We’ve talked a lot lately about rituals; the holidays are full of rituals, whether we realize it or not. These rituals are the things that bring us comfort and help us to have a sense of normalcy.
Social psychologist Shira Gabriel’s research suggests that rituals—choreographed events that produce an emotionally laden experience—create a feeling of unity and sacredness that bonds us together with others. During the pandemic, we must find new rituals that help us to feel connected and observe the things that are meaningful to us.
“Rituals give us a feeling of going beyond the ordinary—of having a moment that transcends that, turning events into something special and meaningful,” says Gabriel.
Here are some tips for creating new rituals online when we cannot gather together physically:
Ask people to bring to their online gathering something symbolic to share, like a candle to light, a memory or story, a picture, or a poem. Getting people to contribute in that way can help create a sense of oneness.
Mark the moment by having someone provide an opening statement that designates the beginning of any ritual and explains the purpose of being there. That sets the tone and makes people realize that this is a special moment in time and not just another online meeting.
Create emotional highs, perhaps using music, dancing, poetry, moments of silence, or something else with high emotional resonance to augment the experience.
Always have a distinct ending that includes an emotional peak, because people tend to remember an event better that way.
A little bit more on the positive impact of rituals on mental health: