Social rituals help us to share both our joys and sorrows and build bonds of togetherness. In these Covid times, online rituals have taken their place, which don’t seem to be the real thing.  Till we go back to the world of real social rituals, Nona Walia suggests some new personal rituals

During these Covid times, social rituals are at a standstill. People are craving the intimacy of social rituals ― spiritual meetings, religious ceremonies, family dinners, weddings, engagements and birthdays. These social rituals helped us get together as well as get over grief and losses, and created a sense of shared emotion, connection, and intimacy. Personally, I miss my routine social ritual of meeting friends and sharing my life over a cup of coffee. Or attending a family wedding and the fun it brings, or just being at the Gurdwara.

According to social psychologist Shira Gabriel, social rituals create emotional experiences and give us a feeling of togetherness. According to Scientific American, rituals take an extraordinary array of shapes and forms. At times performed in communal or religious settings, sometimes performed in solitude; at times involving fixed, repeated sequences of actions. People engage in rituals  to achieve a wide set of desired outcomes, from reducing their anxiety to boosting their confidence, alleviating their grief to performing well in a competition ― or even making it rain!

Nona Walia

Zoom conversations have now taken the place of real rituals. But these conversations are already getting on one’s nerves. In the extended lockdown, there’s been a clutter of online podcasts and webinars, even online condolence meetings.  But online rituals cannot replace the real world intimacy of conversations and real-time social rituals. The collective energy and stimulation of social rituals is intense and powerful. Shared social rituals help us through life transformations and upheavals. The loss of social rituals can throw us into a loneliness trap.

In times of social distancing, we realise what we need is social intimacy and connectedness. The virtual cannot replace the real-time laughter and exchange. Mike Norton, Professor at Harvard Business School and an expert in social rituals believes, “The utility of the ritual isn’t related to its practicality. Absurd rituals can have high utility. If it helps you create that sense of control, if it calms your anxiety, that’s what matters. Think of performers who do strange rituals before performing.”

We are also witnessing the rise of some silly rituals that would have been laughable in a normal world. The loss of many of our public rituals, including things as simple as meeting a friend for coffee or a drink, has led people to naturally look for new ones just as a coping mechanism. The world is mourning the loss of real-time social rituals, which had great power to uplift the spells of darkness.

Our daily life was a collection of social rituals. It made sufferings more tolerable and less painful. When you celebrate with others, you hear stories and empathize and forget your own darkness. The fact is, everyone needs to talk about what they are experiencing ― the good and bad. It’s essential to talk about real joys and losses.

Till we go back to the world of social rituals, try making some new personal rituals. Create your tea-room sessions online: Create online rituals. Share something symbolic ― a cup of tea or wine. Or light a candle in darkness. Symobolism has great healing power.

Create emotional togetherness: Shared moments like reading poetry, sharing recipes, moments of silence, or anything that resonates emotionally.

Appreciate people more: Create rituals of appreciation of people you see in your neighbourhood. Show them a gesture of your affection.

Nona Walia is a Lifestyle Journalist and Wellness Blogger. She runs her Wellness Channel on YouTube. Click on the link below