In a perfect world, we would end each day with a completely checked-off to-do list.
All of our projects, decisions, and conversations would be nicely wrapped up, allowing us to hit the sheets with a clear and calm mind.
Well, the world ain’t perfect; we happen to like it that way.
What we don’t like is our thoughts keeping us from falling asleep. Sleep is extremely vital to our mental and physical health.
So, how do we create a separation between our daytime tasks and our nighttime thoughts?
Sleep On It
When our body is ready for the sheets but our mind is walking the streets, we usually take one of two approaches.
We wrestle with our thoughts or we ignore them.
The problem is that neither of these is a good idea.
Fighting with our thoughts is simply a battle we can’t win, and ignoring them leads to a build-up of stress and anxiety.
But, with so much going on during the day it seems impossible to just turn it all off at night.
If we can’t control our thoughts and we can’t fight them…what can we do?
May I Have Your Attention
The secret lies in controlling our attention.
We average over 6,000 thoughts a day. Imagine if we let each one of these take our full attention? We would be completely useless.
Thoughts constantly appear in our awareness without us choosing or asking for them.
What makes a thought feel real is the attention we bring to it. That’s what gives them fuel.
If we cut off the fuel source, the thought disappears.
Now that we know it’s all about attention, we can find the right tool to shift the spotlight away from our thoughts.
3 Ways to Shift Your Attention
– Breathing Exercise
Using the mind to quiet the mind is kind of like putting out a fire with more fire.
Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman says that “When we can’t control the mind, we must do something mechanical. We must breathe.”
Shifting our attention to the breath takes away the fuel for our thoughts, letting them fade into the background.
If you are experiencing anxiety, the physiological sigh is a great exercise to promote relaxation.
Specifically for falling asleep, the 4-7-8 method is very effective.
Give those a try the next time you find your mind racing in bed.
– Evening Brain Dump
The term “brain dump” was popularized by author David Allen in his book Getting Things Done.
A brain dump is a writing exercise designed to clear space in your brain and calm your mind.
Think of it like decluttering your room; only your room is your brain.
The exercise is very simple. All you need is a pen and paper. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just write whatever comes to mind.
This allows you to acknowledge your thoughts instead of ignoring them. Once the thoughts are out of your head and onto the paper, you’ll be hittin’ the sheets in no time.
– Conscious Relaxation
This technique shines the spotlight of attention on different parts of the body.
As we scan the body, we consciously relax all the muscles and release any tension we find.
The best way to do this exercise is to follow along in a guided session.
Of course, we have a free one for you right here.
Each one of these techniques can help you clear your mind before bed. Find which one works for you and stick to it. Happy sheets!