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4 Rituals to Start Your Day

In this blog post I am offering 4 rituals you may choose to add to your morning routine.

In my work as a clinical psychologist, I am often talking about rituals like these. Also referred to as affect regulation strategies. These rituals or strategies can be used to help us cope with or manage our emotions. Assisting us to remain in, or come back into our, ‘window of tolerance’ (Dan Siegel). Also referred to as a ‘ventral vagal, social connection’ state (Deb Dana).

Yoga can be a very helpful way to regulate emotion. However, there are many other rituals or strategies we can use to support emotional and autonomic regulation and overall well-being.

The 4 rituals I am offering are all evidence-based strategies that support emotional regulation, and with regular practice, promote resilience.

The 4 rituals are:

1. A mindfulness practice

One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. For example, maybe you want to notice the light coming through the window, the sound of birds or traffic, the feeling of the floor as your feet touch the ground when you are getting out of bed, the smell of a candle or incense or the flavour of your morning coffee or tea. This is the beginning of a mindfulness practice. Another option could be to notice your breath. Notice your inhale, notice your exhale. For three breaths. Possibly the sound of your breath, or the sensation of the air moving at your nostrils or how your ribs move as you breathe in and out. If you get distracted, that is ok; you can choose to come back to noticing sensation or your breath when you remember. It is normal to get distracted!

2. Being in nature

You may choose to go outside. Even if just for three breaths. Another option is to spend time in nature, like your garden, a local park or the beach. Or if you can’t get outside, you can imagine a recent experience of being outside that felt enjoyable or soothing. For three breaths, can you imagine the experience of being there?

3. A gratitude practice

If you would like to, you can name, or better still, write down three things you’re grateful for. The more the practice gratitude, the easier it may feel to do this, like any skill. It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking. This morning I felt grateful for coffee, a clear morning sky and walking my dog.

4. Self-compassion

Starting a new ritual or morning routine can feel difficult. So, the last strategy is self-compassion. Can you practice kindness towards yourself if you don’t achieve your goal, or if you do it for less time than you planned, or get distracted? Can you be curious about what got in the way, rather than self-critical? A common misconception is that self-compassion will lessen performance. However research shows this is not the case. Self-compassion helps performance.

These rituals do not have to take a long time. Even if you spend a couple of minutes on one or each of them, you may experience some benefit. When trying to make changes, it is helpful to make goals feel manageable so that you feel more inclined to do them AND experience a feeling of success. When you feel successful, you are more likely to try again. Sometimes it can help to connect new rituals to existing activities. For example, while you wash your hands or brush your teeth, you may choose to reflect on three things you’re grateful for.

Thank you for being here!


Deb Dana - Rhythm of Regulation (polyvagal theory and regulation).

Dan Siegel’s books (window of tolerance and regulation)

Kristin Neff’s books or podcasts (e.g., she has been a guest on Ten Percent Happier podcast; Feel Better, Live More podcast; self-compassion)


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