Mindfulness is a thought process that allows us to see clearly what is happening in our lives and focus on the present moment without worrying about the past or future. Although it takes practice, special mindfulness techniques such as meditation and awareness exercises can even help you sleep and switch off from all your internal noise.
How Can Mindfulness Help Me Sleep?
Your mind will often end up racing for hours when you’re laid awake at night, worrying about issues related to work, school, family or relationships. This mind racing causes you to ask yourself further questions without coming to any resolve, making you feel really stressed and anxious. And this is where mindfulness kicks in.
Unlike your brain’s usual ‘doing’ mode, mindfulness encourages your brain to take a very different approach – the ‘being’ mode. Instead of allowing yourself to dig up old memories or get carried away with worrying about the future, mindfulness forces you to think about the present moment and become fully aware of your body and surroundings.
Two of these techniques are meditation exercises, including a breathing exercise and body scan relaxation, which ideally you should aim to practice for at least 10-20 minutes every night. Make sure you’re sat upright or lying down comfortably, dim the lights and close your eyes.
Breathing isn’t something we generally think too much about – our bodies breathe in and out automatically – but next time you’re having trouble sleeping at night because you’re too busy worrying about that all-important job interview or how you’re going to get your college essay in on time, try using the breathing awareness technique.
As you inhale and exhale, notice what is happening to your body. Feel your chest rise and fall as your lungs slowly fill up with air. Smell and taste the air as it passes through your mouth and the tips of your nostrils and become aware of what your body is touching all around you (most likely your fluffy soft duvet).
You might find yourself getting distracted occasionally and your mind might want to start thinking about all your worries again – this is normal. Don’t get disheartened if this happens, just continue focusing on your breathing and gradually you’ll start to feel more relaxed and sleepy.
Body Scan Relaxation
To begin, breathe deeply for a few minutes to unwind as much as possible. Then starting at your feet, imagine that your mind is slowly travelling upwards through your toes and feet into your calves, knees and thighs. Each time your mind stops at a new muscle, tense it for a few seconds and then release that tension before moving on to the next muscle.
Once you’ve finished scanning your legs, continue the technique through your hands and arms as well as your back, shoulders, chest and face. If you’re still feeling alert, repeat the process a few times until your body has completely sunk into your mattress. Before you know it, you’ll be in a ‘meditative’ state and should drift off much more easily.
To really help yourself switch off, try combining the breathing and body scan exercises for a truly deep and restful sleep.