Mindfulness has been shown to help in a range of conditions

MindfulnessMindfulness programs have been shown to improve overall quality of life, in both men and women. People with chronic disorders, such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, mental health illnesses, have seen improvements in their overall quality of life after starting a mindfulness meditation program. The positive results seen in quality of life are related to people’s ability to cope with the distress and disability of their chromic illness.

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and kindness. It can help you cope with stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts that may interfere with your sleep. Mindfulness can also help you become more aware of your body and mind and how they affect your sleep patterns.

We use mindfulness practices to manage my day-to-day stress levels. We live in an age where life seems to bring with it pressure, which can lead to excessive stress. If this stress is not managed well, it can lead to the development of chronic stress, called allostatic load. Allostatic load can harm one’s health in a myriad of different ways, but in particular, our sleep patterns. Mindfulness meditation provides a safe, effective approach to reducing stress or stress-related symptoms. Increasing mindfulness will not only improve stress-related symptoms but also improve one’s overall well-being.

If you begin a mindfulness based meditation and regularly practice the principles you will see how over time it will help you to cultivate a deep sense of peace in your every day life and relieve symptoms of stress. The methods are not hard to learn, are not stressful in themselves and not costly. Mindfulness is easy for anyone of us incorporate into our daily lives. You can get CD’s, download guided meditations or attend classes to gain confidence in then being able to practice mindfulness as part of your daily routine. There are resources and options for mindfulness training listed at the bottom of this post.

What are the key principles of mindfulness?

Mindfulness is not just about meditation, but changing our thinking style to a more present focussed observation. In addition to meditation practice, it’s important to keep in mind the core principles of mindfulness which can be mapped to sleep:

Beginner’s mind: Remember that each night is a new night. Be open and try something different. What you have been doing to this point is probably not working well. Instead of following the same routine or habits that may keep you awake, experiment with new ways of relaxing and preparing for sleep. For example, you can try a different breathing technique, a guided meditation, or a soothing music playlist. Be curious and flexible, and see what works best for you.

Non-Striving: Sleep is a process that cannot be forced but should be allowed to unfold. Putting more effort into sleeping longer or better is counterproductive. It can create more pressure, frustration, and anxiety, which can keep you awake or disrupt your sleep quality. Rather than trying to control or manipulate your sleep, let go of your expectations and goals and allow yourself to rest. Trust that your body and mind will naturally fall asleep when ready. You can also use this principle during the day by avoiding overwork, overstimulation, or caffeine, which can interfere with your sleep.

Trust: Trust your sleep system and let it work for you. Trust that your mind and body can self-regulate and self-correct for sleep loss. Knowing that short, consolidated sleep often feels more satisfying than longer, fragmented sleep can help you develop trust in your sleep system. Also, sleep debt can promote good sleep as long as it is not associated with increased effort to sleep. Rather than worrying about how much sleep you get or how you will function the next day, trust that your body and mind will adapt and cope. You can also remind yourself of the times when you managed well despite poor sleep, or slept well, and use them as evidence to support your trust.

Patience: Be patient. It is unlikely that both the quality and quantity of your sleep will be optimal right away. Developing new habits and skills that can improve your sleep may take some time and practice. It may also take some time for your body and mind to adjust to the changes and benefits of mindfulness. Do not give up or judge yourself harshly if you do not see immediate results. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and acknowledge your efforts and progress. Remember that mindfulness is not a quick fix but a long-term investment in your well-being.

Letting go: Attachment to sleep or your ideal sleep needs usually leads to worry about the consequences of sleeplessness. This is counterproductive and inconsistent with the natural process of letting go of the day to allow sleep to come. Instead of clinging to your thoughts, feelings, or sensations that may keep you awake, learn to observe them and let them pass. You can use mindfulness techniques, such as breathing, body scan, or labelling, to help you detach from your inner experiences and create some space and calmness. You can also practice letting go of your activities, responsibilities, or plans for the next day, and give yourself permission to relax and unwind.

Acceptance: Recognising and accepting your current state is an important first step in choosing how to respond. If you can accept that you are not in a state of sleepiness and sleep is not likely to come soon, why not get out of bed? Many people who have trouble sleeping avoid getting out of bed. Unfortunately, spending long periods awake in bed might condition you to being awake in bed. It can also increase your frustration, boredom, or anxiety, making falling asleep harder. Instead of staying in bed and struggling, you can get up and do something relaxing, enjoyable, or productive until you feel sleepy again. This can help you break the negative association between your bed and wakefulness, and create a positive one between your bed and sleepiness.

Non-judgment: It is easy to automatically judge the state of being awake as negative and aversive, especially if you do not sleep well for several nights. However, this negative energy can interfere with the process of sleep. It can also affect your mood, self-esteem, and outlook on life. Instead of judging yourself or your situation, adopt a neutral or positive perspective. You can use mindfulness to help you notice and challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic or helpful ones. You can also use gratitude to help you appreciate the good things in your life and cultivate a sense of optimism and hope.

By practicing these principles of mindfulness, you can enhance your awareness, relaxation, and resilience and improve your sleep quality and quantity. You can also enjoy the benefits of mindfulness in other areas of your life, such as your health, relationships, and performance. Mindfulness is not a one-time solution but a lifelong practice that can help you cope with any challenges and opportunities that may arise.

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