Have you noticed the way you end your day plays a big role in how well you sleep, how you feel when you wake up, and the kind of day you have tomorrow? In this post, I share a mindful way to end your day, release stress, sleep better, and wake up ready for a new day in the morning.
So, how do you typically end your day? Do you go and go until you simply can't go anymore-then crash? Do you click through the channels on TV or scroll through social media? Do you watch the news, have a conversation, or read a book? Do you ruminate over something that happened during the day or feel anxious about what might happen tomorrow?
Now, let me ask you, "How does what you do before sleep make you feel?"
Exhausted? Depressed? Agitated? Resigned? Happy? Grateful? Relaxed?
How you feel before bed significantly affects the kind of sleep you'll have and the kind of day you'll have tomorrow.
What if you could consciously release the day's stress, frustrations, and disappointments and gather the experiences that make you feel grateful, positive, and accomplished? "Daily Recollection" is a simple mindfulness technique. It sets up restful sleep and an empowered day tomorrow.
Before I describe Daily Recollection, let's talk about the essential ingredient of the practice. You need to adopt a Mindful Mode of Attention for it to work.
What Exactly is Mindfulness?
By mindfulness I mean, "Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement-like a curious observer." (Definition based on the work of mindfulness pioneer, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.) Practicing a mindful attention style changes the way your brain operates. It releases lingering stress and welcomes appreciative engagement.
A natural result of Mindfulness is that, instead of being overly-identified with your experiences, you see yourself as "having" experiences. From this vantage point, you don't believe thoughts, feelings, or actions "define you." "Who you are" transcends any experience "you have."
Consequently, you feel less need to attach, hang onto, or ruminate over any experience as if your self-worth depends on it. Instead, you are a curious "witness" who can inhabit an experience and participate in it without being consumed by it. You appreciate present moment awareness and move on to the next moment without being lost in what's happening. This includes moments you enjoy and moments you wish you could forget.
Why is this important?
It's important because mindfulness alters the way your brain encodes experiences. Every experience gains a layer of awareness, freedom, and choice. With mindfulness, you learn you can choose what you focus on and how you relate to it, instead of simply reacting as a "victim of circumstances."
In Daily Recollection, I use the image of "putting on your Mindfulness Cap," to symbolize adopting this Mindful Mode of Attention.
Set up for Daily Recollection
Daily Recollection is a practice to do at the end of the day, just before sleep. A few preliminaries will set you up for success.
First, begin the process of going to bed at least 30 minutes before you want to be asleep. Put away things you are working on. Write important "To Dos" left over from today on a list for tomorrow. And, set up anything you need for your Intentional Practice first thing in the morning.
Second, have a self-care routine of washing your face, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, saying goodnight to significant others, and anything else you need to do to prepare for some quiet time for yourself.
Finally, lie down in bed on your back and put on your Mindfulness Cap. Again, this means: "Adopting an attitude of paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment-like a curious observer." Then, follow these steps:
3 Steps of Daily Recollection
1. Mindfully Observe how you feel right now, lying in bed. Note any prevalent thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Notice them without following them or getting lost in them, just be curious to witness what is happening inside without trying to change it.
2. Take this same Mindful Observation back through your day, hour by hour, from the present moment back to the time you woke up. Make note of moments of stress, frustration, and challenge as well as moments when you felt happy, satisfied, and accomplished. You don't have to recall every moment of the day, just ones that stand out as particularly poignant for one reason or another.
As best as you can, see if it's possible to do this without judgment, analysis, or trying to fix anything. See if you can simply make note of experiences as a curious observer who appreciates awareness in each moment.
Especially, make note of the feeling tone of your experiences-emotionally discern what felt good and what felt not-so-good. Be grateful that you learn and grow from all types of feelings and experiences. Then, consciously set them aside and move on to the next moment in time, until you arrive at the feeling you had upon waking this morning.
3. Return to present moment awareness of lying in bed. Smile with gratitude for all you've experienced and learned in this day. Smile with gratitude for the opportunity to rest. Call to mind what you will do first thing in the morning to start your day in a positive intentional way. (See last week's post for suggestions.) Finally, take a few, slow, deep breaths, let go of today, and welcome a good night's sleep.
Can you imagine what a difference it would make if you ended each day in such a mindful way?
Enjoy your practice!