Winding down at the end of the day is essential to any wellness routine – your sleep cycle will dramatically improve once you adopt a predictable evening practice. Ultimately, the best wind-down routine is one that fits into your schedule and meets your individual needs. While you’d ideally take 1-2 hours of calming time in the evenings, sometimes a goal that’s too ambitious can make the entire undertaking feel too stressful - if 30 minutes feels attainable, start there! As you decide what to include in your wind-down, think about your home environment and your habits – calming your body down at the end of the day isn’t the time to force yourself to enjoy activities but rather to mindfully incorporate things that you find soothing and fulfilling.
The best wind-down routine starts with activities that help calm your mind and soul as a transition from day to night. After these more interactive portions are finished, relax your body as you get into bed and begin to fall asleep. For ideas to get you started calming down your mind, body, and soul, try some of the inspiration ahead.
Calm Your Mind
Plan for the next day by writing out your top three tasks and then a quick list of anything else on your mind. By writing down the things that might keep your brain working actively when you turn out the lights, your mind will feel confident that it won’t forget anything important. If pencil and paper aren’t your forte, try one of these to-do list apps to keep everything organized and accessible on your phone.
Choose soothing topics if you listen to podcasts or read books before bed. While exciting material may be more intriguing, your goal with this time is to allow your mind to start slowing down for the day - if your book is too captivating, you won’t want to sleep! If you need new, calmer podcasts, here is a good list of some specifically designed to help you relax and begin to fall asleep.
Calm Your Soul
Devote time to a cherished activity without a goal in mind. During your evening wind-down, the goal is enjoying the activity, not a certain level of productivity. For example, if you knit, don’t plan to complete a certain number of rows or set yourself a timeframe for completing the project; instead, use this evening time to reconnect with an activity that brings you joy. If your cherished activities are usually more boisterous or outdoors, make time for these things first in your wind-down routine. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating light to moderate exercise or outdoor hobbies like gardening. Not everything in your practice needs to be quiet, but it does all need to have a purpose.
Listen to meditations and gratitude mantras that focus on finding strength, joy, and peace. Many meditations can help you prepare for a challenge or confront your anxiety, but during a wind-down routine, you need something calmly inspiring. You can choose to listen to an audio meditation or read a script until you’ve developed the tools to meditate on your own (although many people find that at bedtime, a guided meditation is especially useful, so they don’t get off track).
Calm Your Body
Limit screens and lights in your bedroom, and ideally the rest of your house. Not only is the blue light emitted by televisions, phones, and computers too stimulating for sleep, white light can also confuse your body’s natural inclination toward sleep at the end of the day. Dimming lights around your home and avoiding electronic devices will allow your body’s sleep hormones to take over as nature intended.
Try aromatherapy to help transform your bedroom into a calm space, especially if you spend a lot of time there during the day. Lavender is known to help relieve stress, so spraying a mist on your pillow before bed is a great way to incorporate a gentle form of this soothing scent. You can also use scented candles (be sure to blow them out before you close your eyes!) or incorporate essential oils into an evening bath if that’s part of your new routine.
Focus on your breathing when you get into bed. There are many different breathing techniques that you can use, so experiment to find one that’s right for you. The goal here is to direct your mind to connect with your body and begin to slow your breathing so that your muscles relax.
By creating a wind-down routine that calms your mind, allows you time to experience fulfilling activities, and creates an environment for your body to naturally fall asleep, you’ll notice that your evenings are much more enjoyable and your sleep better than ever!