Developing rituals can help build balance

Terri Waldman, the Director of TMC’s Geropsychiatric Center, was one of the experts interviewed for the Arizona Daily Star’s series on dementia, Hope and Help. Among the stories was one on finding hope. Here is her monthly column on the importance of building ritual.

Terri Waldman

Terri Waldman

Every morning, I go for a walk with my dog.

If I miss that walk for some reason, my day just feels a little off.

It’s one of my rituals, along with meditation, that gives shape to my day.

Ritual, which is increasingly recognized as important to our health and wellbeing, is more than merely everyday habit. But to be clear, it also does not have to be reserved for just the sacred and complicated.

Whether we are talking about rituals of religion, families or individuals, those intentional steps we take on a regular basis help remind us about what’s important and help us build a sense of stability in our lives.

When I was a child, bedtime meant my parents would tell each other and their children that they were loved. For me, regardless of family squabbles or anything else that happened during the day, it gave me that sense of continuity. No matter what else I faced, love was not a negotiation.

When you hear “ritual,” there are all kinds of ideas in our head about what that looks like, often involving ceremonial trappings and historical foundations. But it can be as simple as having dinner as a family – a ritual that is growing in importance all the time as we lose some of that precious time to busy lives and technology.

It can be having a cup of coffee on your patio to start your morning. It could be a cup of tea in the evening. It could be a prayer before bed.  It’s any time you carve out that feels good and centering and maybe even healing to you.

In the work I do, I’ve noticed that some people’s lives become imbalanced because they lack structure. Rituals have a way of grounding you. Even if you’re traveling, you can still have that morning coffee or that bedtime tea and feel a sense of structure. Ritual does not have to be rigid. And it doesn’t have to be something handed down through generations – it can be something you create.

If ritual is something you want to more fully develop in your life, you might look at your life to see what you have in it already.  You probably have more of it in your life than you think. If it isn’t obvious to you, you might ask a friend: What do you see in my life that brings me comfort?

You might just start with something simple: Finding 5 minutes of quiet time with your thoughts. It’s easy to click on the TV or the radio for a distraction, but learning to be present with oneself can be a gift. And it might just start with one, simple ritual.

Terri Waldman has more than 20 years of experience in providing services, advocacy and leadership in the field of aging in Pima County. Currently the Director of the TMC Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, Waldman received her Masters in Social Work at Arizona State University. She follows her father’s philosophy that five minutes of laughter every day leads to quality in life.

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