This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What are Robin Sharma’s ten health and happiness rituals from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? How can these daily rituals help you improve your life?
Rituals exist in everything from grand religious ceremonies to daily life—for example, knocking on wood to ward off bad luck is a type of ritual. Studies suggest that rituals are so common because they work. Rituals give you a feeling of power and control—in this case, power over yourself and control over your life.
Continue reading for Robin Sharma’s ten daily rituals.
Ten Rituals for Health and Happiness
Sharma argues that these ten simple health and happiness rituals can help ensure that you’re constantly improving yourself. The rituals can take as little as an hour each day to complete, but they must be performed every single day. Furthermore, these rituals work best if you practice each one at the same time every day.
The First Ritual: Taking Personal Time
Take 15-50 minutes every day to simply sit alone, in silence. Do this someplace that you find beautiful, because beauty soothes the mind. The space can be as simple as a spare room, or even a corner of a room that you decorate to your liking.
(Shortform note: Psychotherapist Amy Morin describes several benefits of spending time alone. These benefits include increased empathy, creativity, and productivity.)
The Second Ritual: Exercising
Mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked—if you feel unhealthy and lethargic, or if you’re in pain, it’ll be hard for you to muster the energy and concentration for kaizen. Therefore, you should seek to improve your body as well as your mind.
Exercising for five hours per week is enough to start practicing this ritual. Make sure to pick an activity that you enjoy—you’re more likely to stick to your rituals if you have fun with them.
|This article from Dispatch Health describes the link between mental and physical health in more detail. For example, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can seriously harm your physical health, both because they put a lot of strain on your body and because they make it harder to take proper care of yourself. Conversely, regular exercise can help reduce the symptoms of those conditions.
The Third Ritual: Eating Healthy Meals
To strengthen your body and restore your energy, eat a diet of “live foods.” In other words: fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Avoid meat and processed foods—you don’t have to give them up entirely, but try making such things occasional treats instead of the centerpiece of every meal.
|Studies show that heavily processed foods like cookies, frozen dinners, and premade sauces carry a number of health risks. Such things tend to be loaded with extra salt, fat, and sugar, while their natural nutrients get lost in the processing. The result is highly fattening food that we digest too quickly, leaving us hungry for more. Furthermore, some studies have shown that heavily processed foods increase the risk of cancer. To clarify: These concerns don’t apply to things like bagged salad or canned vegetables (although those are technically “processed”). When in doubt, check the ingredients—a long list of additives could be a red flag.
The Fourth Ritual: Reading
Read for 30 minutes every day. Choose what you read carefully—remember to only let the right thoughts into the garden of your mind. Historical novels, inspirational biographies, and educational books about topics that interest you are all excellent choices.
Furthermore, don’t just read the books; study them. Think deeply about what you’re reading and how it applies to you.
|In How to Read a Book, Mortimer J. Adler discusses how to increase your reading comprehension and retention by asking yourself four key questions while you read: What is the main idea of this book? What is the author giving the most details about (in other words, what topics does the author think are most important)? Is what’s written in this book true? Why is this book important?
The Fifth Ritual: Reflecting on Your Day
Take some time every evening to think about your day. Consider your thoughts and actions, and whether they were productive or harmful.
At first, it may be hard to remember your thoughts from the day, but with practice you’ll find that your memory gets clearer. You might also find it helpful to keep a journal of the significant events that happen each day.
This ritual will quickly and clearly show you what you’re already doing well, and which areas of your life need improvement.
|Sharma suggests keeping a journal to help remember what you did each day. As it turns out, journaling may have more benefits than just as a memory aid. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that journaling is often an important part of trauma therapy: It helps patients come to terms with their experiences, and manage their responses to those experiences. More recently, researchers have noticed that keeping a journal of your feelings can improve your health as well. The current hypothesis is that journaling relieves emotional stress, which boosts your physical health—remember the connection between mental health and physical health, which we discussed in the Second Ritual.
The Sixth Ritual: Getting an Early Start
Get up each day at dawn, or at least earlier than you’re used to. Most people sleep more than they need to, and can function perfectly well on six hours of sleep a night.
(Shortform note: Most modern research suggests that adults should get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep per night, depending on personal needs. To learn more about this research, read our summary of Why We Sleep.)
After rising early, use the extra time for something that will put you into a positive, constructive mind frame. For example, try going for a walk in nature, watching the sunrise, listening to your favorite music, or meditating on the good things in your life.
|If you tend to go to bed late and wake up late, then shifting your schedule to rise with the sun like Sharma suggests may seem difficult. A New York Times article titled A (Former) Night Owl’s Guide to Becoming a Morning Person offers some suggestions for how you can get to bed earlier, and feel more awake in the morning. A couple of examples are: Start to relax 1-2 hours before bed. Avoid heavy meals, exercise, and TV or computer screens during this time. Give yourself something to look forward to in the morning. This could be something as simple as spending some time listening to music, or making a nice breakfast; just make sure that you’ve got a reason to get out of bed. This ritual is an abbreviated version of what Sharma writes about in an earlier book of his, The 5AM Club.
The Seventh Ritual: Listening to Music
Spend some time every day listening to music that you enjoy, even if it’s just in the car on the way to work. Also, try using music to rest and recover when you’re feeling drained.
(Shortform note: Music isn’t just enjoyable—studies have shown that listening to music has mental, emotional, and even physical benefits. It relieves stress, improves your mood, and boosts your concentration.)
The Eighth Ritual: Reciting Mantras
Find a mantra or two that is meaningful to you. A mantra is a simple phrase that can be repeated a great number of times. Doing so focuses your mind and influences your self-image based on that phrase.
For example, to motivate himself, Julian might say that he is inspired, excited, and disciplined. He’d repeat this mantra out loud 200-300 times—but, if you don’t want to speak it aloud, written mantras are just as effective.
|A group of doctors in Ireland performed a systematic review of studies that claimed to show the effectiveness of mantras and meditation. They concluded that mantras may offer “minimal to moderate” mental health benefits. However, the doctors also noted that most of the studies they reviewed were of low quality. Therefore, while the evidence does seem to indicate that mantras are an effective way to focus your mind and improve your mental health, the scientific community still considers those conclusions to be dubious.
The Ninth Ritual: Reflecting on Yourself
Take some time every day to meditate on the following values:
Try to ensure that every action you take is congruent with—which is to say, in agreement with—at least one of these virtues.
|If you find it difficult to meditate on vague concepts like Compassion or Humility, it might help to instead meditate on people whom you admire, and try to make your character congruent with their characters instead. One Twitter user offers a humorous—but effective—example of how to use that strategy, which he calls the Two Rogers Rule. He thinks about Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America) and Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood), and he doesn’t do anything unless at least one of them would approve of it.Can you think of people who embody each of the values in this ritual, the way the Rogerses embody healthy masculinity for this user? How might you emulate those people?
The Tenth Ritual: Living Simply
Focus on living a simple, uncluttered life. Find your goals and your priorities and work toward them, without wasting energy on unimportant things.
|Many different practices encourage you to live a minimalist life; to devote your attention to your health and your goals, rather than to material goods. When you find the same lesson in so many different schools of thought, you know that a lot of different kinds of people thought that it was important. Here are just a few quotes from different spiritual traditions:
From the Bible (NIV), 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…”
From the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet: “We have a largely materialistic lifestyle characterized by a materialistic culture. However, this only provides us with temporary, sensory satisfaction, whereas long-term satisfaction is based not on the senses but on the mind. That’s where real tranquility is to be found.”
From the Tao Te Ching: “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, put others first, desire little.”
In Minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus discuss how they found happiness by rejecting consumerism and embracing simplicity and self-reflection instead. Their new minimalist lifestyle focused on five values: Good health, their relationships with others, pursuing their passions (Sharma would say their purpose, or their dharma), constant personal growth (what Sharma calls kaizen), helping others (this is also one of Sharma’s key values: remember the roses metaphor).
Practice Kaizen in Moderation
Sharma says you don’t have to start all 10 health and happiness rituals right away. Moderation is key in all things, and that includes kaizen; if you overwhelm yourself with too many changes all at once, you’re more likely to give up.
|The Ten Rituals for Health and Happiness might seem like a lot to take in all at once, and practicing them all may seem impossible. This is an excellent time to consider what might work for you, specifically. Adopting just one or two of these rituals would be a great start, and you can always add others to your routine later on. If you find your chosen rituals helpful, then keep practicing them; if not, you’re free to stop at any time.Finally, you might find that you already practice some of these rituals. For example, reading and exercising are common hobbies, so you might have been performing the ritual of reading or the ritual of exercising without even realizing it.
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- Why your career success might actually be killing you
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