For many of us, racing thoughts, the constant ruminating and worrying keep us awake. While you can’t stop your mind from constantly wandering off, you can choose to gently let go of your distracting thoughts and instead come into the present moment.
So for you to let go of the struggle against insomnia, you must first be able to catch yourself in the act. To do this, it’s helpful to anchor yourself in the present moment and learn to be mindful of the here and now, first during the day!
Then it’s easier to apply this at night when your racing mind keeps you awake. The more you enter a state of mindfulness, the more you will detach from unpleasant thoughts or stressful feelings, which is the prerequisite for being able to fall asleep.
How to learn being more mindful during the day?
A fantastic way to learn the skill of mindfully noticing the present moment is through the Five Senses Exercise. It’s a quick, hands-on method to help you become aware of what is right here, right now, which you can do anytime, anywhere.
Here’s how it works:
- First, look at five things that you see. Look around you and notice and name five things that you can see.
- Second, direct your mind to four things you can feel. Notice and describe the texture of four things you can touch.
- Third, try to remember three things you can hear. Gently distract the mind from internal processes and begin listening to sounds you would not have otherwise paid attention to.
- Fourth, smell two things. Notice two smells that you recognize and name them.
- Finally, focus on one thing you can taste at that particular moment. Focus and name one thing you can taste right now. You can take a sip, a bite, or just notice the current taste in your mouth.
Then, as you slowly finish this mini-exercise, try to remember how you feel this meditative state when you think of identifying with your feelings or emotions during the day.
Being present is very useful for appreciating what is unfolding right now, not just in our thoughts. It enables us to contribute to larger goals rather than getting lost in past events and inner changes and improves our potential to accept and solve our challenges.
Scan your body to be mindful at night
Once familiar with anchoring yourself to the present moment during the day, you can use your mindfulness skill at night. Of course, you can do the same Five Senses Exercise while in bed (or any other technique you like).
However, a body scan meditation is probably one of the most direct ways to get in touch with the here and now while lying in bed.
And the good news is that I’ve recorded a simple body scan meditation for you to try tonight!
This is a guided body scan meditation of about 10 minutes. If you drift off to sleep during the meditation – fantastic! But remember that this is not the primary purpose of this meditation. Instead, we want to learn to respond better to our racing minds.
So if you notice thoughts such as worry or concern that take your attention away from meditation, that is normal. Try to bring your attention back to the body scan and gently let go of these thoughts.
During the meditation, we notice our body as it lies on the bed. We will feel the body sensations present and scan the body for apparent sensations such as vibrations, tingling, heaviness, pressure, movement, heat, and coolness.
We will notice these sensations without trying to change them or make them different, but bring mindful attention of curiosity and openness to the present moment.
If you notice that you start thinking about the sensation or thinking about something else, try to return to the feelings and sensations in your body.
So ask yourself before you begin: Can I allow myself to focus on my body in this moment? Can I kindly bring my attention to my body when thoughts continue to arise within me?
Ready? Let’s go!