Bedtime rituals are the actions we repeatedly take when preparing for sleep. Even if we don’t realize we have a “routine” there are consistent actions we engage in before going to bed that are habits on auto pilot.

One example is our “self talk” as we prepare to drift off to sleep. For decades my pre-sleep self talk (silently) went something like:

“Ugh, bad food day. I shouldn’t have eaten (fill in the blank) and crap I didn’t get back to Zach’s doctor for the test results, when will I actually check things off my list…I am great at making lists but not checking things off…tomorrow will be freezing, I don’t feel like walking in the morning…but I didn’t exercise today, I need to start working out regularly again…maybe a new gym…I really tanked that presentation today, why did I think it would be funny to lead with jokes? What an embarrassing day! Why do I even try?”

Sound familiar? Instead of being at Peace as I entered into slumber, I used those precious final moments over and over again for mental (and spiritual if it resonates) confession. “Bless me Father for I have sinned, I did not do (fill in the blank) today or I handled that conflict terribly, even though I said I wouldn’t I ate (fill in the blank) or drank more wine than I intended…

Not surprisingly, confessing my faults with my eyes closed at the end of a long day did not yield very peaceful sleep. And it often picked up in the night when I got up to check on Zach, or use the bathroom. The moment I was awake it would start up: “Today is the day I will be better…but I say that all the time and don’t…go back to sleep and deal with it tomorrow, ugh what time is my first meeting, I am prepared but probably won’t get my point across.” It was like a “hater’s free-or-all” attack on my soul when I was hardly awake but alert enough to criticize myself in the dark.

Fortunately I learned to cultivate a new pre-bedtime (and middle of the night) habit. Instead of confession, I mentally recall what I did well that day. I focus on the positive behaviors, accomplishments, opportunities and even growth moments since I was last asleep. This is a powerful practice that I learned from Optimize.Me when reviewing extensive content on Joseph Campbell and his multitude of life changing concepts and teachings.

Quoting Joseph Campbell:

Rama Krishna once said that if all you think of are your sins, then you are a sinner. And when I read that, I thought of my boyhood, going to confession on Saturdays, meditating on all the little sins that I had committed during the week. Now I think one should go and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have been great, these are the good things I have done this week.” Identify your notion of yourself with the positive, rather than with the negative.

Permission to be great before bed? I’m in! Here’s an example of my self talk upgrade, in light of Joseph Campbell’s Wisdom:

Bless me, Father, for I have been great. Zach is healthy and strong and fed and medicated and sleeping soundly. I am a loving, devoted mom. I walked 10K steps today which was a gift to my heart and my body. I sent that thank you note I’d been putting off. I got paid today, and earned enough money to settle that debt, I connected with (fill in the blank) who really needed a friend today, I am so glad I could be present to her.”

The Bottom Line: Try this when going to sleep and see if/how it impacts your rest and recovery time. Set a goal of acknowledging three things that you did well, in those final moments of the day. These can be big or small, just three ways that in your opinion, you showed up in a way that brings pride, not shame to the sleep party.

If you wake up in the night try plugging in a “ready” mantra of something like “I have what I need, I know what to do” rather than letting your mind run wild and “sneak attack” your soul when you aren’t even awake. Or simply repeat to yourself “Quiet mind, restful heart…quiet mind, restful heart…quiet mind, restful heart.” It is the equivalent of comforting a child who has awoken in the night, “Everything is ok, its not time to be awake, go back to sleep, all is well.”

Because at the end of the day, and in the middle of the night, all usually IS well. We just have to turn off the self attack station and give ourselves permission to be great before bed. And all day for that matter! Sweet Dreams!

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