Few things are more frustrating than lying in bed tired but completely unable to fall asleep. You're thinking about all the things you have to do the next day, what you forgot to do earlier or what you wish you could be doing instead. Well, we have the perfect remedy for your restlessness: meditation. You've probably heard about mindfulness meditation and its stress relief benefits. (We've even told you that finding serenity is not as hard as you think, and you don't have to completely shut off your brain to do it.) Now it's time to finally stop the tossing and turning, adopt a regular Zen practice and actually wake up feeling refreshed. Elisha Goldstein, PhD, Mindful Living course instructor and a teacher for Gaiam's Meditation Studio app (iOS, $3), shared some suggestions on how to do just that.
First, meditate before bedtime to get used to it. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to your experiences in the present moment. Whether you're listening to someone talk you through a meditation session or just concentrating on the breath moving in and out of your body, focus on the sensations you feel from head to toe. If you can't completely tune out, that's okay. Just acknowledge your thought and then come back to your breath. Practice this a couple times in daylight to get comfortable with it. This Zen video is a good starting point, or close your eyes and listen to this five-minute meditation.
Have the kids join in. Relieving anxiety is good for everybody in the family, so ask your kids to join in on de-stressing techniques. Try putting on a playlist with music from different genres, from pop to classical to hip-hop. Change the song every minute or so (or create a track that automatically does this) and have your kids check in on how their bodies feel during each song. Ask your children what makes them want to dance and what makes them feel happy so they understand the idea of being more present—and you can do it right along with them.
Start paying more attention to your senses. As you get ready for bed, focus on the water touching your skin while you shower or wash your face. If you use lotion, notice the scent. As you put on your pajamas, think about the softness of the fabric. "The more you pay attention to your senses, the more you dial down stressful thoughts," says Goldstein.
Zone out while lying down. You want to relax while you're meditating so you can ease into some solid shut-eye, and getting horizontal will help. Meditation Studio has several pre-sleep guided sessions you can choose from, including Goldstein's "Body Rest." The Buddhify app (Android and iOS, $5) is another option for guided meditations. Just choose "Going to Sleep" and the audio that seems most appealing. Listening to birds chirping, water running or whatever sound soothes you is helpful too. If you're still feeling anxious, do a body scan to see where the tension is located and breathe deeply into those spots to soften them. If you fall asleep during one of these mental exercises, that's not a problem—you'll just know it works!