And say goodbye to those “Aw I can’t sleep” self-blame mindfully
It’s 3 a.m. I rolled and rolled on the bed, feeling physically exhausted, but my mind is the most awaken in the day.
“Damn! I need to wake up at 8 tomorrow.”
Then, these self-blaming thoughts revolve around and around. Sleeping gets even harder as these self-blames occupy my mind. Then I blame myself even harsher.
Does it sound familiar?
It’s a vicious cycle. But why? Why other people fall asleep with ease? Is there any problem with my brain or they hold the secret key of following asleep?
Don’t worry. In this article, I’ll share a mindfulness technique that I learnt from a Buddhist temple that is practised by monks. Anyone can learn the technique. I have tried it myself and recommended to my friends — the review has been very positive so far.
It only takes 5 minutes on the bed before sleeping. It has rewarded me with quality sleep every day and the energized life that I’ve been longing for.
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The five minutes exercise
All I have to do is a pre-sleep mini-meditation, called technique laydown, comprises of three simple steps:
– (Day 1 & 2) Put the hand on the abdomen. Say the word “ri — sing” slowly when inhaling air to the stomach. Notice the sensation of the abdomen rising. Focus on it. For breathing out, switch “ri — sing” with “fal — ling”
– (Day 3 & 4) After saying “fal — ling”, notice the body is lying on the bed and say “ly — ing” slowly in the heart. Then return to “ri — sing” of next cycle.
– (Day 5 and onwards) After saying “ly — ing”, notice how the bed and pillow are supporting the back, neck, and head. Feel the sensation of touching. Then return to “ri — sing” of next cycle.
Repeat the steps adove for approxmiately 5 minutes every night.
If the mind is distracted by thoughts or emotion, label them and say “thinking, thinking, thinking” or “sad, sad, sad” (in case it’s sadness that distracted my mind), then keep going.
It’s tempting to do all the three steps on the first day1, but the best way is to practice step one on the first and second day and follow the instruction above to build up the habit progressively. The mind takes time to cultivate — following the programme this way will bring a better grasp on each of the steps.
What can I expect after doing this?
This technique gradually unwires the knots in the mind that contribute to vicious thinking cycles that stop one to fall asleep. Especially the “thinking, thinking, thinking” part. It trains the mind to acknowledge and let thoughts pass by — so that the mind would be less trapped by those nasty “I can’t sleep” thoughts.
It also relaxes the mind — tuning it into a mode that naturally transits to a sleeping state.
However, the effect of mindfulness is different on every individual. Some people feel the effect in few days, but it takes weeks for the others. Commit and preserve is the key for this to work out. It’s okay to choose to give up if it feels like wasting time — but at least try it as a habit for a month.
Personally, I was a person that struggled quite a bit to fall asleep. In the first three or four days practising this technique, I didn’t notice any difference.
Then something quite subtle happened as I continued. The thoughts “When will I fall asleep?”, “Will I have enough energy tomorrow?” still fleet around my mind as usual, but they dissipate faster.
As I let go the attention, many nights I didn’t even notice I was going to fall asleep. Now I just lay on the bed, do the exercise, watch my negative or positive thoughts flow through my mind without judgement; then I’ll be naturally asleep.
What comes with having a good sleep is a more energised life. Meetings at 9 a.m. seem less daunting than before. Attention improved. Able to read more books. Do more sports. This pay-off from this simple exercise is massive.
Now I finished my sharing on how to improve sleeping quality with a simple technique. To approach this exercise, determination and compassion are the keys. Try to do it every night on the bed, but don’t be dissuaded by missing a night or two.
Skipping a night won’t destroy the effectiveness of the programme. I have skipped some nights too. This technique is for human beings, and at times, human beings don’t stick to schedule.
There’s no need to blame ourself for failures. Just resume. When it becomes a habit, good sleeping will come.