Positive Rituals Enhance Your Well-Being

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by Darrin Tulley, Founder and Chief of Possibilities at Ignite Happy

Are you looking for a simple way to enhance your well-being and feel more connected? Life generally reflects where you focus your attention. It is possible to lift yourself up or change patterns in your life by taking intentional steps.   

For real, sustained change to happen, we need to consciously take control of our brains and retool our mindset through our actions and experiences. Share on X

A behavioral shift is what we need: one that we can repeat to change our mindset to embrace more conscious living. Like gravity, a habit is something we generally cannot see or feel—like inertia; we need to do something intentional to move through it with meaningful rituals.

I recently bought a used Jeep to drive around town. The salesperson said to watch out for the “Jeep Wave” at the dealership. I said, “What are you talking about?” I had never heard of that before and didn’t know it was a thing. He shared that Jeep owners tend to wave to other Jeep drivers on the road to say hello. As an extrovert, I felt excited about this new experience to look out for.

I started to drive the jeep and noticed other drivers waving. At first, I was usually too late with my returning wave. I felt like I let the other person down and wanted to improve. Then I started to make a point to take better notice of the oncoming vehicles on the road. After a few weeks, I barely noticed the other non-jeep cars on the road. The Jeeps started to pop out in my view down the road to help me prepare for my happy wave.

One morning I was driving my kids to school and was doing a masterful job waving to all the other Jeeps. I noticed the other drivers weren’t waving back and wondered if I was not doing something right. I voiced my doubt out loud, and my daughter chuckled and said, “Dad, you aren’t in the Jeep.”

Insert the red-faced, embarrassing emoji symbol here. See how easy it was to get caught up in a habit. Many habits can form within a month and even more quickly, depending on the repetition. Since I am on the road daily, developing this new “Jeep Wave” habit took me only a few weeks.

Like any pattern or formed behavior, we must keep our eyes open to ensure that it creates the desired outcomes. It needs to be a conscious decision and commitment. Keeping the positive associations from this act alive is essential. I realized that many habits tend to become subconscious without much feeling. I needed to transition these habits into a positive ritual to feel the benefits.

Jan Stanley, Faculty Member in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania often speaks about the benefits of establishing modern rituals. She talks about how these practices help us connect with something larger than ourselves and give us a feeling of control. It is an internal guide where we can extract greater meaning about our lives and live more deeply and intentionally.

As my positive ritual began to take hold, I noticed that nearly 100% of Jeep owners waved back. It fired me up and gave me a positive feeling of being seen and noticed. It has become a constant reminder that I am part of a broader community, and connecting with other humans feels special. When positive associations accompany our actions, we tend to repeat or want to do it again. It gives me a dose of dopamine that triggers a jolt of happiness and keeps me aligned with my greater purpose to ignite happy humans and organizations worldwide.

It reminds me of playing “Sweet or Sour” with my kids about seven years ago. The game kept us active on road trips. The kids would wave to other car drivers, regardless of vehicle type. When they would wave, >80% of the time, the driver would wave back with a supportive smile. My kids would yell out, “SWEET!” If drivers didn’t wave, they would growl with, “SOUR.” We would do this for hours, and I can promise you that if the %’s were reversed, the negative associations would have stopped the game. Seeing people light up and smile encouraged the kids to continue.

The funny thing is that when it was my turn to get people to wave in this game, very few would wave back at me as an adult. This behavior in other humans stopped me from participating in this game because it felt bad. It makes me think of the limitations we put on ourselves based on our surroundings.  

We must break the daily cycle and routines to take notice and connect more purposefully with the world around us. We are subconsciously wired to react in specific ways based on our programming over the years. Therefore, we can reprogram or create new behaviors. You can change if you want to change.

My purpose in sharing these stories is to motivate you to create and rewire new habits into positive rituals. I believe we all can do this when we put our minds and heart into action. Once you do, you will want to keep reaping the rewards as the “Jeep Wave” does for me. It can set you on your path to experience positive outcomes with some of our innate human needs and become part of your daily practice. To get you started with creating a positive ritual, try one of the examples from my book for 30-days in a row:

  • I want to be more appreciative of what is in my life. Stop to share when you feel appreciation for every act that you are thankful for. The more, the merrier, so allow even the smallest actions to make this list. Share your gratitude directly with the people performing these acts as often and with as many people as possible. Over a few weeks, capture what trends you notice, what reactions you get back in return, and what feelings surface for you during this practice.
  • I want to see more people smiling around me. Be the reason someone smiles today. Perform a genuine act of kindness each day. Please take notice of the joy in others as you light them up and how you feel as a result too. Document as you go, share outcomes, and reflect on how you feel at the end of the challenge.
  • I want to have more love in my life. Openly share with people you interact with daily that you love them, value them, are grateful for them, and trust each of them. Dare to share at work, in the community, and with family.

Once you commit to experimenting, feel good about holding the commitment to yourself for 30 days and how inspired you will be to do it again. Use the ideas above, make up your own, or dive into Live Your Possible for more inspirational practice actions to consider making your next ritual. The possibilities are endless. To help you practice and keep up the momentum to complete the 30-day challenge, consider a few things:

  • Pick something you want to change that is rewarding and connected to what brings you joy, human love, or a positive feeling (the goal is to turn up the dimmer switch of light in your day and connect with more good than not).
  • Commit to yourself to practice this daily and to do your best with compassion to not give up over at least 30 days (building a daily practice where you trust yourself to follow through and realize the benefits that will give this a chance for this ritual to take hold)
  • Partner with someone to encourage each other to keep up the action with positive engagement through daily chats or texts (daily sharing of findings, feelings, and connections that fortifies the experiences)

Let’s be where we are and stop waiting for another day to make the life-changing shifts in you that are within reach. Identify areas of change you seek and go beyond accepting the self-rationalizing words from stopping you. Ultimately, view change as not turning into someone else yet simply reconnecting with your happy, authentic self. It becomes much easier to be the true you and to live your possible.

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