Creating a Mindful Nightly Routine
As a nurse, my nights range from normal nightly hours, to making my “night” at 0800 in the morning. How I have survived 6 years on night shift is beyond me. I’m certainly not getting any younger and it is only getting harder to fight a natural circadian rhythm. I do find that when I implement a little routine before bed, I often sleep better, and feel better about my “day” when I wake up.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes we stay out late with our friends, and go to bed immediately when we get in with a few cocktails still circulating our blood stream. Some days we are just too tired to do anything and end up falling asleep on the couch. For me, there are plenty of days when I am so exhausted from work I crawl into bed without a shower and set my alarm for the absolute latest I can get up. (I know how gross this is after working at the hospital, trust me) There are even the days I come home an emotional wreck and spend time doing nothing but decompressing. These are the hard days. These are the days that I get off track and these are the days I need my WHOLE routine the most. Even if I cant get through my whole routine, I still have my four non negotiable practices I do before bed. My routine though, wow. It is my safe space, my most favorite thing and it is also sometimes the hardest one to practice.
This isn't new information. The biggest point that I want to make is that you will sleep better when you disconnect completely from any electronic or blue light. If you take only one thing from this post, take this.
Blue light from our electronics is a melatonin killer. Melatonin is that fun chemical in our brain that tells our bodies that we are tired and helps with sleep and staying asleep. We naturally produce it, and yes it comes in supplement form, but over use of these supplements can tell the body to stop making it naturally. Scientific research continuously shows that blue light decreases your melatonin levels and disrupts our circadian rhythm, so get off your electronics!
Stop using the phone, computer & kindle and any other electronic 45 minutes to 1 hour before you intend to go to bed. If you’re going to sit in bed with these things, do not just shut them off when you’re done and go to sleep. It defeats the purpose. Try reading a paper book or writing in your journal or getting up to wash your face and brush when you’re done with your electronics.
Change the lighting on your electronics to be yellow lighting after a certain time. Although this well help, I still think it is important to just disconnect entirely
Now that we have established that.
The Nightly Routine
The first thing I do when I decide to get ready for bed is I put my phone on silent and set my alarm. I use the app called Sleep cycle. For more details on the app itself please see my post about my morning routine here Essentially it gives you a 30 minute window from when you actually need to wake up by waking you up gently with an alarm that starts soft and gets louder. The app tracks your motion as you sleep because you place the phone under your pillow or on your bed while it is plugged in. The alarm goes off when it senses you’re most awake based on the amount of your movement. Sometimes I go right ahead and plug my phone in to the outlet when this is set. Other times I may use my phone for music or meditation and will set the alarm later. I do not, however, spend time on it. If I use it for music or meditation before bed, I quickly close those apps, set my alarm, plug in my phone to the charger and then lay down when it is time for bed.
I start diffusing the essential oil of my choice. It gives me the ability to choose what mood I want to fall asleep to. Sometimes, it is strictly lavender. Other times, it may be a blend based on what I feel I need. My room smells inviting and ready for sleep when I arrive.
For everything else I pick and choose from a menu of items. I interchange the order or sometimes skip them depending on how I feel, what I did that day already and what works for me that night.
Journaling (all of them, we'll dive into that)
Drink a cup of warm caffeine free tea
Gentle yoga, gentle stretching and or meditation
Legs up the wall with breathing
Legs up the wall is my favorite. Any kind of inversion is excellent for you, but this one is so relaxing to me. It releases a lot of tension in my back and legs, which is why I like this one so much. Its during this time I like to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 5 and exhale for 6. (plus if I didn't take time to consciously breathe today or set focus, this is a great space for me to do so by recognizing the sensations in my body and staying present)
I want to touch on one part of my skin routine, not because of products, but because of something I have recently added the last 4 months that I believe is key to my emotional well being. You can do what I'm about to tell you while you are washing your face, putting on make up, putting on a face mask, trimming your beard, or anytime you feel like looking in the mirror. I personally tend to do this while washing my face or applying my face serum with a smooth rose quartz (great for lymph circulation + rose quartz correlates with the heart chakra)
I look myself in the eyes in the mirror and say out loud a few positive affirmations and a few things I love about myself that day at least 3-4 times each.
It was SO awkward at first, meeting my own eyes in the mirror and talking to myself, but eventually I got used to it. It actually built my confidence being able to do this because I HATE looking at directly at myself in a mirror (let alone directly at a camera) I choose a different affirmation or something I love about myself everyday. A few examples I have used are:
- "You are happy and grateful for all the things in your life"
- "You are patient and are open to new possibilities and information"
- "You are successful and financially free"
- "I love my hair today"
- "Despite my hands being in pain & hurting, these hands saved a life tonight at work and I love them for that"
There are TONS of positive affirmations you can look up online, or just create your own to fit your needs.
Whatever the case, when we say things out loud, we put energy into the universe, and eventually it listens. Similarly, when we tell ourselves something over and over again, we begin to believe it is true, whether it is positive or negative, we believe it with our whole being. So speak kindly to yourself; the energy you project in front of you will soak right back into you.
I usually do the next items from my bed or a comfy chair. I leave only one light near me on and the rest of the room is dark.
Look at my to-do list
Actual journal (if I feel like it)
- Open my gratitude journal & write down 3 things that I am grateful for for that day and maybe something I am manifesting if I choose
Open another journal I refer to as a “goal journal”
Creating a gratitude journal allows me to channel positive energy into things that I am grateful for that specific day. I try to avoid writing down the basics: friends, family, food and shelter. If one of these had a significant impact on my day, like sharing an amazing conversation with a friend, or it was freezing and I'm happy to be inside a home, of course I will write it down. However, I usually I try to be more specific. If I don't feel like opening my gratitude journal, I just think to myself what I am grateful for that day instead. I try to write down something I am manifesting if I am, but that isn't always the case. Recognizing these things makes you realize how lucky you truly are even if you had a terrible day. It is important to give credit where credit is due in your life.
Currently, I have a separate notebook for “To Do” list. I try to make one each night so when I wake up it is already done. Many times the list is very task oriented with normal things everyone has to do like make appointments, do laundry. Sometimes there are things like "hike this trail, yoga at 6pm ect. As I am finishing writing this post, the other day a new acquaintance asked me to try changing my task-like "to do list" into intentions when I can. For example, instead of writing down "cleaning," write down "make your space welcoming." WHOA. Totally shifted my perspective on a "to-do list." It made it feel so much less structured which is sometimes what I need. Making a space welcoming not only involves cleaning and organizing, but it invites me to allow freedom to do what makes my space feel welcoming to me and only me. MIND BLOWN. We had other amazing discussions I can't wait to write about later. So thank you Emily, I look forward to many more conversations!
The Goal Journal
Ahhh. The most daunting of my journals. My friend Halle gave me this idea about a long term goal journal as she implements it into her own routines. What I was doing previously with my goals wasn't working for me. I love it and I thought it was worth sharing.
In the first few pages I have written down in a list in no particular order my long term life goals. The pages after that I have written the reasons why I want to achieve them or why I think it will make me happy. Examples of these include continued happiness and gratitude, having financial and time freedom, completing an integrative nurse coach certification, to always keep learning, ect. I refer to the actual list almost every night, and refer to the why reasons a few times a month. I change the list and reasons as necessary if i need to
The other pages are for my short term goals divided by month or week. Sometimes it’s as simple as “setting a budget.” other time’s its getting The Mindful Voyage up and running or finishing a book I started reading.
Why the Goal Journal
Studies show that when you actually write down your goals and review them on a regular basis, you are more likely to achieve them. So why not do it every night?
I find that when I review my long term goals it reminds me of the bigger picture I am slowly working towards. I also feel that by reviewing them, I am sending energy into the universe and manifesting what I truly want.
Having this journal has been a huge help for me because as we grow, the things we once wanted in life change. Establishing the reasoning behind what you want almost checks you in a way. Identify your reasons for wanting to achieve those goals and dreams as you write them down. If the reason or goal no longer resonates with you, then take it off the list or revamp it in a way that rings true. Don't just keep something because you think you should.
LASTLY, I turn off my bedside light and GO TO SLEEP
Having flexibility and freedom in a routine is key for me with my schedule. You're human, so you understand that exhaustion sometimes takes precedence over routine. I do find when I am completing each part of this routine, everything in my life runs so much more smooth and I find myself happier and more at peace. Hell, I even sleep better. Accepting you cant always get everything done in a day or night is just another part of life, so I never beat myself up about it because none of us are superheros.
The four non negotiable parts of my routine?
1. I disconnect from my phone 2. I wash my face and go through affirmations 3. I put my legs up the wall and I breathe 4. I think of three things I'm grateful for when my head hits the pillow.
Boom. Done. Bed.
We would love to hear about your nightly routines that work for you and also how you incorporate mindfulness into them. Drop us a comment or send us an email!
Kindly, Kayls + TMV