In all walks of life, I am hearing more and more people commenting on how they cannot sleep. Or how they wake in the middle of the night riddled with anxieties, that keep them up all hours.
Helping people sleep better has been an interest of mine since learning about the importance of our circadian rhythm over ten years ago, when I was part of the communications team for the Sleep Well Live Well campaign.
As a meditation teacher, people are coming to me more and more asking if mindfulness meditation can help with their sleeping problems.
The answer is yes – and no.
No – is you are looking for a panacea – a one-time “pill”/tool that you can use just once to cure your insomnia. While meditating, even just once will induce feelings of relaxation in your body as found over 40 years ago by Dr Herbert Benson , you would need to practice the techniques more than just once to learn mastery over your mind.
Like physical exercise, you can’t do 10 sit ups just once a year and expect to have the perfect physique. Meditation, like other forms of brain training and physical training takes time to master in order to reap the physical and mental benefits.
So YES – if applied regularly and build into part of your daily routine, mindfulness meditation can quickly make a difference to your night’s sleep. Harvard University research in 2015 showed the link between mindfulness meditation and improved sleep and further studies continue to enforce this.
One client, who I started working with to help her insomnia, was suffering from massive sleep deprivation, getting only three to five hours sleep every night. She was having both trouble getting to sleep, as well as the fact that when she finally fell asleep, she would only get a few hours before the anxieties plaguing her mind would wake her.
We looked at introducing a mindfulness meditation routine to her daily life to tap into the sleep benefits. We also looked at sleep hygiene factors and ways to integrate mindfulness into real-life. An important hygiene factor is screen time and in June 2017 a new study showed just how damaging the link between our phones and sleep can really b e.
So to get you in a better space of mind for improving your sleep, I invite you to try some of these tips and techniques:
1. When you wake in the middle of the night, try a body scan meditation .
Consciously take time to notice your body from toe to head, one part of your body at a time. Just observing the temperature, comfort – or lack or it. How do you feel about each part of you? You can also invite a sense of relaxation and calm into each part of your body – one at a time, after pausing to simply observe and notice how you are feeling. You can sit up in bed to keep yourself awake and explore this, or stay lying down, so you can encourage your body to dose off.
2. Before you go to bed, take a few moments for a gratitude meditation.
Spend some time saying thank you for at least three good things about the day., Even in the darkest days there will have been some moments to be thankful for – or that have raised a smile. It may be the fact that someone brought you a cup of tea or said hello with a big smile to you in the shop. It may be a beautiful sunrise or sunset. It may be a lovely smelling shower gel that picked you up and refreshed you when you washed today. It may be the fact that you are alive and breathing and able to read this article….You can also spend some time writing your master ‘happy list’ of things that make you happy and that you are grateful for – that you can review every night before bedtime to find a smile in the face of worry.
3. Mindfully prepare your bedroom for sleep.
Is your room surrounded by clutter, filled with electronics, stuffed with dirty clothes? Move the dirty laundry – to another room/laundry basket if possible, Move the clutter – even if you sweep it into a box to sort through tomorrow, and see how your sleep can improve.
4. Turn off the TV, tablet, laptop, phone ideally TWO hours before you go to bed – as the blue light can have an impact on your melatonin levels and your body’s natural circadian rhythm ( see 2014 research ).
Love to hear how you find these tips and ideas.
Have a great day and a good night!
Mindfulness is a form of meditation and both are often in the media for their link in stress reduction, increased focus and improved happiness – but did you know they could help you lose weight and meet your wider new year's resolutions and goals?
Here are five of the top reasons to make mindfulness meditation part of your year.
1. Stress Reduction – Mindfulness and meditation exercises are scientifically proven to help your body to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – so you can physically and mentally feel more rested. You can try mindful breathing by just pausing for a few moments to notice your breath, observing the speed, temperature and position in the body – then try to count and extend your breath in and out.
2. Sleep better – not only will meditation help you to feel calmer it can help with specific problems such as insomnia . There are specific techniques that are particularly useful – such as the ‘body scan’ where you start to deliberately pay attention to each part of your body in turn, moving in your mind slowly from head to toe, in order to bring a feeling of relaxation into each part of your body.
3. Increased happiness – Research from as early as the 1960s has proven a range of health benefits through meditation as well as the fact that meditation increases dopamine (the happy hormone) in our brain. Dr Benson of Harvard Medical School’s early studies found that meditation helped to reduce obsessive thinking, depression and hostility, and help us to be happier. It also reduces the ‘fear centre’ in our brain so we receive less negative messages from our brains and more happier ones! Benson also found you can even change the ‘set point’ for happiness when affected by challenging life circumstances, by using a daily meditation practice, in as little as six weeks. More recent studies confirm how the part of our brain responsible for our happiness actually grows when we practise meditation .
4. Weight loss – There is a growing understanding of the link between over eating and our emotions, alongside the role of calorie counting and exercise. Meditation helps us to understand and monitor our emotional wellbeing and better tune in to our bodies. It can help us to stop reaching for unhealthy comfort food in times of stress and sadness . It can also help give us more focus to stick with our fitness and diet plans! You can try Mindful eating with the first bite of your next meal and start to notice the difference. Take a moment to really pay attention, pausing to look at your food, listening to any sound it makes as you cook it, open it, cut into it etc. Observe the smell and then really experience the taste and texture and take note of how your body reacts to each mouthful.
5. Sticking to our Goals – meditation can help increase focus by making changes to our brain. It works like a form of ‘brain training’ growing parts of our brain and helping to build neural connections that help memory, concentration and focus.
If you are curious and would like to give it a try – come and discover the range of drop in workshops and classes on offer through BalanceTime .
“Yes!” says Amanda
who was signed off work with stress last year, and has transformed her approach
to stress through treatment from her Doctor alongside regular mindfulness
workshops and a 5-week mindfulness meditation course at Theale Wellbeing Centre.
She talks about the changes. “ At first the sessions finally helped me to relax, but with time and practice they have really helped me shift my mindset towards work and pressures at home, to find better ways to not just manage my stress but take action to stop it building to such unhealthy levels in the first place.”
Mindfulness meditation is frequently under the spot light with research from Harvard University showing powerful links between meditation and reduced stress and anxiety . Much like physical exercise and its impact on our health - it’s not a quick fix – i.e. you can’t run once a year and have a perfect physique. But those who practice regular mindfulness meditation are calmer and able to manage pressures in life with less stress and anxiety. Research from Dr Sara Lazar shows how mindfulness meditation makes this possible by physically changing our brains so we experience less anxiety and fear .
Current research has found that no medicines yet actually address the hormone that is the root cause of stress…cortisol. While you can take a plethora of medicines to reduce the symptoms stress hormones have on our bodies – like betablockers for lowering blood pressure and insulin for diabetes. Tackling the root cause of stress requires a different approach.
From massage and reflexology to sooth body and mind, to the calming experience of mindfulness meditation, to more in depth therapies such as counselling and hypnotherapy – is it time you explored ways to have a positive impact on your wellbeing and reduce your stress levels?
Today our blog showcases mindfulness meditation for reducing stress – not just through the science but with short stories on how clients have been enjoying the stress relieving impacts of Mindfulness Meditation with BalanceTime.
Peter attended the Two Hour Holiday meditation workshop to help tackle his stress and anxiety at work and comments:
“I attended the 2 hour holiday as a complete mindfulness and meditation novice, I was a bit nervous and I'll admit quite sceptical about whether it could help me with my anxiety. Judy put me completely at ease, explained everything really well and the meditations really helped me 'get away'. With help from the regular workshops BalanceTime run at Theale Wellbeing Centre I now use the techniques I have learnt daily and as a result I am sleeping a lot better, am far less anxious (as I now have some tools to calm me down) and find time to really appreciate smells, sights and sounds in everyday life!”
Elizabeth had used meditation and mindfulness in her past but recently found with pressures at work and looking after her family that she couldn’t find time for it. She came along to a series of workshops to help her find some time for herself and to balance her stress levels. “By learning new techniques and reminding myself of others, plus discovering easy ways to practice these lovely exercises daily, has reminded me the importance of mindfulness in my life. I have been able to reduce my blood pressure tablets – I still need to take them – but my dose has halved – I am certain these mindfulness exercises are a big part of the reason why. Thanks Judy for helping remind me how to make mindfulness meditation a part of my day”.
Claudia has been attending Judy’s mindfulness workshops throughout the last six months and adds “I’ve learnt some techniques that really help me with stress and managing pain from an injury. But I do love dropping into the sessions for a wonderful way to refocus on me and enjoy a calm-inducing hour or two – the classes leave me with a feeling of rest and rejuvenation to last me all week.”
Find out the next stress busting mindfulness meditation workshops with BalanceTime here .
Note – to protect our clients identities names have been changed. You can see more referrals on our Facebook page
1. Travel to our favourite destinations – Holidays are all about new destinations, experiencing some of your favourite things and discovering your curiosity for new adventures, sights and sounds. BalanceTime ‘Holidays’ help you to use your imagination to travel to favourite holiday destinations and happy holiday memories and bring back that feeling of happiness and relaxation without leaving the room.
2: Breathing space
Holidays are about taking some time out away from the daily routine and giving yourself some breathing space from anxieties and pressures. Regularly taking an hour out from your busy schedule and enjoy some quality 'me-time' can give you a boost and breath of fresh air away from it all - without travelling very far at all. Exploring breathing exercises to helps you to re-focus and refresh with just a few minutes to spare - is a great way of finding breathing space and micro moments every day - not just when you are on annual leave.
3:Food tastes better on holiday
Sometimes we travel for the cuisine. Often we just feel that food tastes better on holiday. Is the sunshine? The company? The location? These can all have an impact but a bigger impact than you may realise is your mindset towards food. Too often in our daily life we eat mindlessly - not stopping between tasks or even to look away from our computer screen. Do we even notice what we are putting in our mouths? A meditation holiday helps you explore how mindfully eating and choosing something to eat
can bring back feelings of joy and 'take you to a holiday moment' with one
small taste .
4: Smile inside and out
We go on holiday to unwind and do things that make us really happy. Can you find more things to make you happy everyday - not just two weeks of the year. Sometimes it is just about shifting your mindset to what you have to do each day. Sometimes it is about finding happy triggers to help bring you back to moments of joy when life makes you feel blue. With a mix of props to set the scene for the holiday destination, our meditation holiday workshops help you to smile inside and out as you notice playful memory triggers of happy holiday times.
5. Relax, de-stress and refresh
The secret to success of most holidays is the search for relaxation and stress busting environments. How you can you bring that back into your life when you are home? The mini break and holiday workshops use a mix of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation exercises to help you unwind and feel refreshed. Your body will relax, as your mind slowly takes some time to 're-boot'. We explore ways to find your 'happy triggers' - helping you take away ideas and techniques you can use every day to help you find a moment of calm whenever you need it.
To find out dates for our next meditation mini break please visit our what's on page.