According to my kids, I’m not normal.
They think it’s weird to be so happy and energetic, especially before breakfast. In fact, they find my morning happiness quite annoying.
Note from daughter No. 1 aka The Editor.
Hello. Okay. Di IS annoying in the morning. VERY. It should be illegal to be so darn perky before 7am, chit chatting away,
inviting pestering us to go on beach walks and such. She’s so very loud. I stand by this.
Luckily, a) we’re all allowed to be different and b) these rituals can apply to both ‘get up and go’ people like Di AND ‘ease into it gently’ people like me.
But anyway, back to Di.
At first, I wondered if I should tone it down to avoid the eye rolls and shushing noises that often threaten to diminish my spirit on our family holidays.
But then I decided I don’t need to apologise. As the kids say: sorry not sorry.
It’s not an accident that I bounce out of bed most mornings. Nor is it luck. It is ritual. Everything from my creamy coffee in bed to my sunrise hike, ride or climb, my spicy hot shower followed by a burst of cold, and my moment of gratefulness for all of the above are designed to make me happy. And they really work.
As I delved further into this topic, including the science of happiness, I discovered I’m not the only person who’s worked out there are a whole lot of little rituals that help us lead a more joyful life.
The more I learned, the more evangelical I became about sharing, which – to be fair – was not always appreciated by my friends and family. But we do all want to be happy. And I worked out that – delivered in the right way – these rituals have an extraordinary power to transform our days.
Rituals can remove the daily brain battle to do mundane, tough or unpleasant tasks, and if you choose the right rituals, they trigger the release of various happiness-inducing hormones such as dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and serotonin, to bathe you in joy.
When you “ritualise” these practices they will become an intrinsic part of your day and over time, you’ll do them without thinking. Most of them take only a few moments and have no negative side-effects whatsoever.
If this all sounds overwhelming, start with one new ritual each week, and add a new one each week, while maintaining the previous ones.
The Daily Rituals Of Joy
Joy starts with Love. Love sits at the heart of our happiness because helping others is why we exist. This principle is highlighted by neuropsychologist Dr Dacher Keltner, in his book “Born to be Good”, which shows how and why our emotions make us human.
Doing good makes us feel good, whether it’s a random act of kindness, a smile, a compliment, a kind word, or an act of service.
Mini action: Give a friend or family member a loooooooooooooooong hug.
Maxi Action: Give someone a compliment every day this week.
Movement is essential for human health. One of the many rewards for moving your body is happiness. Moving also helps you sleep, think, remember, study, breathe and heal better.
When moving includes puffing, lifting and playing, you’ll get added benefits for your brain, heart, lungs, muscles and internal organs. Whether its strolling, stretching, walking, hiking, dancing, sex, cycling, swimming, gardening, yoga, jogging, lifting, climbing, balancing, running, leaping or scrambling, it’s bloody good for you.
Mini action: Take the stairs instead of the lift every day this week.
Maxi action: Do 30-60 min our outdoor movement every day this week.
Your body needs the minerals, vitamins, fibre, nourishment and energy that comes from fresh, real, whole, unprocessed food, mostly plants, 80% of the time until you’re 80% full. Nourishment rarely comes in a packet, bottle, bag or tin, so avoid these if you want to cultivate joy.
Try to ritualize JERF: Just Eat Real Food. Just because it looks yummy, it doesn’t mean it will bring you joy. Eat seasonally, avoiding preservatives and chemicals. If you can afford organic bio-dynamic food, go for it. But remember avoiding processed foods is the top priority.
If you want inspiration, turn to the Mediterranean Diet for nutritious delicious meals.
Mini action: Swap processed foods for a wholefood option. Some great snacks include fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, hummus, peanut butter, bliss bars and dark chocolate.
Maxi action: Hit the Sunday farmers market and do a big cook-up on the weekend to ease the mid-week rush.
Sleep is key to happiness because it rejuvenates and heals us. Many of us struggle with sleep because we’re out of whack in other ways, so you might need to carefully examine your lifestyle to work out what you’re missing.
Most of us flourish best when we’re in synch with our circadian rhythms, which means early to bed and early to wake (sorry kids!). You can also investigate your diet, tea and coffee consumption and timing, as well as exercise and drinking habits. If you’re on medication, menopausal, stressed or anxious, sleep can be challenging, but it’s fixable and wonderfully worth it.
Mini action: Put your phone on charge in another room every night this week.
Maxi action: Try avoiding screens from 8pm and winding down with candlelight, massage, a warm bath, or essential oils for a deep, restful sleep.
Mindfulness rituals can be simple or complex but basically they involve being consciously present, in the moment with your thoughts. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and many other eastern philosophies are all great ways to add movement to mindful meditation.
But you don’t have to ‘Ohhmm’ on a mat to get the benefits of mindfulness. Walking meditation, sitting meditation, deep cleansing breaths while waiting at the traffic lights or dozing can also help calm your busy mind.
Mini action: Take 10 deep belly breaths every day.
Maxi action: Spend 10 minutes per day being present with yourself – deep breathing, meditation, a silent walk or swim may work for you.
Getting outside into nature heals your mind, body and spirit. The Japanese call it “Shinrin yoku” or forest bathing and many other cultures and communities have nature rituals for health. Research shows that going wild in the woods is good for de-stressing, healing and bringing joy.
Mini action: Sit under a tree or in a park for 10 minutes every day.
Maxi action: Spend an hour every day in a natural setting, such as a garden, park, forest, beach or nature reserve. You can move, eat, and meditate outdoors to get more bang for your buck.
As well as being about love, random acts of kindness, paying it forward, being of service and helping others makes us happy.
Whether you’re making your mum a cuppa tea, smiling at a stranger, joking with the coffee guy or gal, giving a driver a courtesy wave at the lights, sizzling sausages to raise funds for a Cambodian orphanage or putting the rubbish out for an elderly neighbour, kind deeds are a sure-fire way to get happier.
Mini action: Do a random act of kindness each day this week.
Maxi action: Sign up to volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about or help a family or friend in need.
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Ritualising thankfulness throughout your day is your gratefulness practice. It just takes a moment of relishing a micro-experience to spark the joy that comes from gratefulness.
It helps us feel more positive emotions, enjoy good experiences, improve our health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Mini action: Take a moment to relish special gifts such as hot running water and flushing toilets and magic moments such as a lick of ice-cream, a kind message from a friend or a hug from a buddy.
Maxi action: Write down three things you’re grateful for every day.
Get the giggles girls because laughter is often the best medicine. Not only is it contagious, it’s also proven to reduce tension, build co-operation and calm nerves. To ritualise it, reflect on a funny moment, tell a joke, find a funny meme or tickle a friend so you both get the giggles.
Mini action: Find a funny meme and have a laugh.
Maxi action: Watch a comedy show on Netflix or try laughter yoga.
With 60% of us addicted to screens, which is exacerbating our stress, anxiety and depression, experts recommend regular digital detoxes to reset and recharge. Since we don’t have an “OFF” button, we need to ritualise turning technology off.
Dedicate at least one hour a day to not only unplug but also to connect with people for REAL. Restore family rituals like sharing meals, walks or games, head massages or bed wrestling. And don’t take your device to bed!!!
Mini action: Try no screens while you’re eating or socialising every day this week.
Maxi action: Try an hour a day, a day a week and a weekend a month screen free!
Your Daily Rituals of Joy can be integrated into your lifestyle by looking for opportunities like walking catch-ups, sip and strolls, breathing breaks and laughing lunches. Perhaps focus on one Ritual a week till they all become rituals and no longer require conscious effort. Like brushing your teeth or fastening your seatbelt. No choice. Just do. Eventually they become habit.
For more about the science behind these rituals and other health and happiness tips, check out Di Westaway’s book Natural Exhilaration. Her book is available in hardcopy and ebook here.