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Routine vs. Ritual

Routine vs. Ritual

Routine and ritual. Until very recently, I’ve never been much for either. The idea of them struck me as somewhat dull, as something to be gotten through as quickly as possible in order to get on with the more interesting parts of life. Both were unfortunate necessities of being a person in the world, and not much more.

Then I stumbled upon this short video by New York psychologist Esther Perel that changed my perspective entirely.

Both routine and ritual, she says, are the punctuation in the stories of our lives, and they have certain things in common. They are grounding, reassuring, calming, stabilizing. 

But whereas routines are repetitive and help to maintain order, rituals are creative and full of meaning. And both, when approached with intention, have the potential to add a richness and poignancy to life that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

To illustrate this, Perel gives the example of a regular task - setting the table. Setting the table for a meal is a routine. We tend to do it the same way each time. However, setting the table with fine china and decorating it with flowers and candles turns it into a date night ritual that creates a special feeling and helps two people to find shared meaning within a relationship.

Perel speaks within the context of relationships, her specialty, but we can also apply her teachings to our approach to self care. 

So, for instance, our morning skin care routine, instead of being something we put off until the last second and then rush through distractedly, becomes a process we look forward to, and maybe even get up five minutes earlier for, so we can savour it as our transition from sleep to wakefulness.

And then perhaps on Sunday, that routine becomes a ritual that reinforces the importance of taking care of ourselves when we put on some uplifting music, light a candle, and take an extra ten minutes to do a face mask.

This week, choose one self care routine you do regularly, and think about how looking at it differently might transform it from drudgery to comfort. On certain occasions, how could you make that routine into a ritual?

Take care of yourself,




Debra Purdy is the owner of ShopEco, a voracious reader, and a bona fide skin care fanatic. Current skin care obsession: Fitglow Vita Youth Oil. Current read: Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux.

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