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My opinion is that everyone needs a ritual. For example: Every morning while I’m cooking oatmeal (my summer recipe is forthcoming) I play music a lot louder than I probably should for 8:00AM. I eat it cross-legged in front of the mirror where I do my makeup. Then I get dressed and go to work. If these steps are skipped or mixed up or rushed, I find it hard to focus that day; I get writer’s block; I eat too many snacks. It’s not just me—I read once that habits are vital to human capabilities in everyday life. They become automations that as a result clear space in the brain for everything else. Makes sense that a lot of the people reading this website feel like they can’t get anything done if they haven’t double cleansed, toned, masked, applied serum and moisturizer and brushed their teeth first. Functionality is not the only reason for rituals though. Some are just too damn pleasant to skip.

A recent step I’ve added to my routine is one of those. When I’m at home—say I’m folding laundry or cleaning—and I want to get in a good mood I burn Nag Champa, the classic incense fragrance. A Satya Sai Baba box from Whole Foods costs around $12 and lasts me a while, but it smells better than anything and does have a strong positive effect on my mood. The process itself feels therapeutic, and every time it’s burning I have this moment of elation—like, I feel really good. It’s even better with music. My ITG editorial teammates have been burning it too (can always count on Tom for a good Whole Foods buy) and all of us agree: Nag Champa is the best.

—Anna Stevenett

Photographed by the author.

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