It’s Fall again, the air is crisp, the leaves are glorious (all those usual notes), and once again my husband and I are sitting on the giant wraparound porch at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire. This is one of our happy rituals as a couple – to drive up into the White Mountains in the late Fall, go for walks, meander through the back roads, browse the shops, read with a glass of wine on the porch, and feast on comfort food in local eateries.
Rituals are a perfect way to create soothing predictability, comfort, and anticipation into your life, whether you’re coupled or single. When you hold a memento or picture of the location, and gaze at it, pulling up good memories, you’re ramping up “feel good” chemicals in your brain. If you’re coupled, it tends to rekindle experiences of bonding and connection. If your life feels like a dreary treadmill, a happy ritual can interrupt the depressive feeling, and remind you that life, however hard, is also filled with meaning and joy, if you allow it.
So, if there’s a special experience you’ve had with some regularity either alone or with a partner, take it off the shelf and re-enact it! If there are none in your repertoire, then create some new experiences which can be ritualized. You’ll be doing your mood and your relationship a world of good.
I have a confession to make. I’ve just finished the final episode of season four of “Breaking Bad,”and I’m beside myself. What will evenings be like without the punctuation of bloody drug cartel wars, Walter’s chronic, obsessive lies covering all his suicidal choices, Jesse’s hopeless incompetence, Skyler’s opportunistic manipulations, Hank’s shrewd D.E.A. determination, and oh, most of all, the murderous kingpin Gus, we all hate to love? The sheer thrill of watching these characters play out their bizarre agendas has been akin to the fascination of witnessing a train wreck in slow motion, or stopping to steal a peek at the blood in a gory highway accident. Horrible things happening to other people. Revenge brutally extracted by other people. But the very worst consequences miraculously avoided, time and again. Ah, TV……
By day, my therapist world is governed by the ethics of sound judgment, compassion, mindfulness, delayed gratification, consequences for all actions, law abiding work, cooperation, mutual benefit. No place for this dog eat dog, kill or be killed, survival of the fittest stuff. What a guilty pleasure, however, to spend 48 minutes several times a week dancing with total destruction! (I’m sure they’ll find some link to lowered cortisol levels resulting in a healthier, longer life, don’t you think?)
I’d better find another “train wreck” show, got any suggestions?
PS. When you’re up for something productive, (outside your own guilty pleasure), tune in to my next BlogTalk Radio episode, “Effective Trauma Treatment and its Impact on Relationships”, featuring Phil Harford, an expert in this field. It’s on Wednesday, Feb. 8th at 8:30 PM. Call in toll-free at: 877-497-9046 to listen, and if you want, to join us live on the air. It should be a very interesting and informative show! (Walter, Jesse, and Gus sure could have used the knowledge).