Now in 2019, self-care is viewed as a daily practice that fosters physical and emotional wellness. More than a millennial obsession or a Kardashian craze, self-care has led to an understanding of mental illness, decreased stigma and cultivated emotional intelligence. While each new year brings on gadgets and fitness fads (according to Apple, self-care was the app trend of the year in 2018!), wellness doesn’t have to cost much – investing time into restorative rituals reaps the benefits without breaking the bank.
What are restorative rituals? Restorative rituals are routines of beneficial habits personalized to different lifestyles and needs. They take a variety of forms from sleep optimization and de-stressing practices to fitness schedules and conscious mindfulness. When practiced consistently, restorative rituals prove to have widely positive effects on mental health and emotional wellbeing, namely in decreasing anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue in favor of sleep, relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, empathy, and stress-relief.
Discussions on restorative rituals are earning increasing attention and show no signs of slowing down. The MH Collective’s very own Dr. Monisha Vasa, recently quoted in a leading NBC News wellness article, is seeing an increase in the choice to go sober as a form of self-care: “Alcohol, even used socially or in moderation, can impair restorative sleep, so people may wake up feeling tired or unrested the morning after... As a result, many people who are looking to optimize their health are choosing to significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, or even abstain altogether”. Avoidance of alcohol reduces the risk of exacerbating depression and irritability along with the tendency to forego other restorative rituals while under the influence.
Another vital restorative ritual is prioritizing and optimizing the quality of sleep. Better sleep promotes mental health with proven benefits according to Harvard Health including enhancing clear thinking and learning and reducing the effects of the psychological effects of sleep deprivation such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and ADHD. Rituals for sleep optimization recommended by the Mayo Clinic include setting a sleep schedule, respecting the need for sleep, paying attention to food, drink, and caffeine, incorporating physical activity and practicing meditation.
Promoting mental health through a more accessible healthy lifestyle, at-home fitness encourages exercise despite limited time in a stressful schedule to focus on self-appreciation, motivation and accomplishment – not to mention the release of serotonin and those happiness-inducing endorphins! With increased physical activity, don’t forget the self-care ritual of restorative exercise: yoga, deep stretching, and even conscious movement bring mindfulness to your day, a crucial step toward improving mental health.
While movement is one way to incorporate mindfulness, the age old rituals of daily meditation have come to the forefront once again. Apps such as Calm, Headspace, and Ten Percent Happier support beginners in starting a mindfulness practice, not to mention the latest influx of meditation studios, coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, and even help in a variety of physical conditions as well. The beauty of mindfulness as a restorative ritual lies in its flexibility--even one conscious breath can count as a mindfulness meditation, when done with awareness and intention.
A final restorative ritual that is experiencing a revival, is that of journaling. More and more individuals are choosing to shut down their devices, and return to the analogue experience of putting pen to paper. A daily or nightly journaling practice allows us to make sense of the thoughts and emotions in our head, and gain some sense of control over them. Everything from short lists to gratitude practices to “dear diary” entries count when it comes to journaling. No writing experience necessary, simply a willingness to let the pen take you where you need to go.
Leading experts are seeing a definitive uptick in the awareness, emphasis, and practice of self-care and restorative rituals. Increasingly important in maintaining mental health, self-care and restorative rituals promote a healthier and more mindful approach to the stressors of daily life.
Monisha Vasa, M.D. | The Collective’s Co-Founder + Clinical Advisor