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The Science of Rituals & How They Can Transform Our Health, Happiness and Relationships with Professor Michael Norton

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  May 15, 2024

Have you ever thought about the role that rituals play in our health and wellbeing? Whether it’s a morning routine, a pre-game warmup, or a cultural tradition, rituals can provide us with structure, meaning, and connection.

Today’s guest is Professor Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the brand new book, The Ritual Effect: The Transformative Power of Our Everyday Actions, which delves into the science and psychology behind, why turning everyday habits into rituals can improve our work, our relationships and our lives.

In this conversation, Michael and I explore the fascinating world of rituals and how they impact on our mental and physical health. We discuss the distinction between rituals and routines, why they can be really helpful in making our habits stick over the long term and how, by providing order and structure, they can help us manage overwhelm and stress.

We also explore how rituals foster community and connection, how elite athletes like Serena Williams use rituals to enhance performance and mental preparation, and how team rituals, like the New Zealand rugby team’s iconic Hakka, are a great example of how ritual behaviours boost togetherness and collective identity. 

Michael and I also share some of our own personal rituals  – including the preparation rituals I go through each week to prepare for this podcast. And, we also acknowledge that rituals can become problematic if taken to an extreme and the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with them, using them as tools for self-improvement rather than allowing them to be in control of us.

Ultimately, this is a conversation that offers a compelling case for the power of rituals in enhancing our health and happiness. Whether you’re an athlete striving for peak performance, or simply someone looking to live a more fulfilled life, I think you’ll find that understanding the “ritual effect” can be truly transformative.

Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.*

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Watch the video version of the conversation here:

Connect with Professor Norton:

Website     Twitter

Professor Norton’s book:

The Ritual Effect: The Transformative Power of Our Everyday Actions by Harvard Professor Michael Norton

Related Feel Better Live More Episodes:

#136 Arianna Huffington: Microsteps and Rituals to Help You Thrive

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*DISCLAIMER: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

†Disclosure: All books marked with a † are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We take part in Amazon’s affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon’s website. You are not charged any extra by using these links to purchase books.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP