Everyone is talking about their morning rituals. How to prime myself for the day, what time should I get up, which spiritual practice and exercise suits y0u best, what’s the most nourishing breakfast to have? etc. – No doubt about the fact that taking time in the morning is essential to define the rest of your day. However, I personally believe that incorporating a night time routine is equally as important. Somehow, a night time routine is like as the forgotten cousin of the morning routine. It definitely was the case in my own life. But preparing oneself for a good quality sleep will tremendously impact the next morning as well as the entire day.
In this article I want to address the following topics:
- How to get the most out of your sleep
- Why spending time on technology, like social media or the news on TV, is not a good idea before going to bed?
- How food might affect your sleep
- How to shift from a matter-focused state into a rather spiritual state
Let’s start with a beautiful quote…
“Early to bed and early to rise,
makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
~ Work and technology: Time to unplug ~
The first and foremost thing to start a calming evening routine is to consciously unplug from work. We spend so many hours per day being productive, thinking, producing, studying, doing the household, the grocery shopping – whatever our to-do list plans for us to do. This workaholic pattern has become normality, especially in the west. We’ll even come to feel guilty if we just sit down and do nothing at all. Well, this is part of our conditioning. However, our bodies are not designed to spend 24/7 in the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) mode, even if we are totally passionate about our work. Human beings want to DO. We are literally designed to create. Experiencing life and expressing oneself are basic desires. And yes, there probably are times you need to push a little harder and won’t be able to unplug at 5 p.m., keep sitting on your desk until midnight to finish a certain project or studying for an exam throughout the night, etc. – that’s part of life. But these scenarios should rather be an exception than a habit. After all, we are human “beings” and not human “doings”. Although accomplishing a mission – your purpose – needs a certain drive to get things done; at the same time it is essential to balance yourself by stepping into the state of being. To take a deep breath, to reflect and relax.
“You have to train hard and be strong
while staying flexible and limber,
so I’m trying to find that balance.”
Be prepared: Set yourself a time for when you want to stop working. 10-15 minutes before the clock shows you to quit the desk, make a to-do list for the next day. Write everything work-related down which is on your mind. Otherwise, these things will circle in your head for the entire evening. Afterwards, some kind of closing ritual will help you to surpass the transition between work mode and relaxation time. A simple tool which disconnects you from work. How can such a ritual look it? – There are endless possibilities, such as
- taking a relaxing shower or bath.
- taking a gentle walk out in nature.
- turning the music on and bust a move in your room.
- practicing some kind of breath work (pranayama).
- practicing yoga.
Everyone and every day is different. Find out what works best for you and consciously unplug from work.
What’s equally as important as to stop working, is to unplug yourself from technology as best as possible. By technology I mean
- social media
- TV (especially the news)
These types of media will directly place you into a state of reaction by taking your complete attention, elevating your level of unawareness. You’ll be automatically led into a victim state, anything can be revealed grabbing your attention. That’s exactly the opposite of what we want during the peaceful evening time. Plus, whatever the mind is fed is where your focus goes and energy flows. By watching the news, a heap of negative information will be let into your system. Heavy and depressing information are probably the last things which makes you peaceful, happy and aware of yourself.
~ Relationships, dinner and pleasure (leisure) time ~
Your body naturally yearns to be nourished. Your brain is ready to relax. Your heart yearns for affection. To put it in a nutshell: The entire system simply craves love, relaxation and quality time.
During a busy work day relationships often come too short. The relationship to our loved ones as well as to ourselves. By disconnecting from focusing on the outside, we now refocus our attention within as well as to the loving human beings we are closely surrounded by. This is a perfect time to end the day with a wonderful meal in company of the person you live with or simply with yourself. Cooking can already be some kind of meditation practice – at least for myself. Pay attention to your meal, your loved ones as well as to your own Self.
In regards to eating at night, I would like to share with you an aspect that has impacted me immensly –a major lesson I’ve learnt along my own journey. Enjoying your dinner 2-3 hours before being in bed – without snacking throughout the evening (!) – will make a huge difference; in your sleep as well as for the next day. This point has ALWAYS been a major vice throughout my life. I used to unconsciously eat a bunch of sweets, like dried fruits with nuts, brownies, chocolate, etc., in front of the computer (earlier in life it was TV) until my belly was way too full. There was no other way than falling right into my bed. I pursued this habit around 15 years of my life. Simply because evening time was the only time I could relax, shut down and enjoy eating. It was also some energetical compensation: I am a predominant Vata-type of personality (according to Ayurveda) which means I went through this mind-dominated state throughout the day. In the evening, I desperately craved food to “ground” myself. However, I finally stopped this vicious cycle by implementing an overall nourishing evening routine. To be honest: It literally makes me feel like a new human being; in the evening, during sleep as well as in the next morning. You will wake up clear, energized, and ready for the day. All without feeling sluggish, heavy, and dull from overeating the night before.
“A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.”
Do one thing you love. Your brain relaxes the most when you do something delightful. It becomes stimulated when you’re happy which directly influences the cognitive alertness and productivity (for the next day). It will seal positive energy which is exactly what your holistic system craves after a long work day. Whether it is making music, connecting with nature, painting a picture, doing handicrafts, playing with your kids, connecting with your partner (e.g. massaging each other, making love), etc. Whatever makes you happy, gives you joy and nourishes your soul: Go for it!
~ Aligning body, mind and soul ~
The third part of a beautiful evening routine is some kind of calming, relaxing, soul nurturing (spiritual) practice. Self-care is the name of the game. Shut off all blue light, meaning no screen (mobile phone, computer, TV) anymore. A candle, relaxed music in the background or even incense sticks may support a soothing atmosphere in the room. Again, there is a variety of different options you could choose from. I’d like to share a list of my self-care practices I’ve been doing every other day:
- Abhyanga followed by taking a shower. This is an Ayurvedic self-massage practice. You can choose either sesame oil or coconut oil. I personally prefer warm sesame oil that I massage in the entire body. If you’re a naturally heated person you can use coconut oil which has a rather cooling effect. After the massage you let the oil soak into your skin for a few minutes (I usually brush my teeth during that time) before you take a quick (hot) shower.
- Journaling: Every now and then, I love to write down my thoughts, ideas, and visions. This really helps with reflecting on what’s going on in my mind and life.
- Reading in bed: Sometimes I feel like grabbing an inspiring book at night. You’ll find some recommendations in my Book-spirations category.
- Light Yoga: Nothing intense or strenuous. Just a few stretches, twists and soothing asanas. I’m usually practicing 10-15 min. relaxed Yoga right before bed.
- Pranayama: After Yoga, I turn off all lights, hop onto my bed in a cross-legged position, close my eyes and mostly go for the Nadi Shodhana (alternating nostril breathing) practice. It is probably the most common breathing technique (Pranayama). You will become balanced and it also soothes the nervous system.
- Meditation: This is an absolute non-negotiable for me right before sleep. After Nadi Shodhana, I stay seated in my bed for around 15-20 min. and meditate. It is the perfect opportunity to bring yourself into the spiritual realm before you’ll fall into sleep and “let go” of the physical reality for the next hours…
~ Conclusion: Calm down and sleep in peace ~
Besides a beautiful morning routine, some sort of night time ritual will help you in many ways: to unplug from work mode, to find balance between doing and being, to make space for your loved ones and yourself, to improve your sleep quality and at the same time the quality of the next day.
The parts I consider as beneficial for a holistic evening routine are:
- Unplug from work and technology with a closing ritual.
- Take time to prepare a nourishing, yet light dinner and enjoy whatever nourishes your soul.
- Calm down with either a spiritual practice, some light stretching or reading a book. Anything that will prepare you for sleep. My personal most helpful technique is a peaceful meditation in bed…
These methods do help me to fall asleep with a smile on my face. Now I’m curious how you spend the last hours of your day. Are you practicing a kind of evening routine already? Or are you planning to do so? Feel free to share your opinion and advices with me.
I’m sending you a big hug as well as lots of love from the bottom of my heart.