My yoga instructor recently told me that doing a particular series of stretches at stages of my menstrual cycle would help to alleviate pressure and pain.
It’s the kind of thing that helps when you do it religiously, she said.
I agreed to make it a priority, because I want the relief that it offers. Of course, I’d said that before, but not followed through…
When I left the session, I kept ruminating on the concept of doing things religiously. I hadn’t before thought deeply about it, and I wanted to know why I did some things often and without fail, whereas others never seemed to make the cut—even if I knew they’d benefit me.
Before I defined what “religiously” meant or analyzed it as a method, I let my emotions guide me to the truths of what I already do religiously. I could make my own definition or look up a definition later—right now I wanted to focus on what felt natural. I wondered: What does the adverb “religiously” offer to me? What do I already practice religiously, and what would I like to? How do I make the shift, and should I make a shift in the first place?
I’m generally of the belief that some is better than none, sometimes is better than never, and good enough is almost always fine. But being the researcher I am, I wanted to analyze which of my actions I practice religiously. Here’s some I came up with:
- Kiss my Sweetie goodnight.
- Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or do drugs.
- Drink one cup of coffee in the morning.
- Go to therapy once a week.
- Take my supplements and meds.
- Post on my blog and send newsletters.
- Keep my nails done.
- Put money in savings.
What made something a religiously done action for me? Things that I did in cycles of every day, week, or month, and things that I’ll only skip once in a row when I’m too tired or out of spoons.
What do these religiously done actions tell me about what I prioritize?
- Many of the things on my list feel like life or death and are key to my survival; they heal me and I am cared for by them (sobriety and therapy).
- My self care and functionality inform one another (supplements, sobriety, savings)
- I remember to do things that provide me with connection and commitment (goodnight kiss).
Doing my nails regularly may seem out of place on this list, but I know it fits because it’s one of the greatest ways I do self care. Beyond that, though, why don’t I commit to doing softer, self-loving actions religiously? Things which might not be as high stakes, but which matter very much to the quality of my life? For example, what would it take for me to get my cycle yoga on that list?
When I asked myself that question—what would it take for me to do new things religiously—I had a big realization: I would need to prioritize my self love and comfort. I take my meds and don’t drink for survival because I know they influence my quality of life—these are big deal actions and feel all in or all out for me. I’m accountable, too, to the people who love me and notice when I’m struggling or distant. The actions on my “Wow, I’d love to do these religiously” list are actions that are fueled by self preservation and self love; to do them, I would need to admit to my body, mind, and spirit: “I choose you now, I’m with you now, I prioritize myself.” My actions would benefit me greatly and would accrue amazing results, but no one else would know. I’d need to value myself enough to do them. I’d need to see self preservation and self love as rewards. I’d need to spend time, energy, and focus just on me.
Knowing that, I wrote a list of actions I’d like to do religiously. Those are:
- Drink a lot more water.
- Prayer, connecting to spirit.
- Getting enough sleep and having a regular wake time.
- Doing my morning routine (lemon water, morning pages, pull a tarot card, stretch).
- Move my body regularly, i.e., yoga.
Most of these actions don’t need to be rooted in certain times or places, although the habits researcher in me knows that’s how I’d do them most easily (read more about habit formation in my free how-to guide, linked at the bottom of this post). Habits are formed through cues, routines, and rewards—though the reward part is where I struggle. The reward is valuing myself.
So, what does it mean to do something religiously, then? The internet told me when I finally looked it up that religiously means done regularly, to be relied upon to do something. To me, it means doing an action with great intention, with awareness, with a pause, and with graciousness. After all this reflection, I think that what I want to do most religiously is act slowly from a place of self love, shifting with the needs of my days, and planning ahead to incorporate new actions into the way my days flow.
Using my guides above, formulate your own religious actions reflection and prompt…
Journal about what you already do religiously in your daily life. What are habits (of any kind) that you maintain with regularity and consistency?
What are some common themes among these actions? What motivates you to keep doing them?
Write a list of things you want to incorporate into your religiously kept routine. What is the reward for each of them? How might this motivate you to do these things more religiously?
Framing our habits this way helps to connect big picture values to the building blocks of our everyday choices. Doing something religiously means our actions can be relied upon no matter the circumstances, and my hope for you is that your habits will enable you to value yourself as you deserve to be valued.
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