Nighttime Rituals That Will Improve Your Day
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Sleep Tight!1 of 9
By Paige Brettingen
Sometimes, it's just not your day. A last-minute project forced you to cancel date night, leading to a fight with your significant other, followed by the realization that there's no food in the refrigerator—and did we mention that the DVR didn't record the latest episode of DWTS? Instead of stewing, take the evening to relax and reset. Here, eight rituals that will help you wind down and prepare for a better tomorrow.
Count to Three2 of 9
No matter how bad your day was, write down three things you were proud of, says Dr. Jennifer Taitz, a clinical psychologist and author of End Emotional Eating. "If you focus on the things you did right that day, research shows it will make you more motivated in the following days," she says. Whether you called your mom, got the kids to school on time, or asked an insightful question at a work meeting, it's important to acknowledge that even the worst days have their positive moments.
Family Matters3 of 9
When deciding which nightly ritual is most important for you, Taitz has her clients first complete a "list of values." For example, if family is a big priority, a great nightly ritual could be to have your kids pick out a book each night for you to read to them. Another idea is to spend a few minutes before bed complimenting your spouse on something he did that you noticed and appreciated that day.
Power Down4 of 9
Just as you have a morning routine to wake up (making coffee, exercising, showering), it's just as crucial to have a routine for winding down. For starters, shut down all electronics 60 minutes before bed, says Dr. Alicia Clark, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The reason? The brightness of electronic screens simulates the blue light of dawn and turns off your serotonin, the neurotransmitter that induces sleep.
Ready, Set, Sleep5 of 9
The best way to remind yourself it's time to wind down? Set an alarm, just as you would to wake up. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, a good night's rest is crucial to a good morning, which will set the tone for the rest of your day. But it's often too easy to let watching one more episode of House of Cards derail your sleep schedule. To avoid this, program the alarm on your smartphone to go off at the same time each night as a bedtime reminder.
Turned Off6 of 9
In addition to turning off technology, Taitz recommends using it as an opportunity to "turn off touchy topics." Whatever issue you're tempted to bring up—whether it's your husband's failure to help with chores that night or the kids leaving their toys strewn around the room—bringing it up five minutes before bedtime rarely means it will get resolved in five minutes. Correction: It never gets resolved in five minutes.
Neat Idea7 of 9
Speaking of toys strewn around the room, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, shares this easy nighttime cleaning tip: Spend ten minutes doing an "evening tidy up" just before bed. A quick straightening each night can make a substantial dent in the cleaning you'd otherwise have to do the next day or on the weekend and, as Rubins points out, putting things back in their rightful place has a calming effect, too.
Fully Prepared8 of 9
As Clark notes, anything you can do in the evening to prepare for a hassle-free morning is time well spent. In addition to having your outfit already chosen and the coffee maker set, locate anything else you'll need (like your keys and the garage opener) and set them by the door. Also, keep a small notebook or pad of paper and pen on your nightstand. If you remember something you need to do, it's better to jot it down than to pull out your smartphone (see number 3: "Shut down all electronics 60 minutes before bed").
Body Check9 of 9
Another of Taitz's favorite rituals is doing a "body scan," an exercise that's particularly useful when struggling with restless nights. As you're lying in bed, tense one group of muscles and then release them. Start with your left foot followed by your right foot and eventually make your way up to the neck, shoulders and facial muscles. It's difficult to shut off the mind, but relaxing the body is the quickest way to do so, she says. You can download free guided meditations on UCLA's Center for Mindfulness website.