I talk with clients regularly about what they are thinking about just as they are going to sleep. Do you know what most of them say? They tell me they are thinking about what happened during the day that didn’t work that well, or worrying about tomorrow and what pressures they might feel. When we unpack this we always agree that these thoughts cause pain and/or stress.
It can be a habit to think about the not-so-good things, and it is also a biological wiring that leads us to focus on the negative. You may have come across the idea that we are wired to see things negatively and that it takes three positive things to neutralise every one negative perception. It’s thought this human predisposition to spot threats in the environment comes from our ancestors who had to be aware of predators in their radius i.e. lions, tigers etc. These days most of us experience threats as psychological, not physical, and yet we still use this system every day.
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that life can only be understood backward, but had to be lived forward. When we consider our propensity for thinking about negative experiences, and our need to understand, it’s no wonder we use the quiet time just before we sleep to ruminate and explore. Whilst I am one who likes to explore my own reality and make sense of all things psychological, I have realised doing this process just before bed is the least helpful time to do it. For me, it is better to be done in the hours post work and pre bed. Constructive methods to process include journalling, talking or therapy. Once you have taken care of your processing, the best use of your time before you go to sleep is to remember your contribution.
To get into the habit of doing this, choose a notebook and pen that live beside your bed. Each night before sleep think of at least 3 things that brought pleasure that day through your contributions. No matter how terrible your day, you will be able to find three small moments. List them in your notebook. Do it everyday. Let this process become a cornerstone you fill your resilience ‘buckets’ with. A reminder of the good and the accomplishments. Counting our blessings can feel nice, but it often doesn’t have a lasting effect. Counting our contributions can. Making a daily decision to acknowledge your contribution is an active way to live, not a passive one. The very act of contributing builds our sense of strength and purpose. It infuses our life with meaning. It is highly energising and reminds us of our value.
How do you build your resilience?