Many of us who have taken on responsibilities — business, family, personal growth — find ourselves spinning at night. Our brains are on overdrive. We may be processing the events of the previous day, the fires to be put out the next day, or the possible solutions to a nagging problem. These thoughts are often accompanied by feelings of stress and anxiety that keep the mind and body from falling asleep.
The difference between spinning and planning is that planning has an outcome, while spinning is more like your thoughts chasing their own tail without moving forward. One of the reasons that your brain spins like this is because it does not want to lose sight of a potential threat or a potential solution.
Step #1 Keep a pad (not an electronic device) by your bed. If there is something that you don’t want to forget — problem or solution — write it down. Give your brain a break from trying to hold onto the train of thought out of fear that you will forget. Do not use a phone or tablet to record this as it can be too stimulating and lead to a rabbit hole of emails to be checked and news to be read….
Step #2 Bring your attention to the present. Bring your attention to the sensations of your body against the bed, simply noticing what it feels like. Move your attention to the center of your body and notice anything going on there. Find the movement of the breath in your body and rest your attention there. As you bring your attention to what is happening in your body in the present, your attention will wander back to the spinning process. This is normal. When it happens, just kindly and gently bring it back to the sensations in the body.
Step #3 Cultivate acceptance, kindness and gratitude. Bring your attention to the area around your heart. Find space, acceptance, and kindness for any discomfort or difficult feelings. Find gratitude for these feelings as they are your best reminder to be present and loving. This can feel awkward or challenging at first because we are conditioned to want to get rid of these feelings. These feelings are a normal part of being human and trying to will them away is not going to make them go away.
Step #4 Practice this when you are awake. You can stop several times a day to bring your attention to the sensations in your body, and then cultivate acceptance, kindness and gratitude. The more you practice this during the day, the more readily you can access this when you are spinning at night.
At first this practice may feel awkward and like it is not working. This is the case for any new practice. Stick with it and you will be amazed at what an impact this simple practice can have on the quality of your sleep, life, work, and relationships. Remember — be careful what you practice, because you are going to get better at it.