White porcelain dog in lotus pose

Rituals: Even The Smallest Of Them Calm The Heart

Rituals are the base of all religious practices for good reason. According to Chinese medicine, when we need to calm the heart, we should focus on rituals. Our expectations are met because we repeat known actions. Meeting expectations in turn creates feels of safety and surety.

In a world where there is so much anxiety, small rituals are a way to gain some peace throughout our day.

And when I say small, I mean small. I often talk about making small changes instead of big ones because I’ve found over time that my patients make better progress when they can meet the expectations that they set for themselves. Before you go thinking that now you need to go and start a ritual because of this post… read on.

We all already have rituals, most of which we don’t even think about. There is a joke in my family that people can be broken up into two kinds: those that butter toast all the way to the edges and those who butter their toast all willy nilly. Even this small act of buttering toast all the way to the edges is a sort of ritual. You do it the same way, more or less, every time. You know what the exact outcome is. You are safe to eat your toast with the knowledge that you will get butter on every bite (how bad do you want toast with butter right now?). It honestly gives me a slight feeling of anxiety when I don’t butter my own toast unless the person buttering is an all-the-way-to-the-edges type. I just can’t have butter all willy nilly on my toast.

The small rituals that we perform throughout the day are often mindless – but they don’t have to be.

My husband puts the kettle on for tea and then prepares his mug. He knows once he hears the kettle, that his tea will be exactly as he wants it whether I pour the water, or he does.

Recently, I wrote about my wake up routineย and when I do it, I start the day in a better mood mostly because I expect to start my day in a better mood.

Also, I take my watch off when I am about to type a blog post. Always. I type with my wrists low and my watch hits the edge of my computer so I started taking it off. I continue to do it because now, taking my watch off is equivalent to getting some work done.

Anxiety sufferers: make a list of the smallest of the rituals you perform and then perform them with more mindfulness. They will remind you that you are safe. It probably won’t cure your anxiety, but it might just calm your heart so that your anxiety doesn’t get the best of you.

Share your small rituals (the weirder the better!) in the comments below!


  1. I definitely butter my toast all the way to the edges! And in fact, buttered toast became my grounding ritual while I was traveling two summers ago because that way I knew I could have that anywhere I was and the one thing I didn’t have to think about was breakfast, it was really helpful! Thanks to the other half of Sarahpeutics for that reccomendation! The other rituals I do that calm my heart are drinking a full glass of water and make tea first thing every morning. I bursh my teath and put lip balm on right before bed. The rest of my day tends to be different each day, even if I do some of the things everyday but at varying times. I am going to be mindful of any other rituals that I am doing without awareness… <3

    1. caitdonovan

      You butter your toast all the way to the edges AND you love how 7+8 make 15. <3 <3

      I love those little rituals. I am, as previously mentioned, pretty inconsistent on the day to day stuff too, but there are so many little things that we do that we never even realize! After writing this article, I realized that Flora (our dog for those that don't know!) creates a bunch of rituals in our lives. When I come home from work on Mondays and Wednesdays, both her and I run to the bed for a snuggle session before anything else happens. It's one of my favorite things!

  2. Tia Ginny

    one of my rituals (which Cait probably already knows) is that I put my seat belt through the handle of my pocketbook so that when I’m riding along it won’t tip over and spill into the back seat. It’s one of my rituals that keeps ME in control of my surroundings…

    1. caitdonovan

      This is a great one Tia! You have a lot of these little rituals, it’s so smart!

  3. Chris Donovan

    Edge to edger, of course…and I’ve started that glass of water first thing in the AM…

  4. Cara DeNuccio

    Does repeating the same requests to my children every day count as a ritual? ??. I like this idea. I’m going to think about my rituals today.

    1. caitdonovan

      Haha! This one might not count! I can’t wait to see what else you come up with ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Cara DeNuccio

    So Daniel and I talked about this on the way to school and realized we have a daily ritual of how we say goodbye/send each other off into the day. It includes kiss, hug, “I love you”, and what we call “zzzzzttttt”. That’s code for us making the I love you finger sign and touching them to each other with that sound. Hard to explain without showing! That’s my best ritual, but I also remembered COFFEE! The ritual of making it each morning and then pouring my first cup after my workout. What this really made me key into is the importance of being mindful in these small, daily moments.

    1. caitdonovan

      I love this so much. These are great great examples and you are so right. It is so important to be mindful of the small, daily moments.

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