How to bring meaningful rituals into your daily life
Wake up. Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat. Daily life might seem repetitive (read: a little boring).
Many of us crave deeper meaning — something that makes each day feel less monotonous, even when we’re stuck at home.
Chances are you’ve tried everything you could think of to shake things up. Maybe you started baking sourdough or hosted virtual happy hours. Perhaps you’ve gone on morning runs or started taking nightly baths.
But we don’t necessarily need to fill our schedules to feel fulfilled. Instead, we would benefit from introducing small rituals into our daily lives or even just reimagining what we already do, says Casper ter Kuile, a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and the author of The Power of Ritual. He joined Calm’s new interview series The Spark to share his empowering philosophy.
“I think of rituals as bridges that help us cross from one way of seeing the world to another,” Casper says. “When we practice a ritual, we enact values that are important to us — cultivating gratitude, courage, or connection with a loved one.”
Rituals require three things: intention, attention, and repetition. By applying an intention to our habits, we force ourselves to pay attention to our bodies, thoughts, actions, and surroundings. Ultimately, Casper says, rituals allow us to be physically and mentally present and “enjoy this moment to its fullest.”
But how can we incorporate rituals into our daily lives without having to carve out time we don’t have? Casper says the key is to look at the “routines we have and to see how we might deepen those moments.”
We asked Casper for some tips on how we might turn the mundane into the extraordinary.
Every Saturday morning, Casper reads in bed while eating a piece of chocolate. He doesn’t allow distractions, either — that means no technology, no outside noise, and no thinking about “the hundred things” competing for his attention. For just a short while, he allows himself to dive into the story, savoring the details, the plot, and, yes, the chocolate.
If quiet weekend mornings are a rare luxury, find another time that works for you. Maybe it’s just “the one page you get to read before you fall asleep in bed,” he says. What matters most is that you choose something you enjoy, set an intention, and stick with it.
These days, cooking can seem like a never-ending chore: buy groceries, pick a recipe, make the meal, and do the dishes. Just when you think you’re done, your stomach grumbles again — and on it goes. You can’t escape this life-sustaining task, but you can make it more enjoyable.
Maybe you choose to make your grandmother’s spaghetti every two weeks, recalling the fond memories you had with her as the sauce simmers. A ritual around cooking could also look like “setting an intention of gratitude to every living thing that contributed to the ingredients,” Casper says. “What you’re looking for in a good intention is to connect the simple practice with something symbolic or meaningful.”
The dinner table is a great space for rituals to unfold because, for many, it’s already a habitual space. You might sit in the same chair every night alongside your loved ones, for example. Elevate the experience by taking “a moment of quiet… bringing an intention of presence,” Casper says.
Staying present will help you connect more with yourself and those around you. “That’s when it really becomes a ritual,” Casper adds.
Whether for exercise or leisure, getting outside is a great way to welcome rituals into your lifestyle — and you don’t have to spend hours doing it to reap the benefits. Maybe you carve out 10 minutes a day to walk around your neighborhood and connect with nature. “You might want to count how many sounds you can hear,” Casper suggests. “Or smell as many different plants as you can. Or imagine sending love to each animal you see.”
Tucking in the kids
Bedtime can become a fun ritual for both you and your kids, Casper says.
Talk about one thing you were grateful for that day or set an intention for the next day. Dive into that bedtime story with your little one, clearing your mind of all other thoughts. Take in the illustrations, try out a new character voice, or simply watch your child’s eyes light up when they learn a new word. Savor that nightly snuggle. Over time, bedtime might become your favorite part of the day.
Stepping away from our computers, cell phones, and social media channels can be a rewarding ritual, though a challenging one at first. Maybe you plan an hour-long disconnect. Or, maybe you find value in taking an entire weekend away from your technology, like Casper does.
Every Friday, he lights a candle and turns off his devices. “I know it sounds absurd, but… it feels like going on a vacation,” he says. “It’s just like the world has changed.” Instead of scrolling through photos of people’s cats, he journals, sings, or writes poetry. “It’s just like you make space, and suddenly, all of this soulful goodness emerges forth,” he adds.
Ultimately, the rituals you choose are deeply personal. There is no blueprint, and no one is going to hold you accountable. With time, Casper hopes that everyone walks away with the same feeling: “that we are enough as we are right now; that we are complete.”