With summer officially upon us, most of us are looking for ways to fill our time, from swimming lessons for the kids to road trips, vacations, and parties with friends and family. And while long summer days beg for fun, it’s also important to remember not to spread yourself too thin. In fact, there is an art to slow summer living, and it’s something that not only most of us can benefit from, but it’s also something we all desperately need right now.
But, when most people consider the idea of “slowing down,” they often think of it as being a major shift, something that will change the look and feel of their everyday lives. And, as such, most people decide to do one of two things:
- They go all in with slow summer relaxation, binge, and then fall behind on responsibilities and “real life.”
- They avoid the idea completely, deciding that, since they can’t afford to slow down, they’ll do the opposite and move even faster, piling more and more “to-dos” on their endlessly growing list.
Neither are good because, by nature of being two extremes, they leave you feeling out of balance and, therefore, overwhelmed.
SACRED POWER OF RITUALS
There is, thankfully, a happy in-between, a gray area that is neither black or white. And it all rests on the power of rituals. Any ritual, no matter how small, has the power to immediately transport you to another state, shifting your perspective so that you are elevated from your typical point of view. Rituals give us purpose, insight, and something to look forward to. That’s why, whether we know it or not, we create rituals for ourselves. From pouring a cup of coffee before going to work or pouring a drink before going to bed, watching a certain show each evening or taking a familiar route home, rituals are part of human nature. But, in order for these things to carry the sacred power of rituals, we have to consciously acknowledge them as such instead of just doing them mindlessly.
Of course, you can’t just turn any habit into a ritual. First of all, a ritual must be something that is a conscious decision – not an addiction. Second, a ritual must serve the higher good, elevating your mental state so that you can elevate those around you. The habit of speeding down the same street on your way home from work isn’t a ritual, it’s simply a habit, and a bad one at that.
One of the biggest misconceptions of rituals is that they have to be a long, drawn-out process. But, like I mentioned earlier, rituals can be any size and shape. Just because one takes hours to set up and perform doesn’t make it any more powerful or special than one that takes five minutes. And this is where culturally our mindsets need to change. We don’t have to go all-in all the time. There is power and beauty in the everyday. In fact, taking five minutes to enjoy a healthy ritual can completely transform your entire day – and your life.
As a busy business owner and mom of three, I live for these short rituals. At this stage in my life, it’s rare to find spare hours, especially ones where I’m by myself in a quiet place (the typical prerequisites for most people’s “idea” of ritual). And I know most of you are just as busy, if not more so.
However, being busy doesn’t mean we should write off rituals altogether.
Five 5-minute rituals for Summer
Below are five 5-minute rituals that I’m making time for this summer – and I hope you’ll do the same.
- Set an intention before picking your phone. Our phones are almost always in our hands. So much so, that we don’t even realize when we pick them up and start scrolling. Having noticed my children’s growing interest in my phone (simply because I’m using it so much), I decided to get intentional with my phone use this summer. As soon as I pick up my phone or begin to unlock it, I pause, close my eyes, and get intentional. Why do I need to be looking at my phone right now? What’s my purpose? This clarifying ritual, I’ve discovered, is incredibly helpful. I often find myself setting my phone down completely and engaging back in the moment. When I do need to use my phone, my intention makes it clear when I’m finished – no more mindless scrolling!
- Practice pranayama outside. I’m endlessly amazed at how powerful even a short five-minute pranayama practice can be. Because the weather is so nice (and the spring and summer blooms so intoxicating), I’ve been taking my breathing practices outside, whether in my courtyard or at the park with my kids and dogs. In the morning, I always manage to sneak in five minutes of Breath of Fire, which gives me so much energy. During the day, especially when I’m feeling stressed, anxious or out of balance, I use Alternate Nostril Breathing – a simple practice everyone can do!
- Smile in the mirror. It was a few weeks ago, while I was standing in front of the mirror with my three-year-old daughter at my feet, that I realized I spent most of my time scrutinizing my appearance. “Why aren’t you smiling, Mommy?” she asked, to which I decided then and there to do something about. I’ve made it a ritual now that every time I step in front of the mirror I spend my time smiling, noticing the things I love about myself rather than those little imperfections that we can so easily obsess over. The simple mantra, “I am beautiful,” is so helpful and has transformed my mirror time into a healthy ritual – one that I hope my daughter will take note of as she grows.
- Eat something fresh and local. Rather than obsessing over new diets or calorie counting this summer, I’m choosing to enjoy the ritual of finding something fresh and local to eat for at least one meal a day. Farmer’s markets abound in most areas, making this ritual as fun as it is delicious.
- Say a prayer for someone you love. When I find myself starting to get stressed, I’ve discovered that the best antidote is to turn my attention to gratitude and love. As such, I’ve started taking short breaks throughout my day to pause and mindfully direct my attention to someone that could use some positive energy coming their way. Not only is this a powerful act for this person (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone to see the person I was thinking about call me), but it shifts my mindset too.
This summer, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that relaxation rituals need to be an all-day event. Creating healthy rituals for your mind, even those that just take five minutes, can take you from a state of stress to one of instant relaxation and joy. Not sure if they’ll work for you? When they only take five minutes, what do you really have to lose?