When I was younger, I never went to bed the same way twice. Sometimes I’d be out with friends until 2am and crash directly into my bed, skinny jeans, makeup, and all. Other times I’d binge watch tv for hours and fall asleep on the couch. Still other times I’d go for a jog, take a quick shower, and jump into bed with wet hair. I had no real or consistent evening routine, and it made bedtime an afterthought instead of a peaceful and centering experience to look forward to at the end of a long day.
Why Create an Evening Routine?
We all agree with the importance of a consistent bedtime/evening routine for children, right? Studies have shown that an evening routine not only improves children’s quality of sleep, but also their executive function (the ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks), memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility.
Do those benefits extend beyond childhood? Some of the most inventive minds in history seem to believe so! Routines helped artists ranging from Dickens to Picasso to Gershwin accomplish some of their best work. And as if that wasn’t enough, studies of centenarians (people living to 100+ years) have found a consistent evening routine to be a common factor for longevity.
So how do you create an evening routine that delivers peace and centering, while sharpening your mind and extending your life? Here’s what I’ve found most effective.
Quiet Your Body
- First, find the comfiest pajamas known to man. This will be different for everyone, but could range from a traditional pajama set to a pair of flannel pants to your husband’s oversized teeshirt. Find something that makes you sigh in comfort when you put it on and you’ve got yourself a winner. Slipping into something comfortable signals to your brain that it’s time to start winding down.
- Create a simple self care routine. And I do mean simple! Because if my skincare routine lasts longer than five minutes, chances are good it’s not gonna happen. So every night, I wipe off my makeup, spritz on some toner, and follow it with a retinol cream. After putting on some calming body lotion and brushing my teeth, I’m done! While in the act, try not to think of it as a task to check off your list! The Danish art of hygge (experiencing cozy contentment and well-being while enjoying life’s simple pleasures) views daily routines as art instead of something to hurry up and finish. By practicing more awareness in the moment, you can turn your self care routine into an opportunity to slow down, recognize, and enjoy the act.
Quiet Your Surroundings
- Slowly turn down/off devices. Study after study have found that both TV viewing and social media scrolling have been linked to lower attention spans, productivity, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and higher depression, anxiety, and stress levels. Is that the note you want to end your day on? Instead, start to slow down your screen usage 60-90 minutes before bed. For example, watch tv or scroll your phone, not both at once. Or enjoy a movie, but turn the volume down a bit and/or dim the lights to continue signaling to your body that it’s nearly time for bed. And at least 30 minutes before bed (preferably longer!), disconnect from screens altogether.
- Here’s the fun part! For at least 30 minutes before bed, enjoy a quiet activity. This could be reading a book, drawing, enjoying a relaxing bath, or simply chatting with your family about your day. So many of us are so used to watching TV until we fall asleep, or scrolling our phones while we lay in bed, that this part will feel challenging at first. I mean, what are we supposed to do, right? But I 110% believe that once you find your thing, that one quiet activity that you not only enjoy, but that revitalizes your soul, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to start. Not much for reading? Give it a whirl again! Visit your public library and ask for a recommendation or ask your friends what they’re reading. Never considered adult coloring books before? You might just be pleasantly surprised! Try a few activities until you land on one that you really look forward to each evening.
Quiet Your Mind
- Meditate. Oh, boy! Here it comes, right? I used to think that meditation was a weird, new age activity performed only by monks and motivational speakers. But meditation is actually just about quieting your mind, which makes it the perfect pre-bedtime activity. And the best part is that you can do it in as little as five minutes! Sit in a comfortable position, trying your best not to move or fidget. Close your eyes and for five minutes, simply focus on your breathing. You can think through the words inhale/exhale as you do it, or focus on your chest rising and falling with each breath, really whatever best helps you to focus on your breathing. When your thoughts wander (and they’re guaranteed to!), you simply recognize it and bring them back to focus on your breathing. That’s it! And if you’re terrible at meditation, with thoughts all over the map, it’s only going to make your meditation that much more effective. It’s the practice of recognizing those thoughts and continually bringing them back to center that makes meditation so effective. Studies have found that meditation not only makes for better sleep, but also improves your emotional health, self-awareness, attention span, and memory, and reduces stress, anxiety, and even blood pressure all day long!
- Listen to calming sounds. My friend Dadam suggested this app on iOS or Google Play and I’m currently obsessed with it. It offers calming sounds like camp fire, ocean waves crashing, boat swaying in water, train ride, and more. And you can set them to play for a certain amount of time, like your five-minute meditation or your first hour in bed. Calming sounds help to drown out distracting background noises (Was that the house creaking? Or a murderer?!) and continue the spirit of meditation into a more solid night’s sleep.
- And finally, whatever you do, do the same thing every. single. time. Whether you include all of these steps, or just a few, or even make up your own evening routine altogether, the trick to an effective evening routine is in the name – routine. Following the same steps every evening makes your routine predictable and centering (no matter what happened that day), and signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Wrap It Up
With comfy pajamas, a simple self care routine, quiet, screen-free activity, meditation, and some calming sounds to lull you to sleep, you’ll be dreaming about your evening routine all day long, especially on the hard days. And the best part of all is that it’s completely customizable to your personal needs and preferences!
What’s the best part of your evening routine? Have you found anything you simply cannot live without? Be sure to share in the comments!
P.S. Need a little help quieting your mind before bed? Be sure to download our free stress management workbook here!
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