In my post on morning routines, I laid out a flexible 3 step framework for you to design your own kickass, totally unique, well balanced ritual to get every day off to a stellar start.
And if you are anything like me, and have every been inspired by someone you heard on a personal development podcast or in a workshop rambling on about how their morning routine has totally elevated their life – you immediately got excited, set the alarm, and prepared for TOTAL F’ING TRANSFORMATION.
You were stoked.
Until the alarm went off, that is…
The reality is, if you want to start waking up earlier and fitting in your morning ritual EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT FAIL (which is, be honest with yourself, the only way it’s ever going to stick), you need to… uh… go to bed earlier. And sleep better.
So here we are. The evening ritual.
I’ll be honest, I’m not as dogmatic about my evening ritual as I am my morning one. Partly because I naturally sleep like a rock. I always have. I wonder if my Fitbit worries that I’m dead sometimes. My bigger issue is that I love sleep too much; if I go to bed too late, getting up feels like trying to lift a massive boulder. So I have a few solid and consistent cues in place that edge me toward the bed at a decent hour, rather than finding myself getting sucked into binge watching Netflix documentaries with my nocturnal (read: insomniac) boyfriend.
I believe that an evening routine is important not only for sleep quality and quantity but also for getting your mood aligned and setting up your cues for success on the other side of dreamland. So whether you are a sleeping beauty like me or a restless vampire like my SO, listen up.
Set an alarm for ONE HOUR before bed. Mine is a FitBit alert that actually says “it’s time to wind down.”) This alarm in turn cues me to do two things:
1) Turn off all social media, TV, loud music (soft is fine). Put AWAY your work related stuff, and stuff that involves deadlines of any kind. If your partner (ah-hem, ohhai babe) is still watching TV, it’s time to switch rooms or put on noise cancelling headphones with something like ambient music or soothing jazz pumping into your ears so you don’t get sucked in. Blue light screws up your sleep – This is SCIENCE, people – so turn off the blue light on your phone if it has this function, or even better, shut the thing down. Mine auto switches on the blue light filter from 8pm-6am.
2) Begin your pre-ritual. This is basically anything I HAVE to do before going to bed. Prep the coffee, wash your face, pick out an outfit for tomorrow, get in those jammies, brush your teeth, whatever. If it needs to get done, do it now, a full hour before bed.
30 minutes prior to bed, GET IN BED. Seriously, your bedtime is 30 minutes before “lights out.” Here’s why. What distractions are there if you are in bed and have already banned visual media of all kinds? Your options are: meditate, read a fiction book or poetry or something relaxing (no ass kicking biz books or over stimulating horror novellas, please), journaling, coloring, drawing, some spiritual practice like prayer or mantras. There’s not many options. And that’s the point. Wind down the mind by reducing its options. What do I do? Right now I read a few pages of a novel that I’m willing to read slowly and casually over a long period of time (Right now, its 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, if you care to know).
Right before sleep, when the lights go out and I lay my head on the pillow, I spend a few minutes briefly thinking about my morning ritual and how excited and grateful I am to start tomorrow off on the right foot. Then I practice visualizations of some sort that, without fail, lull me to sleep. What you use for visualization doesn’t really matter. Some people dig yoga nidra (yogic sleep) which is a way of scanning through the body to turn off the mind. Others imagine themselves somewhere peaceful like the beach. I’ve heard of people using repetitive visualizations like a windmill going in circles. But the point is, before you do whatever you do to fall asleep, remember how excited you are for your morning ritual, and really see yourself enjoying that ritual the next day. It will make getting off the pillow a whole lot easier in the morning when your whole body says to you “This was a genuinely terrible idea, what were you thinking?” Set up the cues the night before, and you trick the system.
This ritual ain’t fancy. But you can make yours as elaborate as you want. Light candles, lather yourself in lavender body butter, offer your soul to the sleep gods, whatever you want. If you follow this basic three cue structure, it will get you to sleep more quickly, help you sleep more solidly, and prepare you to conquer the next day in style.
How will you personalize your evening ritual? What will you do with those last 30 minutes tonight to wind down your mind?