Research Proves How Rituals Alter the Brain to Help Us Perform Better

Many people follow spiritual (or what many people call ‘weird’) rituals in order to increase their productivity in work, sports or any other field of their choice. Rituals are performed by almost everyone in this world because they carry a sense of importance and necessity. They can help in improving our attention span and concentration capacity. They are a part of our routine life and without them we feel incomplete.

Rituals are a good way to boost performance levels. Despite their obvious irrationality, rituals are now scientifically proven to help a person with their performance levels. A sportsman like Rafael Nadal also follows the ritual of his choice while playing. Rituals can be helpful in handling performance anxiety and failure.

A group of scientists performed and experiment at the University of Toronto to prove how rituals can be beneficial for human beings. Their hypothesis was to see how rituals help us perform better by controlling our anxiety and minimize the brain’s sensitivity to personal failure.

The research participants were given a ritual to be performed once a day for a week. This ritual was created in the laboratory with care and contained a set of ordered and repeated action sequences. When the week was finished, the participants came to the lab to be tested for their brain activity.

The participants completed two rounds of reaction-time tasks, one round before the ritual and another after the ritual. They would lose money if they failed to perform the given task but would earn more for each successful one. The brain’s response was noted when they made a failure because that is where performance anxiety comes in.

The scientists found that the brain showed reduced activation in response to personal failures when these participants completed the ritual and then performed the task. Rituals help the brain to overcome the anxiety associated with personal failures.

When we worry about the outcome of a certain event, we tend to think about the aspect of us failing. And obviously it can adversely affect our performance. This is why a ritual is necessary so that the brain is not fried with anxiety and stress. It helps in pushing the performer rather than worrying about the results.

We all create rituals in our daily life because we all need them on some level or the other. No matter what our performance role is – a manager, athlete, teacher, or even a parent – ritual is necessary for us in order to ensure that our brain responds to failure in a positive and adaptive way.

Here are a few ways in which you can create your own ritual:

1. You can start the day with a ritual. Done in the morning, they can prove to be really beneficial. Many successful entrepreneurs have wacky morning rituals. The confidence you gain will help you overcome difficulties throughout the day.

2. Ending the day with a ritual is another one. You can look back at the day’s events and reflect on everything said and done. For instance, you can practice a gratitude ritual/exercise where you express gratitude for everything in your life.

3. The ritual has to be your own. It can be anything as and when you desire. It just has to be meaningful for you.

Must-Read: How to develop “Zen Presence” – Simple Trick to stop your Mind from Wandering

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