What are your rituals related to self-care or introspection?
August 13, 2018 7:07 AM   Subscribe

I’d like to add more structure to my life and I’m looking for ideas for little rituals or small structured practices I can start doing. Specifically I am looking for rituals related to introspection, self-care, mental health, stress reduction, relationships and new experiences. So: tell me your rituals, routines, habits and practices related to those things.

Examples of the kinds of things I’m looking for:
  • Making a list every night of 5 things you’re grateful for
  • Doing something you’ve never done before every year on your birthday
  • Trading answers with a friend each week on an introspective question
  • Sending a postcard to a particular friend every time you go on a trip, even if it’s a boring work trip to somewhere non-exciting
The more specific the better. I want things that have some kind of structure to them, so general good-for-you ideas like “I exercise” or “I journal” or “I try to be a compassionate person” are less what I’m looking for here. Give me specifics!

The genesis of this question is that I'm ending therapy soon, and I've realized that I really enjoyed having the structure of a set-aside time each week for introspection. I'd like to create some more structures that give me a regular way to check in with myself, take care of my mental health, prompt myself to do some growing and changing, and help keep my relationships in good shape.

Small rituals are especially great (although big things are fine too), and weird/unusual rituals are especially welcome!
posted by aka burlap to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 109 users marked this as a favorite
To your first example, I use Grateful: A Gratitude Journal on my phone. One little prompt a day gets the job done.
posted by veggieboy at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2018

This is more physical than you suggested, but I've been doing a nightly 5-10 minutes of a legs up the wall yoga pose (lay on your back with butt scooched as close to the wall as you can get it, legs vertical against the wall) and it's sort of a combo stretch and meditation time. I feel way calmer the nights I do it, and my legs feel better too. I do it on a yoga mat, but a folded blanket will work in a pinch.
posted by telepanda at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

Every night just before turn my lamp off & go to sleep I write down my todo's for the next day. Everything I can think of. I have a projects section for long term stuff that I jot down any ideas that come up at this point too. I have several different sections to track things depending on if it's just an idea, a project i'm working on or a todo. I basically ritually dump all the contents of my brain, all the things I"m worried about down onto paper. I then plan my next day/week around my priorities on that list & other commitments etc. Then I shut the book on them until morning. If I find myself worrying about something and it's in my book I tell myself I will work on it in it's time, if it's not in the book I sit up & put it in there. It's funny how unimporant some of them seem in the morning.
posted by wwax at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Every time I deposit N wet objects in the drying rack, I remove N+2 dry objects and put them away.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

The website 750words.com has been great for keeping up my daily morning pages writing habit.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:41 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Quick note: physical ideas are fine!
posted by aka burlap at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2018

Before sleeping, mentally listing a few things I accomplished that day, mundane or big, doesn't matter. A range of "brushed teeth," to "got the job!". Anything, really. Helps to focus my brain to the positive, easy, quick, and no one can see or hear what I'm putting in my mental list! So no preformative pressure, also helpful to anxious brains.
posted by shinyshiny at 7:44 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

My phone lets me set a bedtime as part of my morning alarm. (For iOS users, this is the Bedtime feature in the default clock/alarm app.) It alerts me 30 minutes before my bedtime, and I use that reminder to start a nightly ritual of washing my face and applying various skincare products, changing into PJs, and straightening up the apartment. I try to stay off my phone for those last 30 minutes before bed. It's really helpful for getting a full night's sleep, and the result in how my skin looks and feels is a nice bonus too.
posted by misskaz at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I extend my mindfulness practice by finding opportunities to do things that I would normally do in a distracted, multitasking way instead with my full attention, without any distractions. An example would be enjoying a cup of coffee without multitasking or dividing my attention. No television, podcasts, reading a book, etc. Just my full attention on enjoying the coffee.
posted by jazzbaby at 7:50 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm experimenting with internet-free Sundays because I feel like my mind is full of other people's thoughts and just a lot of crap (I'm a huge podcast listener plus I pretty much never eat without watching streaming TV). I made an exception for listening to classical music on Amazon prime. I also decided that I wouldn't listen to the radio when I was in my car. Yesterday was my first try at this, and it really made me feel a lot more centered plus it seemed like I had much more free time. I'm thinking of expanding it to at least part of weekday evenings.

When I took a meditation class at a Zen temple, they had us choose one household task that we would do with full attention. I really liked this, but I stopped doing it. I think I'm going to start it up again. Glad you asked this question!
posted by FencingGal at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2018 [11 favorites]

I read an article, focused on how we can be our own worst enemies. And it suggested that when you catch yourself in a negative thought loop to ask the following : 'Who benefits from this thought?'

It's been very helpful to me to just help to identify useless negative feedback and in turn break the cycle.

Physically, lift heavy things and listen to music that gets you pumped while doing it!
posted by LansLeFleur at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Definitely daily meditation practice. I use Sharon Salzberg's Mindfulness Meditation guided meditation. I do 15 min per day. It has changed my life in the 1.5 years I've been practicing.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

On weekend mornings I walk to the local coffee shop, get something to go, then walk to the nearby park. If I'm early enough (before 10), it's almost always empty except for wildlife.

For me, self care is about starting and ending my day well. I like to have a breakfast that I will look forward to even before getting out of bed. I buy the best coffee I can afford.

At night I get offline at a certain hour (facilitated by software that turns all websites OFF), and read a book in bed (if my cat will allow it; otherwise I put the book down and pet him instead). I bought the best bedding I could afford.

The Changing of the Bedsheets is a special night, because I shower immediately before. To me, there are few pleasures in life greater than going from a hot shower to crisp clean sheets.

My day in between might be terrible, but at least I know the next morning will begin well.
posted by AFABulous at 8:29 AM on August 13, 2018 [15 favorites]

I have a personal policy: If I see a new fruit, I buy it. New variety of apple I've never had before? In the cart. Crazy GM grape that supposedly tastes like snozzberries? Mine. Imported asian fruit that I'm not familiar with? Oh boy, I'm gonna eat it! (I just picked up rambutans for the first time yesterday, they are waiting for me for lunch today and I am excited).

Are they sometimes expensive? Yep. Do I sometimes end up hating it? Yep. That's part of the fun for me. It's all about the new experience. It's a little thing that makes every few grocery trips into a fun outing instead of a chore, allows me to feel that I'm 'treating' myself without going off the deep end calorically, and gives a fun structure to my shopping habits. Plus, we are in the GOLDEN AGE of new fruit varieties hitting the supermarket. I have had more new fruits in the past two years than in the previous six or seven all combined.
posted by DSime at 8:45 AM on August 13, 2018 [31 favorites]

This might sound silly, but I find Tarot cards to be a really wonderful tool for introspection and self-care. Let me be clear, I am an atheist, and I used to scoff at the idea of tarot. Tarot is great because you can take whatever you want out of it, and you don't have to believe that the messages of the cards are divine or mystical. I bought the Goddess Tarot because I was looking for something related to femininity, but that doesn't have to be your jam. There are lots of decks, but you'd want to get decks with booklets that help explain how to use it. In essence, when I need to reflect upon heavy emotions or problems in life, tarot readings simply provide a framework for thinking about a situation. It reminds me of things I already know but might have forgotten. To me, that's all it is, but the things it helps me remember can be incredibly powerful.
posted by Autumn Willow at 9:11 AM on August 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

I try to write down 3 things I like about myself every night before going to bed, as well as as-daily-as-possible meditation practice and a new thing of consciously trying to take more fun and interesting routes on my bike commute rather than centering on getting from A to B as efficiently as possible.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:17 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

For me, buying new matching pajamas was a weirdly huge step into the "hey maybe I do deserve something nice for myself just because" kind of thing. I struggle with a positive self-image especially in regards to my appearance, and nice pajamas makes me feel good without making me feel ridiculous as can happen when I try to make changes to my outward appearance.
posted by lyssabee at 9:56 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

One thing I do every day is write a reverse to-do list. This is especially helpful if you are prone to depression or poor executive function and you beat yourself up thinking you're "lazy."

At the end of the day I write down everything I did that day, no matter how small or "insignificant." This combats the thought that "I didn't get anything done today," because even on my worst days, I accomplished something! For example, it might look like:

-checked the mail
-took a shower
-put on clean clothes
-took my meds
-responded to an email
-walked around the block

Many times this motivates me to do more the next day. It's like a game - can I do better than yesterday? But don't compare your list to anyone else's.
posted by AFABulous at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

I like the Ignatian practice of the Daily Examen (quick-reference PDF here), which for me consists of: before bed, think about what I did today that I am proud of, and what I did that needs work.

Incidentally, years ago, a child psychologist said that this is a good technique to teach kids: it helps them recognize what they need to improve on (which the parent can supply!), but also ends their day with praise for either or both of you.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:08 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've started showering by candlelight rather than with the bathroom overhead light on.
My almost two-year daily meditation practice has been life changing. I can't wait to see what it's like in another two years!
I try to journal on thorny problems at least once a week.
posted by spindrifter at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Similar to a gratitude journal, I have three files:

- important things (daily)
- important things (weekly)
- important things (monthly)

Every day I pick a thing (or two) that stood out and stick it into the daily file.
At the end of every week, I pick a thing (or two) from this week and stick it into the weekly file.
At the end of the month I pick a thing from the weekly file and summarize it into a monthly file.

At a high level, I can go into my monthly file and see what important things have occurred this year. I can then drill down further into weekly or even daily things.

It's been illuminating. At a distance things that felt important, no longer do for example.
posted by aeighty at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Full disclosure: I'm probably biased against woo woo stuff - so I probably won't describe this next part well.

Over the last few years I found that actively pursuing things like "self care" weren't actually making me feel better. As in, there'd be crappy situations that I was dealing with all the time, and I'd just sort of accept that they happened (and would continue to happen), and my best option after living through those situations again and again would be to do something - anything - in an attempt to self-heal or self-medicate away whatever those crappy situations were injecting into my life after the fact. On some occasions, that would work, but often (and increasingly) would not - those things still happened the way they happened, and I wasn't doing anything to change how they happened, or how I reacted or managed those situations.

So I went looking for a different approach. Somehow I stumbled on Getting Unstuck by Pema Chödrön. She describes that moment where you're about to react to something as an itch, and how we often just mindlessly, reflexively always go to scratch that itch. And how often scratching is really just a ritualized response to that same kind of itch, where neither the itch nor our ritualized response ever changes. Same old itch, same old scratch.

However - what if you learned to recognize the start of that itch? And what if instead of addressing the resulting itch with the same old scratch, you trained or habituated yourself to respond with a different kind of scratch (or no scratch at all)? What if that allowed you to now respond to those stressful situations in ways you'd prefer, as opposed to the ways you've always done it, which you might not even be fully in control of?

I won't pretend to be very far along with this practice - but I will say that I have been using it recently in athletic/competitive situations. What I've found is that it's very effective (at least for me) in cutting off the cycle of initial disappointment in myself or my team, which makes me/them play worse, which breeds more disappointment and anger, even worse performance, etc. I'm got a lifetime of experience knowing what the start of that feels like. But recognition now allows me an opportunity to practice responding in the way that I *want* to, instead of the way to which I might be naturally predisposed or long-accustomed.

Anyway - end result is that instead of simply trying to treat the effects of some crappy or stressful situation, by trying to instead train myself to respond differently to those things I'm often either not taking on that stress or responding in ways that I like much better than before. I see you now, and instead of mindlessly scratching like I always have, I'm going to do the thing I've purposely and intentionally decided to do. It's kind of a choice between responding in the way that you've thoughtfully planned and aspired to in that context vs. just being along for the same old ride that you actively don't like taking. I'm finding that even if I don't get all the end results that I might want, I'm much more happy and even satisfied with the process of how I'm handling certain situations now vs. how I might have reflexively handled them before. It's really made quite a big difference in terms of what I'm ultimately allowing myself to carry around.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Aeighty, I love this concept. Would it be possible for you to explain a little further? How do you record these important things? Do you write them down or keep track in a different way? Could you give an example of the type of thing that ends up in each file?
posted by DSime at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I make Sunday breakfast/brunch special; weekdays and Saturday are plain cereal and yogurt but Sunday is dim sum (out of the freezer). Maybe not exactly in line with your Ask but for me it's kind of a structured ritual of self-care.
posted by achrise at 1:17 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a mood tracking app (MoodLog) which prompts me three times a day to rate how I'm feeling out of 10, and select which adjectives describe my current mood.

I find it really helpful to be prompted to check in with myself and see how I'm feeling. It's also interesting how often looking through a list of "feelings words" will make me realize, oh, yeah, I didn't realize, but I am feeling sad/content/insecure/loving/whatever.

Also, having the data on how my moods have been is really helpful for spotting trends, and for things like pushing back against negative self-talk. For example, if I'm thinking, "I feel bad right now, therefore, I always have felt bad," I can fact-check that and see, oh yeah, I've actually mostly been pretty happy the past while)
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2018

I usually eat my breakfast first, then slowly sip my tea. So I take my tea over to a comfy chair by the windows and I look out the window for awhile. Sometimes there's birds or squirrels to watch, other times just the wind moving the trees. I see when there's a fog rolling in or dark rain clouds moving. When I've finished my tea, then it's time to use my inhaler (I leave it sitting by that chair), brush teeth, and get ready for the day. It helps to have that calming time, but I also find I can do it better if there's a time limit to it. It also helps me to remember to use my inhaler, which I'd otherwise forget.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have "coffee with my kitten" outside every morning. Even if its raining or snowing or 110°. I call it "coffee with a kitten" because initially the cat was the most regular attendee, but it has grown to include the dogs, my husband and even one of the chickens comes and sits in now every morning. Its such a nice way to connect to nature and my family.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:25 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Man, I have got to stop reading Twitter & the web while I eat breakfast...
posted by wenestvedt at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2018

Response by poster: These are great! Thanks for the excellent ideas, everyone.
posted by aka burlap at 9:04 AM on August 20, 2018

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