I remember the days when I used to smoke. After a difficult sales call, or client meeting—or morning with the kids—I’d slip outside, light up a cigarette, and take a long, slow drag. I’d savor every second of it. The smell, the taste, the repetitive movement. There was nothing better in the world. And I’ll be honest, at the time I never imagined I’d be a quitter!

But those days are long gone and with them, my desire to smoke. Sounds great, right? Healthier, happier, more fulfilled?

Well here’s the problem. Smoking for me was all about the ritual. It was a way to take back a little bit of control in moments when I was overwhelmed. It was a way to slow down and take a deep breath after a stressful situation. It was a way to center and ground myself when everything felt off-kilter. Without it, I went a little nuts!

Find Your Personal Rituals

After all, just because you quit one unhealthy behavior doesn’t mean that everything suddenly gets better. Work is still stressful and the kids—bless them—are still complaining. And it’s always going to be that way.

What I need to do was to find some personal rituals that I could do throughout the day. Some little things that would help anchor me when the stress got out of hand. And since replacing that cigarette with a granola bar sounds, frankly, depressing as hell, I was going to have to get creative.

Five Rituals That Help Me Every Day

Over the past few years, I’ve tried out things that worked and things that didn’t. By now I’ve paired down my tricks to a set of five. Don’t take these as gospel or even as advice. They’re simply tricks that I use throughout the day. I’ve found they work for me. And if they work for you, well, all the better!

  1. Take your time in the morning. This might mean getting up a bit earlier and losing a few minutes of sleep, but trust me, take the time to enjoy your morning coffee. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your breakfast. You’ll set yourself up for a great mood all day.
  2. Introduce self-care rituals. You might start your day feeling great but then work happens. The stress floods in, the anxiety takes over. That’s when I leave. It sounds weird, but I just leave. I’ll go downstairs and outside and I’ll take a slow 15-minute walk. Other people will meditate or wash their face. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do something for you.
  3. Go out of your way to help a colleague. Take one moment each day to sacrifice a bit of your busy schedule to help a colleague. Whether that’s a chat in the lunchroom, a difficult project, or picking up a surprise snack, take the time for someone else and you will reap the rewards.
  4. Every time something good happens, acknowledge it. Humans are notoriously bad at remembering the good things that happen. Precise to a fault with the bad stuff though. So whenever something good happens, whether big or small, take the time to enjoy it.
  5. Make fewer decisions. Okay, this is not really a ritual. But it’s become something I’ve been working on for years. And it really works. Decision fatigue can wear a person down without them even noticing it. Try delegating some things. Try to have some processes automated. Step out of difficult conversations that don’t need your input.