Your Daily Routine Matters

Routine, Rituals and a Little Superstition

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

The other day, our breakfast table conversation centered around the subject of routine. Neither of us like routine, however I understand that routine likes me. I operate better with a routine, accomplishing more, creating healthy habits and feeling less frenzied. He insists (claims) that he has never needed routine to thrive. I beg to differ, but I’ll take that up with him.

A little later in the day, we were watching a Dodger game and he pointed out the pitcher’s rather unusual windup. “Watch his routine,” he says. “See how he checks first base whether there’s anyone on or not and then taps his foot three times?” Well that one was ripe for the picking and of course I couldn’t let it go. “Oh, he has his routine because he has found that’s made him a better pitcher. Routines are great for that!” And on, and on I went. Good-naturedly. Of Course.

What I didn’t admit to is that I questioned if this was the pitcher’s “routine” or was it more a ritual or even a superstition. Which led me down the rabbit hole of “what’s the difference?” and this is what I came up with.


I have morning and evening routines that help me to wake up and fall asleep. These have been carefully curated over the years as I find what works best, not intentionally maybe, just adjusting as I go. For instance, I get up at the same time, let the dog out then feed her, meditate, enjoy a cup of tea over a game of solitaire and then an early morning walk all before breakfast. It just starts my day off right. Traveling tends to disrupt my routine and sometimes it takes a bit to get back to it when I return.

According to Oxford, routines are simply a sequence of actions regularly followed. Routines help you form habits so that you can fit a lot of actions into a little bit of time. Those morning routines bring order to your day and can help you to be more productive. And because it’s early, there are less distractions to attend to. Here are some ideas of what to include in your morning routine:

  • Quiet time – Whether that’s formal meditation or greeting the day in your garden with a cup of tea or coffee, calming the mind will set you up for a calmer day.
  • Brain work – Crossword puzzles, solitaire, jigsaw puzzles and other brain games keep your mind in tiptop shape.
  • Body work – This can be gentle yoga, a brisk walk, a bike ride or a swim, anything to get your body moving and oxygenated.

In the science sector, researchers have found that routine can help with such conditions as bipolar disorder, ADHD and insomnia, as well as stress and anxiety.


You may have read last week that I am taking a new class called Morning Rituals. A ritual is series of symbolic actions that are performed in a specific order. It can be religious, such as a christening, or secular, like a Presidential inauguration. Like routines, studies show that ritual can help us feel less anxious due to their predictability. Sports psychologists have suggested that pre-performance rituals can help athletes through better execution and reduced anxiety. End of life rituals can help those who are grieving, creating some semblance of order to an otherwise disordered world.

Group rituals can create a sense of community and bonding. Members are like-minded and share certain values. Think of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with a whole stadium of other baseball fans or gathering together with friends for Monday Game Night. Group rituals help us focus on the positive and to feel safe around each other. Of course then there’s the rituals-gone-bad, such as the sometimes dangerous act of hazing, but let’s not go down that road.


When I was younger (but not that much younger), I was very superstitious. If the Dodgers won the first game of the World Series, I had to be sure I wore the exact same thing for every subsequent game. Spilled salt? Throw it over my left shoulder with my right hand. I even had a severe case of triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13. Don’t put me on Flight 1313, leaving from Gate 13, in seat 13A on Friday the 13th unless you wanted to see a grown woman cry. I know, it’s bizarre and inexplicable and irrational, and I’m happy to say I finally worked through it. Oh, every so often I still find myself knocking on wood or avoiding walking under a ladder, but for the most part I’m good.

You might be surprised to learn that a whopping 65 percent of Americans have some superstitious tendencies. Those who are superstitious believe that their behavior will somehow influence the outcome of an event. Using a lucky coin for a scratch off lottery card because it’s the same one that won you $1,000 before, not driving on Friday the 13th because you got a ticket once on that day, crossing your fingers when you they call the winning raffle ticket are all examples, all in an effort to exert some control over one’s environment.

So, where does that leave the question of the pitcher’s wind up? Routine, ritual or superstition? It may be a little bit of each, but for the most part I’ve got to go with ritual here. For individuals, these type of actions help you get in the right headspace and helps to reduce anxiety. He was preparing himself to stay focused, and doing that on a consistent basis with every windup, helps him to get into the zone.

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