There are different approaches to using mindfulness to help you sleep. We propose two of them, the breathing awareness exercise and the body scanning relaxation exercise.
Before reading on, keep in mind that there are two key elements:
- Recognize the thoughts that buzz around your brain in a compassionate or positive way.
- Switch to ‘being’ mode, doing meditation exercises.
Meditation exercises help make your brain focus on your inner self, to slow it down and get you to relax. To do this, there are two traditional meditation techniques, which you can do before or while in bed. Let’s get to know them.
1. Breathing awareness exercise
- Lie on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides.
- Take a few seconds to feel comfortable.
- Bring your awareness to your breath. Can you feel your breath going in and out?
- There is no correct way to breathe. Just relax and breathe normally.
- Try to imagine that the air comes from far away, and blows it to a distant place.
- You can also say the words ‘in’ and ‘out’ in your mind to match your breathing. Or perhaps think of the word ‘relax’ on each exhalation.
- Concentrate on your chest rising and falling – can you feel it? Can you taste or smell the air when inhaling? Is it cold or warm?
- Your mind will probably wander at some point, and thoughts may arise.
- Don’t worry if you have thoughts. Recognize them and then gently refocus your breathing.
- As you continue to breathe, feel your body gently sink into your mattress little by little.
You can do this breathing exercise whenever you feel the need to do it during the day. Only 5 minutes can help, but you may want to build up to 20 minutes overtime. And if you do it in bed, you can do it for a few minutes or until you feel too sleepy to continue.
2. Body scanning relaxation exercise
The body scanning technique is based on getting your mind to focus on different parts of your body. There are different methods and one that I have found effective is to imagine taking your mind on a journey around your body.
- Lie down and get comfortable.
- Imagine your mind leaving your head and traveling through your body to one of your feet.
- How does your foot feel? Are you relaxed, tense, or sore? It’s hot or cold?
- Don’t make any judgments about how you feel – just scan and see how you feel.
- Imagine that your foot and foot muscles tighten and relax again.
- So, focus on your calf, knee and thigh.
- Stop at every part of the body to repeat the scan, muscle tension, and relaxation.
- Repeat the exercise with your other leg.
- Move to one hand and raise both arms.
- Scans, tightens and relaxes the back, stomach, chest, shoulders and face.
- You can imagine your muscles tensing and relaxing, or physically tensing and relaxing them – do what feels best.
- You will know that you are starting to function when your limbs start to feel heavy and that you are happy to sink comfortably into your mattress.
- You may find that your mind wanders sometimes. Recognize any thoughts that come up in a positive way, but gently bring your mind back to exercise.