With the unexpected gift of more time at home on our hands, we’ve been doing a lot of introspection about what’s important to us, what we love and want more of, and what needs to fall away when it comes to our daily lives.
And with so much uncertainty looming, our homes can easily feel more like mayhem than the safe sanctuary we desire and cherish.
And let’s be honest, optimal mental health is at the forefront of all of our minds these days. So, what can we turn to—now that the going has gotten tough—for a sense of security, ease, joy, and flow?
Certainty and trust in the rhythm.
That’s right, rhythms provide a form of organization and structure for our days while carrying a sense of fluidity and flexibility. Instead of the outlook feeling monotonous or daunting, there’s a gentle flow of what to expect and what’s coming next. A conscious rhythm or daily cycle can help make life simpler because there’s already an established pattern we can trust.
Honestly, it feels good just thinking about it.
Why Rhythms and Rituals Matter
As I’ve been chatting with friends and deepening my relationships with each of my children, I’m learning that we all need certain anchors throughout the day—specific events or things we do regularly that we can count on. These anchors not only ground and orient us, but they enable us to build in the important things...like healthy eating, exercise, nature, time to ourselves, and dedicated time with those we treasure most. They can be so significant that they even help liberate us and free up the creativity we need in our brains to improve our circumstances.
In Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, Jonathan Fields eloquently outlines the function of routines and rituals in our lives as being the psychic bedrock upon which we can effectively and consistently ground ourselves in the face of uncertain times.
They provide a sort of calm in this storm that we’re navigating, and while they can be game-changers for us all, they are even more essential as a key component for a stable and secure childhood. I love this explanation from one of my favorite books, Simplicity Parenting by John Payne:
“Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes.”
A study from the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that children with strong family routines were less impulsive and more cooperative—and I can understand why. I’d imagine the same is true for us adults...routines support us in a way that makes us feel safe and held.
Furthermore, because children are so inherently present, it’s all the more important that we attune to their needs (along with our own) as we listen to this call to slow down, savor, and create these moments with great care.
Here are a few practical ways to evaluate your daily rhythm and bring a deeper sense of rootedness to these days.
Getting Clear on Your Values
A beautiful place we can begin reflecting on our family’s rhythm is to pause to consider what’s truly important to us as individuals and as a unit. Our core values provide the unseen texture of our family’s universe, and becoming very clear about them can help guide us into a new rhythm that deeply fills our cups and brings a sense of joy and meaning into the everyday.
For example, here are a handful of values that are important to my family and some areas that we love to keep our focus on:
- Nourishing our bodies with healthy foods
- Getting dressed
- Being active
- Spending time outdoors
- Enjoying personal and family time
- Unplugging from devices
- Sleeping well
- Keeping small promises
- Cleaning up our home space
- Saying “no” to what doesn’t serve us
- Building on foundations and habits
- Cultivating relationships with family, community, and the planet
- Contributing to something larger than ourselves
- Being spontaneous
In becoming clear about our values and the areas of our lives that give us the greatest sense of peace, it makes it much easier to take a look at our current rhythms and discern how we can make some adjustments to serve us better.
We can also include our children in this conversation by asking them what they value and what means the most to them. We can get to know them in new ways through this practice and learn to love each other better than ever before. If we’ve learned anything during this time, it’s that our choices matter and affect the ones that we love in profound ways.
Outlining a New Daily Rhythm
There’s a reason we feel so calm when we listen to sounds of the ocean or tune into our breath: it’s a pattern, an unmistakable rhythm that allows us to be still and know. I love the way a steady rhythm punctuates family life yet allows lots of space and freedom to allow for growth and change.
When we start getting clear about our family and personal values, we can begin to look at our current family rhythms and become aware of how we can make simple shifts in the routine to be more aligned with trust, ease, and flow.
For example, our current daily rhythm looks something like this:
- Wake up, mom meditates while...
- Dad and kids make coffee and green smoothies together
- We all eat on a blanket in the grass (if the weather is nice) and take our vitamins. Then...
- Mom preps for the rest of the day’s meals while the kids help or play and dad logs on to his computer to work.
- Mom gets dressed, kids change into play clothes, and we make our beds.
- Together, we start an art project.
- Naptime/quiet time
- Lunch time
- Playtime/Work time
- Mom and dad both wrap up work (and put their phones away) for family yoga or an exercise session (which often includes a spontaneous game of chase and usually ends with a single song, full-out family dance session).
Our current evening rhythm looks something like:
- Make dinner while the kids play (they often want to help too).
- Enjoy dinner outside on a blanket followed by an after-dinner walk.
- Dinner clean up and pick up the toys from the day
- Epsom salt + lavender bath (mom first for a bit of personal time)
- Brush Teeth
- Laundry (insert loving discipline chore here)
Whether you have just one infant or a multitude of children running around, it's the little, seemingly insignificant things that help us all feel grounded and keep us moving through life. In a time when it’s very tempting to stay in our pajamas around the clock (hey, no judgment), creating the space to simply get dressed each day creates that glimmer of a normal, consistent routine in sync with the nature of time (our kids are particularly loving these high-comfort play clothes that are really more like daytime pjs).
As we experiment with our family dynamics and rhythms, it's easier to notice where we can allow more space and less tension. We’re letting it be a time when we can all focus on how to love and enjoy each other more.
If It’s Not Important, Let It Go.
Even if we have everything in its place and a beautiful routine, if something is stirring up tension in the house or creating a lot of anxiety for us or our children, it’s important to let ourselves off the hook, and let it go.
Expect that there will be challenges; this life is the real curriculum and we can learn from the tough moments. Know that they are coming. It’s the occasional turbulence that allows us to practice our muscle flexibility. And since the only constant is change, this too can be seen as a certainty anchor for us to remember that we are all always learning, evolving, and growing. The objective is a loose rhythm that lovingly guides and grounds us toward deeper connection with ourselves and with one another, as opposed to a rigid schedule that disconnects us from the heart of the moment.
Being mindful of these simple, daily rhythms can create a sense of flow and ease for everyone, along with a sense of normalcy we all so desperately crave during these unprecedented times.
So whether it’s lighting a candle before dinner, having taco Tuesday, getting dressed in the AM, or rolling up your yoga mat after your practice, filling your days with things you can count on can add both comfort and meaning and may very well ensure that these days are remembered as the best of our lives.