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Wind Down for a Better Wake Up

Still looking for a New Year’s resolution?
Here are some nighttime habits worth keeping.

 

You’re lying in bed. You’re ready for sleep. But your mind has a mind of its own.
Creating a healthy bedtime routine will allow you to naturally wind down so when you finally get in bed, your eyes will be heavy and your brain will be quieter, allowing you to wake up refreshed and recharged.
 

Set a regular bedtime
 

Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night. If you’re waking up at 6am, start winding down around 9pm.  Dim the lights, ditch the screens, lower the temperature.
 

Journal
 

Journaling is one of the best ways to quiet a busy mind. Take a minute to get those cluttering thoughts out of your mind and onto paper. Plan the next day. Here are some journaling thought starters, but the format is up to you.
 

Thought Starters
 

Make Tomorrow’s To-Do List
 

Label tasks hot, warm, or cool.

Hot – Immediate tasks that need to get done. Keep this to no more than 5.

Warm – Tasks that aren’t immediately pressing, but would be nice to get done.

Cool – Tasks that are on your mind, but don’t need to get done tomorrow.
 

Express Gratitude
 

Write down at least one thing that happened during the day that you’re grateful for.  Harvard released a study that links expressing daily gratitude to increased happiness.[1] If you do this every day, you can literally re-wire your brain to see more positive in your day than negative, which can have a profound impact on decreasing the amount of stress you take to bed with you.
 

Read
 

Feed your mind a good book. Educate yourself on a topic of personal interest, or escape reality in a novel. Personal development isn’t limited to non-fiction books, either. A study by the University of Toronto found that adults who regularly read fiction develop greater creativity and less rigid thinking.[2]
 

RECOMMENDED READING: Breaking habits can be hard.  MIT reporter Anne Trafton explains, “habits are behaviours wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. This allows you to follow the same route to work every day without thinking about it, liberating your brain to ponder other things, such as what to make for dinner.”[3] If your night time habit of “winding down” watching sports highlights is so deeply engrained in your brain, you may need to re-train your brain to form new, healthier habits. A great book to help you understand and change your habits is The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg.
 

Meditate
 

Sometimes the biggest barrier to a good night’s sleep is a busy mind. We’re perpetually wired to a 24/7/365 world; it can be difficult to separate ourselves for the peace and quiet we need to recharge. Practicing mindfulness through meditation is a proven way to improve sleep and holistic wellbeing.
 

A Harvard study compared sleep improvements between two groups over 6 weeks. One group was given basic sleep education, and the other group was given sleep and mindfulness coaching. The group that received mindfulness coaching had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the 6 weeks.[4]
Add mindfulness to your bedtime routine to help clear your mind for sleep. This is something you can do in bed before drifting off.
 

Approaches to Mindfulness
 

  • Find focus. Focus on a soothing sound or thought. Repeat a positive affirmation, short prayer or mantra (“inhale the good; exhale the bad”), or a positive word (“peaceful”). Focus on the sound of your breathing or an “om” sound. Take deep, purposeful breaths.
  • Let go. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your mind wanders. Gently guide it back. Seek progress, not perfection.
  • Be present. Scan your body starting with your toes and moving upward to your head. Move from one body part to another. Focus on what you feel on that part – the pressure of the mattress, the temperature, a breeze. Feel your body slowly getting heavier. Feel the life flowing within.
  • Have a guide. There are many wonderful meditation guides available for free online. To keep devices out of your room, look for one you can download onto an iPod or MP3 player


[1] http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2342635/Readers-literary-fiction-better-thinkers-according-new-research.html
[3] http://news.mit.edu/2012/understanding-how-brains-control-our-habits-1029
[4] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726

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