 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, Tiffany Shlain shares the benefits of disconnecting and making ourselves less available to the world in order to connect deeply with our family and ourselves. “Living 24/6 feels like magic and here’s why: it seems to defy the laws of physics, as it both slows down time and gives us more of it,” Shlain writes.
Start a Daily Centering Practice
A few years ago, I began the practice of getting up a little earlier so I could spend the first 30 to 60 minutes of the day by myself in silence and reflection. It quickly became my number one mindfulness habit, and I attribute most of my resilience and steadiness to this daily ritual. My morning practice includes any variation of meditation, journaling and inspired reading, but it’s less about what I do and more about the act of setting aside time just for my inner health before the obligations of the day ahead take hold. When I slowly, quietly and deliberately begin my day, I’m simply able to navigate life better.
Create Gratitude Lists During Meals
Whatever your main family meal is each day, add a dose of thankfulness to it by creating a gratitude ritual. We have a shell that we pass around for each person’s turn, or we simply have each person share three things that are making them smile at the moment. Our brains aren’t wired for positivity. As author Rick Hanson puts it, we’re like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. That’s why we have to be deliberate and intentional if we want to see what’s good in our world. A few tips: start small (one gratitude per person), gamify it (vote on the best response and give the winner the biggest slice of dessert) and be sure to model it. If mom or dad moan about it, the kids definitely won’t hop on board.
Try New Things
One of the ways families get a huge dose of novelty and add freshness to their lives is by traveling. Thanks to the pandemic, most of our travel plans have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. If you’re a family used to traveling, you probably felt this loss deeply. I sure did. But while novelty is inherently built into most travel, it’s not the only way to feel the rejuvenating effects of newness. The same “wow” centers of our brain are lit up by learning new things, tasting new foods or even taking a new route to the grocery store. When you bring some intention to adding new things to your life,
you’ll find the opportunities are endless.
Start a Box Breathing Practice
While helpful, the idea to start a regular meditation practice is often met with resistance. Meditation seems impossibly hard to some, and young kids might not understand. Try instead to teach your family a breathing practice that’s less about clearing the mind and more about tuning into breath. It can be done together in about 5 minutes, perhaps as part of a bedtime ritual. I love the box breathing method. Simply count to 4 on the inhalation, hold for 4, count to 4 for the exhalation, and then hold for 4 before starting over. In just 5 minutes, the parasympathetic system kicks in (your rest and digest system), and you immediately begin to feel calmer and more aware.
No doubt the year ahead will be filled with unexpected turbulence. We have never known what lies ahead. And while we can’t predict, we can prepare by bolstering our resilience. Rituals and habits that keep your family steady and sturdy are your best defense against any storms to come.