There are many different ways to tackle sleeping problems. However, more often than not we neglect the most important piece of the puzzle: the mind! That’s where mindfulness comes in.
Incorporating mindfulness means immersing yourself in the present moment – to set your awareness completely on what you’re experiencing right now. A second part of being mindful is to suspend your judgments and, in a way, step back and observe without being overly reactionary.
How can mindfulness help you sleep?
- Lowers stress and anxiety
- Reduces ruminating thoughts
- Relieves muscle tension
- Improves your mood
Here are six ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life and get the best sleep of your life!
During mindfulness meditation, your one task is simply to exist in the present moment. The goal is not to quiet the mind, but rather to pause your reactions to its activities. You should fully assume the role of the observer: as thoughts come to you, recognize them and allow them to pass without assigning value and without judgment. If your mind begins to wander, take note and steer yourself back on track.
When you first begin a mindfulness meditation practice it’s best to keep your sessions on the shorter side – about five minutes or so. This is long enough to allow yourself to settle into the proper mind frame, without being too long that you become prone to agitation. As you continue your practice, start extending your sessions to 10 minutes, then 15 and onward.
Turning your focus to your breath is a great way to relax and quiet the mind for sleep. By breathing mindfully, with full awareness, you’re better able to fully experience the nourishing aspect of breath. Immerse yourself in the experience of how you can control your body (lowering your heart rate and blood pressure) and even influence your state of mind through your breath.
Begin by breathing normally and observing how you feel. How active is your mind? How is your heart beating? Then start to take deep, purposeful breaths in and out through the nose, making sure to inhale and exhale completely at a slow, steady pace. Focus all of your attention on this process and observe the changes taking place within yourself.
3. Mindful Breaks
You don’t need to meditate in order to practice mindfulness. In fact, learning how to be mindful in other settings will help you integrate what you learn in your meditation practices into your daily life, eventually reshaping your perspective.
Simply choose any calming, quiet activity that you actually enjoy, and carry it out with mindful intent. For example, take a walk outside for 10-15 minutes. Take meaningful steps while observing how your body feels. Take note of how your weight shifts from one point to another. Take in the various sights, sounds and smells that surround you, careful not to ascribe any value judgments to them; simply observe your environment.
You may also incorporate deep breathing into your mindful break for added benefit.
4. Body Scan
Much like breathing exercises, body scan, also known as progressive relaxation, is a great form of mindfulness to practice before bed. In fact, we recommend performing a body scan after tucking yourself in at night.
Begin by lying on your back with your shoulders relaxed away from the ears, palms facing upwards and legs are hip distance apart. Starting at your toes, focus your entire awareness on each part of your body and observe how it feels.
Do not judge or try to define these sensations, and don’t will them to change. There is no need to do anything beyond observing. As you make your way up your body, giving each part your undivided attention for a few moments, you’ll find that your muscles start to relax and your mind becomes still.
5. Mindful Eating
How you nourish your body (especially in the evening) affects how fast you fall asleep, how long you sleep and the quality of sleep you get.
Mindful eating (or intuitive eating) does not involve a specific diet or any restricted eating. It’s simply a way to tune into your body’s hunger and satiety cues, as well as signals of what your body needs – and sometimes just what it wants. By listening to the messages your body is sending, you can instinctively assume a diet that promotes health and wellness.
Follow these steps for mindful eating:
- Watch for hunger cues. Ask yourself what you’re craving at that moment.
- Carefully attend to the process of preparing your food.
- Eat your meal or snack slowly and with intent. Appreciate the sensory experience of eating (aroma, texture, flavor).
- Pay attention to how your body responds to the foods you have provided.
- Take note of how you feel once you’ve completed your meal.
You may find it easier to practice mindful eating in a quiet environment, but with practice, you will be able to connect with the experience more fully even in the most boisterous restaurant.
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the negatives in life; however, being overly focused on things that stress you or cause you pain can lead to a distorted view of reality. In contrast, having an attitude of gratitude has been proven to make you happier, which improves the quality of your relationships with others as well as yourself.
Take time to mindfully observe the world around you, the people you share your time with and yourself. You’ll find that there are many things you should be grateful for. It can be difficult at first to overcome habits and shift your perspective, but as you continue your gratitude practice it will become second nature.
You can also keep a journal to record what you’re grateful for each day. This allows you to review and track the changes in your mindset.
While putting up blackout curtains and upgrading to a mattress that answers your needs are important steps towards sleeping better, don’t forget to address your internal environment with the use of mindfulness!
What you eat and how you enjoy your meals have a great impact on the quality of your sleep. Join a yoga and cooking retreat and learn more about mindful eating and preparing scrumptious dinners with love and patience.