Do you struggle with sleep issues? Do you have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep throughout the night? Are your thoughts anxiety-driven- worrying about things you think you should have done and worrying about what might happen in the future? Do you struggle with what is called monkey mind where your thoughts are racing and jumping from one thought to another and to another and to another? Try meditation.

Meditation does not work for everyone but it has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to help improve sleep and manage anxiety. It can be used to help calm the storms of the mind. There are numerous forms of meditation. There is no perfect way to meditate nor does it have a definitive definition.One size does not fit all.

Mindfulness meditation is a way to come into the moment, to be present. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” This form of meditation helps to bring us out of the past of “should have done” and out of the future of “what could happen” into the present of “what is” without any judgment. When our monkey mind tries to kidnap us out of the present just acknowledge this without any judgement and come back into the present moment. View the thought like a leaf that is floating down a river. Acknowledge it, let it float down the river and come back to the present moment. One way to come back to the present is to focus on your breath. Notice how your body feels as you inhale and then as you exhale. Sometimes it can be helpful to silently say “breathe in”as you inhale and “breathe out” as you exhale. It is normal for your mind to wander so avoid self-criticism and self-judgment. Just acknowledge the thoughts and come back to the breath.

Transcendental meditation is another form of meditation to calm the mind and reduce anxiety. One form of this meditation involves focusing upon a mantra. A mantra can be anything from one word or a phrase. This meditation can involve repeating the word or the phrase over and over. Choose a word or phrase and mentally repeat or even verbalize it out loud over and over. Choose a word or phrase that brings a sense of peace and serenity. At times I have used bible verses. A mantra could be anything from a word like “peace” to a phrase like “I am enough.” Choose a mantra that resonates, that feels right for you.

There are numerous other forms of meditations that can help improve the quality of your sleep such as loving-kindnessmeditation and body scan meditation. Also, there are severalguided meditation apps that can be downloaded onto your phone. Insight and Ten Percent Happier are free and both have guided meditations designed to help improve sleep.

One of the important elements of meditation is the importance of non-judgment. Remember that a thought is just a thought. You are not the thought. You are much more than the thought.Thoughts come and go. You are the Observer, the Witness to the thought.

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Paul Bokker Ph.D., LPC/S, NCC, BCC, NBC-HWC, BC-TMH
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