During lockdown, it’s easy for us to forget to make time for our own joy and wellbeing, whether we are somehow busier than ever with Zoom meetings and home schooling, or our usual weekday routine has been replaced by lie-ins and wearing only pyjamas. But doing so is crucial, especially at this gloomy time of year.
Throughout the first UK lockdown, most of us were scrambling to get used to the “new normal”. We looked for silver linings in the situation, acknowledging and appreciating extra quality time with family members and the chance to savour a leisurely breakfast as we anxiously awaited more clarity from the government, our employers, and our local schools.
Social media trends showed how many of us found solace from the news in the simplicity of baking banana bread or making a cup of whipped coffee. The National Trust conducted a major survey revealing that more than two-thirds (68%) of us spent more time in nature between March and June 2020 than ever before. Now, as we progress through the third lockdown, the public mood is noticeably different. The ‘January blues’ that so many of us experience are palpable against a backdrop of rainy and chilly weather and restrictions preventing visits with family and friends.
It is easy to de-prioritise our own wellbeing in this situation. Joy and relaxation don’t seem to be natural priorities when we are dealing with stress about our finances, jobs and the health of our loved ones, or when our Zoom calendars are full. A recent major survey found that 79% of adults regularly experience work-related stress since. And positive feelings are even harder to unlock when we don’t have access to places that normally benefit our mood, like the gym, our favourite cafes and even – because of the winter weather – our local landscapes.
Yet, as the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Stress can sap our energy and self-esteem, and can also contribute to pains like headaches and tense muscles. Many experts have argued the case for keeping a routine in stressful times – and for incorporating things that bring us joy, like our favourite tea or a well-loved playlist. But creating rituals may be even more effective at creating harmony.
What's The Difference Between A Routine And A Ritual?
The main difference between a routine and a ritual is mindfulness – the practice of being grounded in the present. Routines are simply a sequence of actions carried out at set times – often on autopilot - whereas rituals have a specific meaning attached.
You do not have to be a spiritual or religious person to create a ritual, only to have a sense of purpose. Completing your ritual in a designated space can help prevent your mind from wandering.
How Much Time Should I Set Aside And What Can I Do?
There is no right or wrong way to create a wellbeing ritual. You can complete as few or as many tasks as you like and as little as 5 minutes can make a difference to your mood. Some of our favourite rituals include:
- Meditating, especially, candle-gazing meditation
- Completing a gentle yoga or stretching sequence
- Gratitude journaling
- Reading affirmations
- Tidying to create a calming space
- Adding to a vision board
- Making and enjoying a warm drink
- Eating a nutritious meal or snack
- Taking a hot bath or shower using products with aromatherapy benefits
You can complete a ritual at any time, but many people opt for early morning or late evening.
Why Is Nature So Important To Rituals And How Can I Include It?
It has been proven time and again that nature has a restorative effect on mind and body. According to one Finnish study, spending just 15 quiet minutes in nature can help people feel less depressed and anxious. Other researchers have found that time in nature can help to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, ease muscle tension and slow the production of stress hormones.
But whether because of our location, the weather or our schedules, it’s not always possible to immerse ourselves in nature for hours at a time. There are a few ways we can bring nature to our homes, such as:
- Lighting a natural scented candle made with essential oils.
- Tending to houseplants.
- Decorating your home with freshly-cut flowers. You can also dry them afterwards, by tying the base of the stems with string and letting them hang upside down in a cool, dry place for at least two weeks.
- Opening windows for fresh air and taking a mindful pause to enjoy the views, watch clouds or the stars.
- Listening to nature sounds like birdsong, ocean waves, a crackling fire or rain.
- Growing vegetables or herbs. Window boxes are a great option for flats and homes with limited outdoor space.
- Bringing the aromas of nature indoors by diffusing your favourite essential oil blends.
To summarise, creating a daily ritual involving nature is quick and easy, but could have huge benefits for your mindset and body as we cosy up and weather the third lockdown together.