One of my goals before I turn 30 (which is now only three years away… yikes!) is to take an online course. It’s one of the easier items on my list and one that I was able to knock out pretty quickly. I took my first online course the beginning of last year, and I liked it so much that I decided to take a second one. This course was called “The Science of Well-Being”. Since the first course I took was more for my professional life, I was excited to take a course more for myself.
Along with weekly lectures about what truly makes people happy, each week’s “homework” focused on trying out a new healthy routine to boost happiness (exercise, gratitude, meditation, sleep, etc). Instead of a project at the end of the course, we were to choose one of the new routines that we tried each week. I decided to focus on meditation since it was what was most foreign to me out of the options.
For this four week challenge, I made a goal to meditate every day for at least ten minutes.
At first, I would meditate between dinner time and bed time. Somewhere around 8pm. Although, I noticed it wasn’t quite working for me. I would lay down on my couch with a video playing on my laptop, but I couldn’t get my mind to shut off no matter how hard I tried to listen to the video. It was early for my brain. Typically, I don’t go to bed until 11pm or so, so my brain wasn’t used to slowing down at this point in the night. It was used to talking with friends, being on social media, or working. It wasn’t used to being calm.
Instead of giving up, I decided to change the time I did my meditations. If I couldn’t focus on them in the middle of the evening, it would probably be a lot easier to focus on them during a time when my brain is already used to being calm– bed time. And not only would the time change help me stay focused on the meditation, but hopefully it would also help me fall asleep easier. Two birds, one stone.
I’ve always been envious of the people who can fall asleep the second their head hits the pillow. It’s like a super power! When I go to bed, I toss and turn for at least half an hour, while running through what happened during the day and what lies ahead. I was excited to see if meditating while already in bed would help.
On the first night, I searched “10 minute guided sleep meditation” on YouTube. A video called “Fall Asleep in Under 10 Minutes”. How could I go wrong with that? A soft English voice came from my speakers and took me to a calming beach. Ten minutes passed, but I didn’t fall asleep. Granted, I was a lot more relaxed than I would have been otherwise, and it was easier to fall asleep that night.
On the second night, I tried to do a slightly longer meditation. I found a video on the same YouTube channel that was twelve minutes long. Not a whole lot longer than the video from the night before, but it was worth a shot. I snuggled into bed and got myself comfortable before the same English voice transported me to another calming beach with turquoise water and a cooling breeze.
The next morning I woke up and looked at my phone. The video was still up. I had fallen asleep before the video had ended. It worked.
I continued this ritual for the next couple of weeks. But it wasn’t all like the second night. Sometimes, I would be lying in bed and realize I forgot to put a meditation video on before grabbing my phone and pulling up YouTube. Other times, I would go through a whole meditation video and still be awake. It wasn’t perfect, but I could still notice the benefits.
Those nights when I didn’t fall asleep during the video, I noticed myself continuing to do the breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to calm my mind.
During the day, I noticed that I felt less stressed and under pressure at work. The work load didn’t change, but I felt more prepared to handle any challenge that came my way. I was also more positive. Not that I’m a Negative Nancy at work, but there are things that ruffle my feathers. But, I found that I was negatively reacting to things less and less often.
The real challenge, though, was what was going to happen once the four weeks was over. I had almost four weeks of falling asleep (or trying to fall asleep) to meditations. Would I still need them to calm myself and fall asleep? Did my body now rely on them?
The night that my challenge officially ended, I tried to fall asleep without a video. It was a little bit difficult to quiet my brain at first, but then I remembered a technique from one of the earlier meditations I had listened to. I imagined each thought I had as a balloon, and imagined that balloon floating away in the sky, which seemed to work, and is now one of my go to calming methods.
Now, almost three weeks after the challenge ended, I know I can go back to the meditation videos whenever I’m feeling overwhelming, anxious, or just can’t fall asleep. They’re nice little escapes void of any worries or obligations.
Have you tried meditation?