It seems like the curtain should naturally close on our days – you know, the waking hours gently tapering off as we lose steam.
Problem is, lots of us don’t wind down at night. Instead, we keep moving at the same breakneck pace we greeted the morning with – right until we hit the sack. Or we mindlessly do this or that to pass a couple hours until bedtime.
“Most of us could do a better job at chilling out at the end of the day,” says Laurie Mitchell, RDN, assistant vice president of global wellbeing & health management for Colonial Life.
Plenty of terrific tips set you up for a good night’s sleep. They definitely play a role in productive shuteye, so it’s worth incorporating them.
But we’re talking here about enjoying your last couple hours of wakefulness in a relaxing and satisfying way. Here are three nourishing rituals you can make your own.
Hit the road
Take a walk sometime after dinner. It will help you digest and control blood sugar, Mitchell says. It’s also a truly nice way to calm your mind, gently reflect on the day and get light exercise that smooths snooze-time.
If you walk alone, you can easily enter a buzzy meditative state by breathing slowly with your gait and silently observing what’s around you: the sky, the feel of the air, the sound of crickets (a little harder if you’re in a city).
If you walk with someone else, it’s a carefree chance to bond. The movement releases tension, sparks unconventional thinking and allows for just the right amount of focus on each other.
Clear the kitchen
Training for Buddhist monks often includes menial labor like washing dishes, as a way to understand and connect with meditation. Cleaning is a simple – and productive – activity used to train the mind when it wanders from the task at hand. Obsessing over an irritating conversation you had earlier? Come back to observing the clink of the dishes. Fretting over your finances? Focus on the flowing water.
Okay, so maybe you use a dishwasher. In that case, instead of washing, rinse. Either way, you’re soothing the frayed edges of your mind – and clearing the remains of the day, so your physical space is fresh for sunrise.
Put it in writing
Keep a pad of paper on your nightstand. Once you’re in bed, jot down three things you’re thankful for. Spend a moment reflecting on each one. If you do this every night, you’ll inevitably notice a few things appear time after time (your pet, your bed, having a roof over your head). You can stay focused on them, or dig deeper in the realization that there is more you can be grateful for.
“Being aware of gratitude, brings more of it into your life,” says Susan Lalemand, a health and wellness coach with Unum.
Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.