As a follow-up to Sheryl’s wonderful posting on “refraining” as a mindfulness practice, I wanted to introduce an exercise, which has been extremely helpful for my clients who have difficulty falling asleep.
In continuation of the mindfulness practice of allowing and accepting our experience in the moment in a non-judgemental way, we can apply this awareness as part of our self-care routine for improved rest and sleep. The goal is to strengthen our capacity for self-acceptance by noticing and observing our internal experience without evaluation or judgment. The goal also is to end the self-defeating pattern of giving into the urge to negatively judge ourselves, get up and go to the refrigerator, check our email, or turn on the television when we experience tension and a rise of anxiety when we do not fall asleep soon after putting ourselves to bed. Why not be more compassionate to ourselves? Why not create a calm space for ourselves where we can learn to notice our internal experience by responding rather than reacting?
This exercise facilitates a decrease in anxiety around sleep because the goal is to notice and experience the thoughts, feelings, impulses, and sensations that occur without attaching meaning or focusing on their content. Clients notice that within ten to fifteen minutes of engaging in this exercise, they are blissfully asleep.
The following exercise will help us to shift from the doing mode of work to the being mode of sleep and help us to develop greater capacity to exist in our subjective experience:
Just NOTICE and BE AWARE of the following without giving into the URGE:
-Thought (Example–self punitive thoughts, such as “I just can’t get it together and fall asleep.”)
Allow yourself to have an awareness of it and let it roll out of your mind like a log rolling down a river. It’s just a brain product and will soon be replaced by another brain product in a few seconds. There is no urgency. It’s not an emergency.