If you read a lot about self-improvement, you may have heard the phrase "bedtime rituals." And while it may sound kind of hokey, the reality is a few simple bedtime rituals can change your life — or at the very least help you to feel more calm and centered, which can have some extremely positive effects on your life overall.
For most of my post-college, "adult" life, my bedtime ritual consisted of sitting on the couch watching TV or surfing the web until I got too tired to stay awake, brushing my teeth, washing my face (most of the time), and crawling into bed. This meant that I very rarely had things like breakfast or lunch prepared for the next day, and I definitely didn't do anything particularly positive for my mind and body. It also meant I was essentially on a wake up, work, sleep, wake up again loop, which left me feeling a little like a zombie who was letting life pass me by.
The thing about a few solid night time rituals is that they not only help calm your mind (which majorly helps with sleep by the way), but they allow you to become more self-aware and self-reflective, if for no other reason than you spend more time with yourself each day. I highly recommend an evening regiment to anyone feeling a little off-center or disorganized.
If you're interested in finding a few evening routines that are totally achievable and will yield noticeable results in your life, here are 11 bedtime rituals that will make a huge difference.
1. Unplug From Work
In a piece for Psychology Today, psychologist Steven Stosny noted the importance of having a decompression ritual that you do every day to transition from work to home. Stosny specifically noted the effectiveness of simply taking a walk when you come home to clear your mind of the day and to create a distinct separation between work and home.
2. Incorporate One Motivational Action
In a piece for MindBodyGreen.com, podcaster and lifestyle blogger Dan Harrison recommended taking the time to do one thing that motivates or inspires you before bed. This could be as simple as reading a chapter in a personal development book or watching a motivational video. My personal go-to is Ted Talks.
3. Prepare Food For The Next Day
Harrison also recommended preparing your food for the next day to ensure that you're eating balanced meals and aren't over-spending on eating out. I've personally found meal prep to be one of the single most life-changing parts of my daily routine. Yes, it takes time, but once you commit to scheduling it in it becomes second nature, and the process actually helps me decompress from the day.
4. Check Tomorrow's Tasks
In a piece for Forbes, David Shindler, founder of The Employability Hub and author of Learning to Leap said to sit down and review the next day's schedule once you've taken a few moments for yourself. “Think about one thing you are most looking forward to tomorrow. It will help you leave behind what’s happened today, enrich your current mood and help to put a full stop to your working day," he wrote.
5. Dim The Lights
According to the The Huffington Post, dimming the lights in your home as it gets dark outside is one of the best ways to prep your body for sleep. According to Dr. Steve Orma, a San Francisco–based psychologist specializing in anxiety and insomnia in the same piece, this is because low light increases melatonin production, which is your body's feel-good, calming hormone.
6. Tidy Your Bedroom
Orma also noted the importance of decluttering your sleep space before bed. “It subconsciously helps get rid of the anxiety and stress swirling in your mind that can keep you up when it’s time to sleep,” Orma said. Try to put away any clothes on the floor or on chairs, and quickly put back anything out of place.
7. Stay Away From Electronics
According to a study featured on NBC News, the LED light from electronic devices disrupt our body's natural sleep rhythms, and the information streaming out of the devices prevents our brains from relaxing. Try replacing your pre-bed internet or Netflix session with a book. I promise you'll get so much more sleep.
8. Keep Your Phone Out Of Arm's Reach
I know it might seem obvious, but your phone absolutely counts as an electronic device as well (and yes, I'm absolutely guilty of not putting it away before bed too). I try to wrap up all my text and social media conversations a good hour before bed (and yes, this sometimes means telling a white lie of "Night, in bed!" when I'm actually just folding laundry). And on nights when I'm less good about this, I at least try to maintain a "no phone once I'm physically in bed" rule.
9. Get Creative
A study published in Scientific American found that our brains are best at "free-thinking" when we're a little sleepy. This means we're more at our creative piques later in the day. Try incorporating a creative endeavor, like writing, or painting, into your evening routine — you just might find you're way more productive than when you try to tackle the same task at another time of day.
10. Drink Some Tea
On his website, lifestyle coach Tim Ferris highly recommended a calming tea with herbs designed for sleep about 30 minutes before bed. He also noted that once you do this enough times, your body will begin to associate the ritual with sleep, which will further help to relax you.
11. Light A Candle
While you're dimming the lights, preparing some tea, and (hopefully) not using an electronic device, think about lighting a scented candle to further calm your mind. A 2009 study published on PubMed.org found that teens who received aromatherapy were significantly less stressed than those who received a placebo, indicating that it could be a very effective treatment for stress management. Plus, they just smell nice!
Effective bedtime rituals don't have to take hours or demand a ton of your time. They can be as simple as a cup of tea and a scented candle, or as involved as preparing your breakfast and lunch for the next day. Try incorporating a few into your evening routine, and if you like the results, think about incorporating a few more. I guarantee you'll notice a difference!