Escaping the Brain Rut: Getting a Good Night's Sleep Part IV

Good Habits

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Welcome to Part IV, the final week in my series about Escaping the Brain Rut: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep! This week we are focusing on good habits for you to try to keep your sleep patterns healthy and regular.

I can almost hear the sigh coming through the computer screen as you read these good habit ideas. I can hear the whispered excuses and justifications.

The truth is I am not offering anything here that hasn’t been said before and that you don’t already know in your heart. But as a wayshower and awakener it’s my purpose and honor to lead you to the light of a different way of being. Like I said last week, there is no magic switch that makes everything better. You are here to experience and if you aren’t happy with your experience then do something different!

You are in control of your actions and responses and thereby your experiences. So release the old stories, free yourself from your blocks, take the wheel and turn left.

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  • Prepare

If you spend your nights tossing and turning worrying about all the things you have to do, it’s worth going to bed a little later so that you can prepare for the next day. Knowing you don’t have to rush around in the morning will allow for more restorative sleep.

Before beginning your nighttime ritual:

  • Pick out your clothes and set up the coffee pot.

  • Write a to-do list so your brain can stop ruminating.

  • Wash your face and hands and brush your teeth and hair to wash off the day both literally and energetically.

 

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  • Disconnect

 If you are rolling your eyes or feeling any resistance to this, then you probably REALLY need to do it. I won’t bore you with all the research about the blue light or the electromagnetic waves emitted from your phone or go on and on about how scrolling through social media and news before bed only keeps your mind active and agitated.

Just put the phone on Do Not Disturb and stick it in a drawer already!

At least try it for a full week before discounting the benefits of doing it.

 

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  • Spend some time in gratitude

 Gratitude journals get mixed reviews, but I say give it a try for 30 days.

 What we send out comes back; it is an energetic invitation to the Universe to reflect back to us what we are focused on. Shifting your energy from feeling overwhelmed and beat down to being in gratitude invites things in which to be grateful for into your life.

 Also, spending time looking for the good in your day puts you in a more positive mental state helping to alleviate stress and tension.

 

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  • Stick with your routine

Once you have found your magic sleep ritual combination stick to it the best you can. Creating a rhythm of consistency at bedtime trains the body and mind to relax and sleep.

As promised…..my personal nighttime ritual!

After giving up the OTC sleeping pills I knew it would take some of trial and error to find what would work for me. I began by applying some basic Feng Sui principles and adding a crystal grid around my bedroom. Then I added diffusing essential oils for sleep, hot flashes and overall wellness. I wash my face and hands, brush my teeth and hair and close the bathroom door before getting in bed. Once I’m in bed, I write in my gratitude journal then practice Lazy Bed Yoga, Qi gong breathing and grounding. Lastly, my phone goes on Do Not Disturb and is placed in a closed drawer.

I know this sounds like a lot but it only takes about 30 minutes and its completely worth it!

Occasionally I still find myself waking up in the middle of the night with my brain jabbering away. So I use the Mantra I shared in Part III or play some sleep music. This seems to preoccupy and quiet my brain enough to go back to sleep.

Over the past couple of years I tried most of the practices I have shared with you and they all have value.

I hope you give some of these ideas a try so that you can find your magic combination!

REMEMBER: If something doesn’t work for you try not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I suggest trying each practice that appeals to you for 7 days – 30 days. One or two nights is not enough time for your system to reset. Practices take time, your body-mind-spirit need to adjust and adapt. Somethings may help a little, but they aren’t enough. That’s okay, you may need to add another practice or two in order to find the combination that works for you. Either build on what you like or put a pin in what works so you can come back to it later.

Keep notes and record your experiences each day. Include:

·       Any significant or major events that impacted your day

·       The practice you tried

·       Time of night you did the practice

·       Your mood before and after the practice

·       What time you went to bed

·       The quality of your sleep

I have created a printable chart you can use to make this process even easier. Download it here.

Who is Driving? Your Head or Your Heart?

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The mind is the place of logic and reason and it gives you the ability to collect, organize and store information. When it’s time to make a decision, your mind parses all your past experiences and tells you what to do to be safe. While this can be a good thing is some situations it can also be detrimental as an everyday practice. Making decisions based solely on fear rather than desire, joy, happiness or your highest good can lead to a thoroughly unfulfilling life.

The heart is the place of emotions and feelings, the well from which you give of yourself and the storage area that holds what you receive from others. It is also the seat of the spirit, where your soul resides. It has needs and desires of a different nature. It does not care about what others think, society’s rules, or for your safety. The heart wants nothing more than to be fulfilled.

From a Psychology point of view the heart can be impulsive and immediate-gratification oriented leading to rash, unwise decisions. Conversely, the mind is supreme and all decisions and actions should come from careful considered thoughts.

From a shamanic point of view, Alberto Villoldo, cites the psychological aspects of the heart are love, hope, compassion and intimacy. While the aspects of the mind are reason, logic, intelligence and empathy but also depression, stress-related disorders and denial.

So what does all this mean exactly?

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You could reasonably argue that a healthy balance of mind and heart is best and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, Western society, in particular is so blinded by this mind-centered point of view that we are a population of multi-tasking, overworked, highly anxious, dis-eased souls. We are so in our heads, so motivated by fear, so cripple by worry and stress that we don’t even know how to listen to our hearts and what’s worse we are unhealthy and unhappy.

The bottom line is…. fear is a natural human reaction to the unknown but that doesn't mean you need to avoid it, divert course, or give up because the mind is yelling “danger, danger.” The unknown is where adventure lives, excitement breathes and possibilities are born. If you never take a chance, always play it safe and don't listen to your heart you are missing the point of being alive.

 

How can you tell who is in the driver’s seat?

 

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Your mind may be driving if... 

  • your actions are "should/n't” reactions
  • your actions are based on what society says is best
  • fear is a primary motivator
  • logic and reason are your only resources
  • your decisions are based on taking the safe route and avoiding risks
  • all your options are based on reviews and opinions of others
  • if you do not act on inspired ideas because of “what if…” thinking
  • you are focused on worst case scenarios
  • you only rely on your intellect
  • you are in a constant state of doing
  • you are preoccupied with knowing the future and wanting certainty
  • feel safe but bored

 

 

"When we are no longer motivated by fear, we understand that every moment is perfect in its own way. We no longer dread what we can't control; we learn to respect the wisdom of Spirit rather than impose our will on situations. This is the path of genuine power."   - Alberto Villoldo

 

Following your heart may feel like...

  • a sense of trust in something greater than yourself
  • you have the courage to face fear
  • a leap of faith
  • being fully alive
  • a state of flow and grace
  • a gentle ease and allowing things to unfold as they are meant to
  • timelessness
  • synchronicity
  • love
  • inspiration
  • joy and fun
  • moving forward with curiosity and wonder
  • creativity 
  • expansiveness
  • growing and evolving
  • being present and aware

If you can relate to more of the mind list than the heart list it may be time to stop letting fear drive.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert shares a practice of beginning every new venture with a welcoming speech that offers gratitude, acceptance and most of all boundaries to her fear. It's a funny and relatable concept that recognizes our natural human tendency towards fear but most importantly, places the control back where it belongs. I have shared my own spin on this idea many times with clients that are struggling with fear, over-thinking, ruminating, anxiety, worry, and the dreaded monkey mind.  

If you are tired of submitting to the fear, try this prayer I adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech or make up your own.

Dear mind, the heart and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you will be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic and fear whenever I am about to do anything interesting. And may I say you are superb at your job, so by all means keep doing your job if you think you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip which is to live the life I desire. And my heart will be doing its job which is to speak from a soul-centered place. There is plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us so make yourself at home. But understand this, the heart and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but your thoughts are only suggestions. You are allowed to have a seat and you are allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You are not allowed to touch the road maps. You are not allowed to make detours. You are not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. You are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else my fearful mind, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.  [adapted from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert} 

If you do nothing else put your fearful mind in the back seat and take control of the wheel.

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LOVE IS IN THE AIR

These days February is all about hearts, flowers, and romance which is great if you are in love and appreciate those things. However, those of us with whom the V-Day scene does not resonate can feel a little left out or even down right depressed. If you are part of the latter group I encourage you to embrace the love theme in a new way.

Love is much more vast and all-encompassing than just the love between partners. It exists in all kinds of relationships such as those between parent and child, extended family members, friends and even with pets. Try taking a Kindergarteners all-inclusive approach to Valentine’s Day; celebrate and show your love for any and everyone who matters in your life.  

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Sharing love is a beautiful and natural human condition. However, by far the most important love we can possess and express is the love we give to ourselves. Somewhere along the way our personal happiness and self-worth became something we sourced from outside rather than something we access from within. Take this month to focus on nurturing and loving yourself.

Not sure where to begin? Below are 10 ideas to get you started.

1.       Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers. Adding beauty and natural fragrance creates instant happiness in your space.

   2.       Treat yourself to a favorite dessert or a nice wine. Indulging in a decadent food/drink pleasure can be incredibly satisfying and when you make it        more special with fine china and crystal you are giving yourself the treatment you deserve.

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3.       Get a massage. Human touch is extremely important to your health and happiness plus your body will thank you.

4.       Dance and sing to your favorite songs. This gets your blood flowing, your endorphins jumping and gives your emotions an outlet. It’s important to be silly, play and have fun and age has absolutely nothing to do with anything!

5.       Write yourself a love letter. Don’t laugh! We tend to use self-deprecation in an attempt to be humble. However, this self-critical approach doesn’t buy you anything and actually causes real damage to your self-worth and self-esteem. Build it back up by writing down 10 things you like about yourself and keep it handy for when you are feeling down.

6.       Read a feel-good book. Pick something that inspires you or speaks to your soul.

7.       Try something new. Pushing beyond your boundaries invites growth. Even if you don’t succeed or it doesn’t turn out to be everything you expected, the experience and knowledge that you tried will be rewarding.

8.       Take a digital vacation. Do yourself a huge favor by taking a break from social media and putting your phone away. Check back into life, have face to face conversations and meals, and savor real moments with living breathing people.  

9.       Give yourself permission to do nothing. Staying busy does not necessarily equal accomplishment. Oftentimes staying busy is a way to deflect and distract you from things that actually need your attention. When your body is at rest you give mind and emotions time for self-reflection and self-discovery.

10.   Focus on you. If you have other people in your life, especially if you are a parent, you are most likely not at the top of your priority list. We’ve been taught to believe that this “selfless” act is noble and makes you a good person. However, I firmly believe that if you don’t make yourself a priority eventually your energy, patience, and love will be depleted. If you don’t think you are worth the time and effort how can you expect others to? Take some time to do what you love to do, make sure your environment includes your loves and passions, and schedule days where you don’t have to sacrifice yourself or your needs.

Do you have some favorite self-love practices? Comment below to share your ideas and thoughts.