Mindful Wellness Practices for a Restful Sleep
I often talk about living harmoniously with the planet, but today I'd like to talk about mindful practices for living harmoniously with ourselves.
On nights when I can't sleep, it's almost always because my mind is racing. Not necessarily because I'm thinking negative thoughts - which does happen, I'm sure we've all experienced restless nights where we're haunted by uncalled-for, intrusive thoughts - I could be buzzing about what I'm going to do tomorrow, what I did today, a book I'm reading, people, or anything that my brain decides to fixate on. Lately I've been a lot busier than usual, which is an amazing thing; however, it can sometimes be hard for me to stop thinking about my tasks and come back into my own body at the end of the day, which keeps me from falling asleep.
And, without a good night's rest, I'm an absolute disaster the next day. I can't focus at work, I don't want to move, I don't absorb information, and have a tendency to get snappy with my loved ones. I am a firm believer in the overall benefits of nurturing your mind, body, and spirit connection; these aspects are a collective force that make up your Self. When one of these remains neglected or in disarray, the others start to lose their balance. In my personal experience, taking care of my body and getting enough physical rest improves my overall quality of life and capability; so, I've dedicated some time to finding strategies that help me wind down for the night, and stop my mind from running around while I'm trying to sleep. These are just a few things that work for me, they may not be the answer for you; it's important to explore your own mindfulness practice, as it is an extremely personal experience. However, if you don't know where to start and are looking for a few ideas to try, keep reading and I'll share some of my mindful practices for a restful sleep. These are things that I do before or while I'm getting ready for bed, on nights where my mind is busy mind-ing.
Put your phone down before bed
It's 11:00pm; nobody at this hour is expecting you to respond to your messages. Your friend, your boss, your teacher, your mom -there is no pressing matter that needs your attention before the morning. Tell your loved ones to call you at night if it's an emergency and they need to reach you. I am very guilty of "doom-scrolling" (scrolling through Instagram content for an hour late at night with no function or purpose), as well as impulsively checking my phone messages even though I know nobody is talking to me; It's just my brain looking for an excuse to lean into my phone. Filling your brain with random information before bed is an almost-guaranteed way to keep you awake; you're literally forcing your mind to engage with the outside world when it should be resting. Before you start getting ready for bed, plug your phone in to charge - somewhere out of reach from your bed - and leave it there. If you need music or white noise to help you fall asleep, go ahead and play it, but your phone doesn't have to be right next to your head in order to do that. Put the world aside, this is your time to take care of you.
Cleanse the energy in your sleeping space
Smudge if you want to, I like to burn mugwort or lavender before I sleep on occasion. However, there are other ways to simply improve the energy in your bedroom before you sleep; I've always found that way I feel in my physical environment effects my ability to rest. If my mind is running, cleansing my environment helps me to clear my head. A cluttered space reflects a cluttered mind, or whatever they say; in the same way, clearing your space allows you to clear your mind. NOTE: If you like to burn candles or incense to help you relax, make sure they're out before you fall asleep.
Physically clean up a bit: If you have clothes, papers, or any other clutter on top of your bed, move it off. Put them in your hamper or anywhere else out of sight. I'm not telling you to clean your room, just get the clutter out of your way. Anything that doesn't belong in your sleeping space (dishes on your desk, shoes tossed on the floor), get it out.
Open your windows: let the stale air out, let some fresh air in.
Herbal sprays: If you can't (or don't want to) burn herbs or incense, using a spray is another way to utilize herbs to shape the energy in your space.
If your bed isn't made, make your bed: "but Nina, I'm about to get in bed, I'm just going to mess it up, there's no point" - no, incorrect, there is a point. You deserve to slide into a freshly-made bed with nicely-tucked sheets. It feels amazing, and you know it. Do it.
Don't skimp on your nightly personal care
Performing my nightly toilette is a signal for my brain that bedtime is coming. Slow it down, take your time, and really pay attention to what you need. Did you get all the mascara off of your lashes? How does your skin feel, has it been a while since you treated yourself to a mask? Maybe an extra-steamy shower would help to melt away the tension. Enjoy taking care of yourself, nobody needs anything from you right now, pay attention to you.
Have something warm to drink
Drinking something warm is very comforting; sometimes I'll feel a little tired immediately after drinking my morning coffee, because the action of drinking something hot can be very soothing to the body, and therefore the mind. Make yourself a steamy cup of herbal tea, nothing with caffeine, and preferably something with chamomile in it; there's absolutely nothing like chamomile to help you drift off to sleep. If you'd like a recipe for your own loose-leaf chamomile and lavender tea, visit my Restful Recipe post. Sit somewhere comfy, maybe play a little music, and settle in with your tea.
I'm no expert in meditation, that's for sure, and I'm not amazing at it. However, meditation is a wonderful way give your mind some room to breathe, and bring you back to Earth. I know everybody talks about Headspace - but - Headspace (an app that helps you learn how to meditate) does a really great job of grounding you back into your body. If you're a subscriber of the Alomoves app, a few of their instructors provide guided meditations and mindfulness practices, as well as yoga flows to help you sleep, and yoga nidra. I typically need some help getting into it, so having someone to talk me through it makes a big difference, especially when I've got a lot on my mind.
Cast those thoughts to the wind
Get yourself a piece of paper and a pen. I want you to write down a list of all the things that are running through your head; it could be a hundred things, it could be one thing. Whether it's an exciting thing or something you're worried about, it has no business keeping you from resting during your sacred me-time. Take your list and burn it, or flush it down the toilet. As it disappears from your sight, breathe those thoughts out of your body; release them, and watch them disappear into the night.
I find this exercise a little more effective than "counting sheep." Once you're in bed, get in the coziest position possible, and bring your focus back to your own breath. Take a few slow breaths, and notice how your body relaxes with each exhale. Allow your breathing to return to its natural pattern, and bring your attention to the body. Starting with your forehead and making your way all the way down to your toes, check in with each part of your body - your face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, etc. - scan each one of them, notice how they feel. Release any tension, and move on to the next part of you. Typically, I fall asleep by the time I get to my fingers.
When your mind is spinning, turn your focus inward, and put that energy towards what you need right now. Remove the world, remove the clutter (literal and metaphorical), and let your thoughts come back to you. These may seem like simple tasks, however, they make a big difference when it comes to re-grounding your brain.
What are some things you like to do to wind down at night? Let's talk about it in the comments! Oh, and I hope you're having a wonderful day.