Why rituals and routines are so important

Dr. Martina Melzer, published: 07/12/2023


When you're recovering from Long Covid, ME/CFS, or other mind-body syndromes, rituals and routines are very helpful

Morning, 6:30 a.m., the church bell rings. I get up. My first routine: always get up at about the same time. Then I go to the bathroom, then I do a yoga exercise, a breathing exercise, foot exercises. Next routines. Then I drink two big glasses of lukewarm water with a touch of salt in it. Another routine, another ritual. Then I prepare breakfast. Throughout the day, there are more routines and rituals that I have become accustomed to during my recovery journey.

Everyone has their routines and rituals - both good and bad. One person might always eat oatmeal for breakfast on Mondays, while another always smokes a cigarette after lunch. These are behaviors that people acquire and then always keep. They become automatisms.

Healthy rituals and routines can be very important on your recovery journey.

Why are they important?

Rituals and routines, as I said, are things that you actually do all the time. You started them at some point, maybe because they have a special meaning, or maybe by accident. In any case, these things are something that always repeats. It's predictable. It gives structure, it provides stability, it is reliable.

And that's what your brain and autonomic nervous system love. Because anything that is predictable, stable, and repetitive represents safety. If you have a form of mind-body syndrome like ME/CFS, Long Covid, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome, your brain and nervous system are in survival mode. You're stuck in danger mode. What they need is: safety.

That's why rituals and routines that promote your health can be so helpful on your recovery journey. But it can also be important to give up unhealthy rituals and routines.

Rituals and routines train the brain

Incidentally, getting into the habit of a new behavior, a new routine, a new ritual is a classic form of brain training. Routine or ritual means that you repeat something very often until it becomes an automatism. And that's how brain training works: doing something you want to relearn or unlearn countless times until it becomes a habit. That's how stable new neural connections form in the brain. And that's neuroplasticity.

What's important to me is that, assuming you want to meditate, eat healthier, or take more breaks because it might help your recovery, don't stress about it! Don't put pressure on yourself to do it every day at this time or that time. This only triggers the survival mode again.

In general, you don't have to, you shouldn't, but you want to, you like to. It is voluntary. Also, only make things your ritual that are important to you, that you like, that bring you joy and that you want to do for the long term. You can make an affirmation for it, such as "This is important to my recovery" or "I do this because it makes me feel good," and smile to it. Then your brain will evaluate the new ritual, the new routine, as positive.

Translated with the help of DeepL

Important: The statements in this text are the result of my research from scientific studies, professional articles, books, courses, education and training as well as my own recovery process. I have done the best possible research, but nevertheless make no claim to accuracy. In science, something is considered a hypothesis until it is clearly proven (or disproven). That is then evidence, a fact. The statements in this text are a combination of hypotheses and facts.

Also, the content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for talking to your doctor or other therapist. Please talk to your doctor or therapist before making any decisions about your physical or mental health. Every way into a mind-body syndrome is something individual, and every way out.