Why Rituals Work!

Why Rituals Work!

Rituals serve a psychological function in our lives. Whether it’s a ritual that we take in when we are in grief, in celebration, in worship or starting the day it serves the human mind.

Why do rituals work you ask? 

They help us move forward by breaking up a pattern. The human mind can get stuck. We are creatures of habit. We like what we like and don’t want to deviate to far from the familiar. If it hurts us we run but we may find ourselves returning to the scene of the crime because we associate with the familiar better than the unknown.

Oh yes, there are a few brave souls who will venture out beyond and push themselves forward. They become our role models  and leaders but even they will tell you that in many areas of their lives they get stuck. They can’t push themselves to let go of a particular habit, thought or change a particular behavior. 

It’s our nature to survive and survival may mean clinging to the branch that holding you up, even when it’s pouring rain or threatening to snap. We are ALL hardwired, biologically to survive.

Therefore, rituals are needed.

  • They help reprogram the mind to release.  
  • They break up a stagnant thought process.
  • Rituals disturb an energy pattern. 
  • They remind the mind and body, to refocus and start over.

When you include other stimuli like music, candles, scents, people, laughter or food it awakens the Subconscious and the desired outcome seeps down into it. Your Subconscious’ job is to keep you safe and alive. It “looks out” for you. Stirring it awake with a focused ritual puts your Subconscious on standby to create your desires.


   Tonya said, “When my 5 year relationship ended I was devastated. I knew this was the one and it turned out not to be. Now here I was 5yrs older and having to start over. I was depressed and still grieving 6months later. My girlfriends came to my house and dragged me off my couch. They had printed some of my favorites pictures of me and Lance. We looked them over, laughed and cried. Then they gave me some scissors and made me cut him out of all the pictures, expressing all of my anger and sadness as i did such. Next they gave me a lighter; we went to the kitchen sink as I set the pictures on fire and watched them burn I said goodbye with gratitude for the good and the bad lessons.  Finally, we opened a bottle of champagne and talked about my future. It was so relieving and I quickly moved passed my depression and back into life!”


Tonya’s friends helped move her beyond her grief, something she wanted to do but wasn’t able to. The activities of cutting and burning the pictures all signaled her Subconscious to let go. A bottle of champagne symbolizes celebration and having Tonya talk about her future projected her forward.


John says, “Whenever I play the lottery, I don’t know, there’s something about my need to tap the card 3 times when I receive them and again before I scratched them off. Each card has to be tapped exactly three times.”

By tapping the cards John is waking his Subconscious and telling it that he wants to win. Will he win? Well that’s beyond his control but he has a network of nerves in his brain that’s  called the Reticular Activating System. This gives him (and all humans) a filter that willows out unnecessary information so that we can spot the thing that we believe. He believes that one day he’s going to “hit it big” this part of his brain will help him spot that opportunity when it arrives. Ironically, John has hit it big many times. 

Kathy says, “Every morning as I go to work I MUST stop and get my special brewed coffee. While driving to work drinking my coffee and I think positive thoughts about my day. If either one of those things do not happen my day is not going to go well.”  

     Kathy’s “morning routine” goes beyond a routine. It is now a ritual. See the difference between a ritual and a routine below.  


Curtis Martin of the New York Jets reads Psalm 91 before every game to calm his nerves.

Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game to keep him focused.

A Christian friend said, “On the 1st Sunday of the month our church has wafers and grape juice and silent prayer as a way of remembering what Christ did for us.”

These last three examples may look like a “routine” but they are examples of rituals. “So what’s the difference between a ritual and a routine?” you may be asking. Glad you asked!


  A routine is an action done without much thought. You do it because it is required, expected or it needs to be done. Routines can be powerful because they automate behavior and minimize the thinking energy needed for a task.
The challenge with that is your routine can become a problem when you continue in the thoughtless behavior and have developed a bad habit. Even worse, you may be become lazy and discover that your routine has put you in a rut.

A ritual, on the other hand, is done with intention and focus. You have a desired outcome each time. 

The last three examples are behaviors with focused intention; a ritual. Performing the behavior with an intention awakens and calls your Subconscious to help you accomplish that intention. It registers on a deeper psychological  level.

So cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day, or going to church can all be done as a mindless routine/habit; or can be turned into a ritual with a specific intention. The focused intention is more powerful and has a bigger impact on you consciously.

Click here for the post about Different Types of Rituals. 

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