Few things are as frustrating as lost sleep. It always seems that insomnia strikes on the nights when good rest is most important. If you find yourself fretting the night before a big presentation or simply have trouble getting to sleep, then mediation may provide the kind of calm you need to finally fall into a deep slumber. Here are several ways to use meditation to get to sleep.
Every meditation session should start with a check-in. In this technique, which can be used alone or in conjunction with other forms of meditation, you assess the status of your body and mind. You want to determine where you carry stress in your body by assessing which muscles are tight and painful. You also want to take inventory of your thoughts and figure out what is bothering you. What’s whizzing around in your brain and keeping you awake? Don’t resist the thoughts, no matter how unsettling, because you need to be able to confront them if you want to control them.
Once you’ve taken stock of what issues are keeping your mind busy and where your tension lies, you can start to address both. For muscles aches and pains, focus on contracting and relaxing the affected muscles to get a sense of what they feel like when they are at rest. Focus your mind on the relaxation phase and encourage your muscles to remain loose. For mental trouble, focus on your breathing while thinking about the problem at hand. Put things into perspective by first acknowledging that lost sleep won’t solve your problems. Then, make a deliberate act of locking those thoughts away in a safe place in your mind. You can deal with them again the next day, but mediation is about locking away for limited times so that they can’t interfere with your rest.
One great way to bring peace to an active mind is to mentally walk through a scene that you find calming. There are no specific rules for guided imagery. All you need to do is picture something that relaxes you, such as a place or an activity, and the focus on making it vivid enough that it pushes other thoughts from your mind. Some people like to think abut long walks on the beach, blowing bubbles, or even clearing out their work areas and going to sleep.
The goal of guided imagery is to fill your mind full of peaceful or pleasing thoughts so that there is no room for unpleasant thoughts. For some people, this may require only a general idea of their “happy place.” For other people, guided imagery may require a lot of attention to the details of their paradise. The more often you use guided imagery, the easier it will be to calm yourself with this technique.
Mindfulness is all about focusing on all of the aspects of your life that are troubling you. You take each problem, in turn, and put it to rest so that you can sleep. The idea is that you “earn” your rest by directly addressing the aspects of your life that are troubling. You can even make a plan to deal with the problems the next day or create a checklist that you tick off as you acknowledge each worry and put it away for the night. Many people use a journal to help with mindfulness. They treat the act of writing as a metaphor for moving their troubles from their minds to the pages of their journals where they are safely stored until the morning.
Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a technique used to help ease trauma and reduce stress. Both the American Psychiatric Association and the Department of Defense use EMDR and support the research into its effects. It has proved to be particularly helpful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The process of EMDR is relatively simple, though it can take some time to master. In the first phase, you must confront the problems that are distressing you. Next, you think about ways in which you can address these issues or cope with them and then you identify a visual image or thought that is related to the issues that are distressing you. you focus on that image and then move your fingers back and forth within your field of vision (you can get someone else to do this for you too). Follow your fingers with your eyes only and try to let your mind go blank as you do. Repeat this as often as necessary until you no longer feel distressed by the original thought. Note that you don’t have to use eye movement for this. The same effect can be achieved with auditory clicks, by tapping your fingers, clapping, and so forth. There are more than twenty thousand licensed practitioners of EMDR in the United States alone, so if you want professional guidance for this technique, it can easily be found.
The techniques above aren’t mutually exclusive. You can use any or all of them to improve your sleep and better your mental health throughout the day. The goal is to help you separate feelings that distress you from your basic physiology. By making the distinction, you can rest and be well while still coping with all of the important matters in your life.