Gretchen Rubin

Routines, rituals, and traditions — important to happiness.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about routines, rituals, and traditions.

Studies show that routines, rituals, and traditions are good for people’s physical and mental well-being. They help make life seem predictable, under control, and meaningful, and they provide family cohesiveness and predictability, which people—especially children—crave. In families with strong rituals, couples reported having happier marriages, and kids had more contact with grandparents. Children in families with predictable routines did better in school and were healthier.

I see the importance of dependable routine. At bedtime, the Big Girl knows that her father will read to her for thirty minutes, and then I’ll lie down with her for ten minutes after her light is out. Because she knows what to expect, she can look forward to it. And this routine means that the Big Man and I each have a special time with her each night.

We need more family traditions. Cinnamon toast for Sunday brunch? Breakfast in bed for Father’s Day? We need a good Fourth of July tradition – that’s a terrific holiday, and we don't do anything special. July 4 is my mother's birthday, so we always had a great celebration when I was growing up, but for the last several years, for one reason or another, she hasn't been with us on her birthday. I want to come up with a plan -- one involving lots of sparklers.

I still cringe when I remember that two years ago, I forgot to buy a Halloween pumpkin. We had decorations, costumes, and trick-or-treating—but no pumpkin! That’s Mommy Malpractice. Never again.

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My friend Marci Alboher has a great new book that has just hit the bookstores -- One Person/Multiple Careers. It's about how people manage multiple careers -- lots of fascinating examples, plus great advice about how to manage a dual existence. She talks about "the slash model" -- I'm a lawyer/writer, for example -- which of course is becoming more and more common these days. She also has a blog Hey Marci where she talks about these issues plus much more.

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