The evenings (after 7:00, for me) are for winding down, shutting the brain off, and turning off that blue light on my phone and computer screens. My career forces me to be at the computer a lot during the day, and then around dinner time, I’m in front of the television. It’s even worse to look at screens at night. Why? The light is intensified, which confuses your brain into thinking it’s almost like daylight, which interrupts the natural process our brains need to go through to regulate our wake/sleep cycles.
I can’t have my phone in my bedroom any more. I do things to keep my mind and brain quiet so I can get tired. One activity as part of my evening routine that’s worth a mention is puzzles. Any kind of puzzle is perfect for staying off your phone, saying no to that addictive blue light, and a great excuse for avoiding the television. I like to do Sudoku, word search, or sometimes, an actual puzzle.
My evenings consist of yoga and light stretching, diaphragmatic breathing, a relaxing fifteen to twenty minute nature walk out doors, and meditation. All of those things are great to do, but puzzles before bed assist in melting any mental stress. For people like me, (a homebody on the introvert side) it’s easy to get mentally exhausted and drained from things that happened during the day. So at night, I like to use my mind in a strengthening and positive manner.
Plus, a little challenge for the mind wears it out as well (in a good and fun way). Additionally, since I’ve been doing puzzles, I’ve noticed improvements in cognitive functioning in the morning and throughout the day, and better focus. Here are three more reasons to add this to your evening routine.
Healthy Mental Exercise
Like physical exercise, that awakens our bodies and enhances our energy levels. At night, you want to exercise the mind to make it tired. Puzzles forces us to solve problems, requires attention, and gives our eyes a rest from modern day technology. This might sound strange, but when I’d be on my phone at night, that’d increase my anxiety with the fear of saying or doing something I’d later regret. Oh, and of course, notifications don’t respect boundaries nor care what time it is, so I draw the boundaries by having my phone off. Instead of burning mental energy online, use that energy towards doing something enriching.
Some activities, dependent upon how you do them at night, may negatively impact your sleep. People shout out to do things such as, “READ”, and yes, reading can help you sleep, but you could be reading something that’s actually stimulating your mind and making you want to do things. Any type of entertainment, like reading, can force our minds to stay awake because we’ll say, “just ten more minutes, I want to finish this chapter,” or, “What harm will staying up thirty more minutes do? This book is getting good!” It’s important to be careful of how you use your evening hours. Puzzles keep our thoughts from racing and obsessing over unimportant issues. The transition into the evening and to the bedroom should be a smooth, calming one.
Great Way to Unplug
Since I’ve improved my sleep, I have a new appreciation for it. Unplugging has become easier because I’ve given my brain, mind, and body the chance to get back on track and follow a pattern. It’s a science backed fact that our brains crave patterns, routines, and repetition. I often wished that I lived in an era where cell phones, the internet, and television didn’t exist, but everything we do is a choice. I’ve dealt with my share of cell phone, computer, and T.V addiction. That’s all they are, though. Addictions. And believe me, I was hardcore obsessed with anything that had a screen and always had excuses to not stop working. Doing puzzles feeds my desire and need for patterns, which enhances our cognitive functioning and reduces stress in the long term.
Now, you don’t have to dread the evenings and struggle with falling asleep at night. Puzzles took part in curing my insomnia. Immersing myself in a challenging yet enriching activity at night is the best way to end the day.
Originally published at medium.com