I was recently talking to a couple of people who mentioned that they were having trouble sleeping. After discovering that they were both suffering from overthinking or ruminating I shared some thoughts with what could help them.
Mindfulness can help us sleep better. Mindfulness is about being present in the present moment. We pay attention without judgment, to things as they are. We learn our thoughts are just thoughts not facts. With practice we can quieten our minds, which can help us sleep better.
Here are two easy to learn meditation techniques that can help when you can’t sleep:
- Breath Meditation
- Body Scan
The breath meditation is one of the simplest meditations there is. That doesn’t mean to say that it is always easy though. After making sure you are comfortable, place one or both hands on your belly. Tune in to the breath and feel your hands rise on the inhalation and fall on the exhalation. That’s it! Repeat.
Your mind will wander as that is what minds do!
Every time you notice your mind has wandered, very gently bring it back to your breath and feel the next inhalation or exhalation.
After a while you can remove your hands from your belly and try to keep your focus on the breath. Keep gently bringing your mind back to the breath every time you notice it has wandered off to thinking, worrying, planning etc.
With the body scan we use the sensations of the body to keep us in the present moment. Make sure you are comfortable and lying on your back with your hands and feet resting out to the sides of the body.
Start by focusing on the breath. Feel the breath come in and feel the breath go out of the body. See if you can feel your belly rising and falling with each breath.
Now start at your left foot and see if you can notice any sensations in your left toes. Keep your attention on your left toes and see what you can notice there. If there is numbness or no sensation that is fine too. When you are ready, take a deeper breath in and out and move on to the sole of your left foot. Put your full attention there now. Allow yourself to feel any and all sensations in the sole of your left foot.
When you are ready to move on, move your awareness to the top of your left foot and see what sensations you can feel in this part of your body. Carry on in this way with the heel, ankle, calf, shin etc of the left leg. Repeat with the right foot and leg.
When you notice your mind has wandered, note where it went and gently bring it back to your breath and the body part you are focusing on.
Continue in the same way with the pelvis, back, torso, chest, hands and arms, shoulders, neck, head and face. Bringing your attention to each part in turn and just noticing what sensations are present.
Remember, the aim isn’t to feel any particular sensations (e.g. relaxation), so don’t try to force anything. It is to just be present in the body moment to moment, region by region. We are just paying attention to whatever sensations are present as we focus on each region in turn.
These techniques can be very effective, but are best practiced without any expectations. Just do the practice regularly and see what happens.
If you would like some help please get in touch.