Sleep. Oh, how I love the feeling after a hard days work and falling into bed exhausted.
I must say, I am lucky that as a rule sleep is not something that eludes me. The middle of the night is often my creating time.
I have found that the skill required to manage my thoughts during sleep have become hugely beneficial during the day. When I am needing to focus on one specific outcome, I am able to adjust what is happening in my mind so that only thoughts related to what I am currently doing come to mind. I am able to do this because I practice at night, and have become quite effective at it.
It didn’t always happen that way. I was a classic over thinker, and often in the middle of the night I was blindsided by emotions (which are only responses to thoughts), and worries.
Thankfully, I have since learnt a few tricks which I would like to share with you.
Being able to manage our thoughts takes practice, it is like any other muscle and why not build that muscle while sleeping.
You may have experienced yourself that feeling of waking up at 3am in a state of panic after a bad dream, beginning the looping patterns of replaying past events, or worrying about an event in the near future.
What if you were able to change the thoughts replaying in your mind to ones that will serve you AND do it easily? The best part of this process is that once you change your thoughts to resourceful ones sleep comes naturally and easily afterward.
The biggest thing to tell yourself is that thinking these thought in a negative frame over and over again are not serving you or your outcome. Lacking sleep won’t help either so the best thing you can do to help you get out of the perceived challenge is to try on a few new options.
Notice the thoughts that are replying over and over.
Look at them in 3rd person as though you are looking through another set of eyes mind reading your thoughts. The act of seeing them simply as thoughts, much like those bubbles that pop up in cartoons allows you to mentally detach giving them less power over you.
Then you have an opportunity to decide if they are ones you would like to keep, or would they be better off let go by. Many of our worries are not true, have never been true and will not come true. They are just made up jumble in our minds with bits and pieces of all sorts of past and perceived experiences. When we see them in 3rd person as such, we can just smile at them and say goodbye.
Play with the image of the thought.
This is one of my personal favourites, and hugely effective with children. When you notice a thought and decide you would rather not replay it over and over in your head, change a few things you notice about the image you are visualising as you think about it.
First notice the colour, how far away the image is, are you in the image, or looking through your own eyes? Are the colour vivid and bright, or dull. Is it a moving image or still?
Then play with changing that image. Change the colours. Move the image further away. Add in random objects.
For example you find yourself thinking about an uncomfortable conversation with somone. Practice seeing it in your favourite colour, have a road runner scoot through the scene, or see Elvis dancing. Imagine it several times until you can can play the scene backwards and forwards quickly and easily with the added objects etc. It sounds a bit nuts but works incredibly well if you are willing to give it a red hot go
Next time it comes up in a dream, add you chosen objects and be amazed by the power you have in your unconscious thoughts.
An example of this for children is when my daughter had nightmares of a karate kangaroo coming to get her. This may not seem scary to us as adults but it was very real and terrifying to her at the time. We decided to change the dream and add a few images to it.
First, we gave the kangaroo a big fluffy scarf with a pink flowery hat, a fat tummy and boxing gloves with laces that kept tripping him up. Then we added a conversation where Charlotte asked the kangaroo if her can teach her some karate. We practiced this by having Charlotte imagine the dream just before bed, and really describe everything she was feeling. To a point where she was feeling scared.
Then we changed the image to the one we had come up with and noticed how her emotional state changed. We practiced this a few times to where she could change her emotional state at will simply by changing the image.
Charlotte never had any trouble with the karate kangaroo after that. When the dream came, even while still sleeping she could change the image to where she was being taught karate by the kangaroo and then fell back into a restful sleep.
I have done this with many children who were having trouble with nightmares and changed the images of many scary creatures leading to much happier and brighter children.
This is such a wonderful skill to develop in a child. In order to change the image the children need to accept that they CAN change the thoughts and images coming from their minds. Knowing this gives them so much power. They are able to decide what they are going to focus, and how that are going to feel when perceived negative experiences come up through the day.
It doesn’t matter what proverb or great thinker you look into or how far back you go in history, gratitude is something that is highly prized and practiced amongst the most successful people in the world. Such a simple subtle shift can change everything.
Begin by thinking about what you currently have that you are grateful for. The more emotion you can bring to this the better. Take some time to fully experience this gratitude. It actually takes practice to experience gratitude fully
Instead of thinking of what you are lacking, think about what you want instead. Fully imagine yourself having what you need. This is sleep time, where you can create anything you want.
One of my favourite things to do is as I put my head on the pillow is to create tomorrow as “my perfect day”. Some days I go crazy and imagine things far beyond my wildest dreams all happening on one day, and other nights I am a bit more realistic and imagine everything I am wanting to achieve all going to plan, and then there ones in between. Rarely, do I get to the end of the day. I am usually happily sound asleep by mid morning in my imagined day.
Place your thoughts into a metaphoric old string bag beside the bed.
If you are feeling like you don’t want to get rid of your problems but really need to sleep, you can imagine putting your troubles into a string bag beside the bed to pick up again in the morning. Tell yourself that you will pick up your troubles in the morning and go forward and solve them tomorrow.
Ask for guidance.
This may come across as a little spiritual, but whether you believe in a god, a higher self, a buddha or nothing it is a great opportunity to ask your unconscious to look for answers to your frustration overnight. Say aloud, ( or in you mind if you don’t feel conformable talking aloud) I am asking for guidance. Please help me find a solution to …… Please help me find a way to …..
State these in the positive. They need to be what you are wanting, NOT what you don’t! Re read this sentence. There is no point telling of your troubles, you are only interested in solutions
The idea is to say to your unconscious mind, please find this solution while I sleep. I will relax and let you do what you do best.
More often than not the solution will pop into your head though the night or in the morning. Who knows where it came from. It does not really matter. Just trust your inner guidance.
Move from your head space into your body.
This is an old school trick which we forget sometimes. It is highly effective, and quite relaxing. The trick is catching your self when you move away from your body, into your head and start overthinking. Bring your awareness back to the body. In the beginning you may need to do this many times. I can promise you, if you do this on a consistent basis, it gets very easy.
There are many techniques to do this. I’ll to give you a couple to help you get started.
Imagine your self in a bath that is slowly being filled with warm water. Feel the sensation of the aromatic liquid slowly moving up your body. Do this very slowly and visualise it as you are bring awareness to each body part as it is enveloped by the water. Notice how each muscle relaxes as you do so.
Starting at your toes, feel a slight tingling sensation moving gradually up your body. Do this so purposefully that you notice all the intricate details of your body. For example when beginning at the feet, notice each toe, the hollow of your arch, the back of your heel, the soft insides of the ankle itself, the wrinkles at the back….etc. The slower you do this, and more awareness you can bring to your body the better this will work.
In both these examples, I find I rarely get past my knees and I am already asleep. However earlier on, I had to work quite hard to keep attention on my body. This has since became effortless even when I am anxious.
Personally, I practice either one of these or other techniques I have every night. It may only be for 1 or 2 minutes but it has truly been a game changer for me in regards to strengthening my resilience and mental game. My clients also practice these methods and love not only the better nights sleeps but enjoying those times when they are awake.
When you can relax and enjoy those few moments that you wake in the night and use them for your own potential and creation, they have a meditative energy to them allowing your body to continue to renew while you create the life you desire. So much fun!
I look forward to hearing how you go with these strategies. If you would like some more personalised to you, get in touch and we can get that happening.