The Latch

Unique Rituals, the Latest Way to Combat Loneliness

From eye colour to hair colour, height to weight, there’s a lot of similarities we share with other people. From music taste to clothing taste, from food preferences to personal rituals — there’s a lot that makes us unique from the person next to us.

The last thing on that list has another thing going for it — other than uniqueness. Turns out, and this is proven by science, that personal rituals around everyday tasks could keep you from feeling lonely.

The study was led by the University of California, Riverside. A professor of marketing at the university said, “We found that something as simple as preparing tea in a certain way, as long as it’s interpreted as a ritual, can make the experience more meaningful. This makes people feel less lonely.”

Rituals occur in numerous settings — celebratory, social and religious — and also have been adopted by marketers to facilitate relationships. Individual consumers may also create rituals.

Think of the classic Oreo ad we all remember growing up: “First you twist it, then you lick it, then you dunk it”…followed by the explanation that the accompanying dog can’t have the Oreo, “But you can have the rest of my milk.” People still eat their Oreos in this way, more than a decade or two on (guilty!). A classic way consumers have adopted rituals alongside consumption.

A finding from the study included the fact that participants who experienced the most chronic loneliness, habitually engaged in the most rituals around consumer products. What they also found? That after doing the action, the person felt like their life had more meaning.

What does this mean for the future? Marketing wise, that consumers may engage more strongly with brands who promote rituals around purchasing, or using, the products — because of this meaning, and sense of community. What else? That widespread loneliness could be reduced by promoting rituals – that don’t revolve around product options — to add meaning to lives devoid of meaning.

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