I am a big fan of ritualized living. I even wrote a book about it, “Light Magic for Dark Times,” which includes a chapter on body and identity, largely inspired by chronic illness. To me, ritual is a wellness habit. When we embrace ritual, we are actually embracing time for ourselves. Time for structure. Time for intentional thinking.
In my book, I explored the intersection between self-care and magical thinking. It doesn’t matter what your belief system is, it just matters that you believe your intention has the power to create change in your life. If you set an intention, you’re forcing yourself to put a certain amount of energy into your beliefs. It is a sacred act. It’s like planting a seed.
When I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis about two years ago, I noticed the very real impact of not taking care of myself. When I didn’t sleep or eat right, I felt it. When I didn’t take time out for myself — oh, boy, I felt it. When I decided I had no power over what happened to me, I felt it.
I started to adopt small morning rituals to clear my mind. These empowered me in important ways, such as helping me to become more creative and giving me the ability to find new work to create a new and sustainable source of income when I realized my job was ruining my health.
These morning rituals also helped me get in touch with my body. After many long nights of troubled sleep or tossing and turning in pain, I welcomed a grounding ritual. Little things, like the following self-care rituals, can make a big difference. It might sound cheesy, obvious, or reductive, but when we take the time for ourselves, our bodies repay us kindly.
1. Stretching and storytime
One thing I love to do is gentle, low-impact stretching on my yoga mat before I start my day. I like to play a yoga flow video on my computer and a story on my phone. This way, I can use both devices for different things. I like to use the Calm app for its stories, which are soft, slow, and calming. You can find plenty of other things to listen to on YouTube (like ASMR!), but I do recommend you listen to something educational and inspirational as you gently stretch.
2. Tea and gratitude journaling
I love to drink a cup of tea in the morning while I open up my journal and start writing about what I’m grateful for. Gratitude journaling is actually exceptionally difficult, despite seeming easy.
It forces you to be honest about the things in your life that matter to you (sometimes they will surprise you). It also helps you focus on the positive more than the negative. I recommend settling in for about 10 minutes and listing even the smallest things for which you’re grateful.
I like to set an intention each day. This intention can help ground me in any given moment, especially when I’ve lost focus or when I’m feeling stressed. Your intention can be something very small, such as stepping away from the computer each hour at work or finishing a major project.
It’s OK if you don’t set a big goal every day, and it’s also OK if your intention gets put on hold. Setting intentions daily is more about getting into the habit of being intentional in your life, and less about making that intention a reality every single day.
However, I find that the more I think about my intentions, the more I am able to build an intentional life that feels authentic and sustainable for me. I like to write my intentions on paper and keep them in a jar so that there’s a physical setting for all of my ideas and goals. When I see them build up, it makes me feel like I have the power, accountability, and autonomy I seek.
Note: Ankylosing Spondylitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ankylosing Spondylitis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ankylosing spondylitis.