The Restorative Power Of Ritual

Rituals are a way to restore inner peace, social connections, and balance to your life. Throughout history, societies and individuals have used rituals to manage uncertain times, life changes, and everyday challenges.

A study conducted by the University of Toronto showed that rituals provide a sense of control for people. By increasing feelings of control, rituals restore your mind, body, and emotions.

Religious Rituals

person walking on beach during daytime

https://unsplash.com/@ashleybatz

Religious rituals are generally focused on restoring inner peace and social connection. According to a study in the journal Religion, Brain, and Behavior, religious rituals are used by society because they provide psychological and social benefits.

People gain these benefits by performing a ritual and by observing rituals performed by others in the group. Many religious rituals are a form of ceremonial cleansing, creating a group experience that restores emotional and behavioral balance.

Although the elements and steps of rituals vary among religions, common religious rituals include:

  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Pilgrimages
  • Religious Holidays

In a Social and Personality Psychology Compass study, researchers found that all religious traditions value inner peace.  Rituals like prayer, fasting, and pilgrimages help people balance their needs and wants with socially acceptable behaviors.

lighted white textile

https://unsplash.com/@kaylamaurai

People may also seek enlightenment through these rituals to find inner peace. Successfully performing religious rituals can improve self-esteem and make a person feel more connected to the group.

Life Event Rituals

Significant life events can be chaotic and challenging and may cause people stress and anxiety. Significant life events include:

  • Births
  • Adulthood
  • Marriage
  • Deaths
  • Holidays

Each of these events is a hallmark or transition to a new social group and set of expectations and responsibilities.  For example, a married couple, new parents, and widows or widowers are viewed differently by society than single, childless people or those with living spouses.  Children are in a different social group than adults and adults have a much different set of expected behaviors.

white and brown ceramic teapot on wooden tray

https://unsplash.com/@contentpixie

Rituals provide a framework for these changes, restoring a sense of control as people navigate through life.  As a group, people are expected to celebrate or honor the change, creating a place for the affected individuals to find comfort and support.

Researchers at the University of Texas Health center found that life events and holiday rituals create a sense of control, define the sense of self, provide structure, and give meaning to life events.

woman holding coffee cup while writing

https://unsplash.com/@avasol

Rituals provide a set pattern of behavior for otherwise complicated and stressful situations. They help to balance change with the comfort of predictability, restoring emotional balance.

Personal Rituals

A study by Harvard University showed that rituals increase peoples’ feelings of control and calm. Personal rituals are restorative because they change your perception and mindset.  When a person is anxious, depressed, or upset, rituals restore calmness and control.

Personal rituals include:

  • Exercise
  • Healthy Eating
  • Mediation
  • Visualization
  • Affirmations
  • Gratitude Journal
woman in black tank top and black leggings sitting on brown wooden bench

https://unsplash.com/@barcelocarl

Regular exercise and healthy eating often start as rituals and then become life-long habits.  When a person is trying to improve their health, small ritual changes can lead to overall improvement.  For example, “an apple a day” is a ritual that can lead to adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Eventually, choosing a healthy option instead of junk food becomes a habit.

Meditation and visualization help calm your mind and motivate you through life challenges.  According to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, mediation reduces anxiety and depression.  Visualization enables you to define your goals and design a plan for achieving them.

Affirmations increase your self-esteem, restoring your motivation and commitment to overcome challenges.

Using a gratitude journal is another personal ritual that helps restore inner peace by changing your perception and mindset.  A gratitude journal focuses your attention on the positive things in life instead of on the negatives.  The ritual of a gratitude journal restores happiness and joy regardless of difficult situations.

Rituals are vital both individually and for groups. Rituals help people manage life events and challenges.  By providing a sense of control, rituals restore balance in uncertain times.

people sitting on seashore while watching golden hour

https://unsplash.com/@crisscerda