No sleep, no mental health.
Nothing is a better predictor that our mind is going to suffer than a lack of sleep. So many people are sleeping poorly or sleeping hardly at all nowadays. Why all this insomnia? Because folks are worrying around the clock; or, worse, tormenting themselves around the clock. This amounts to double trouble: first, all that persistent anxiety, and then the additional strain that sleeplessness produces.
Are you wide awake far too much of the time in that room that is your mind? When the moon is full, are you staring at it and not sleeping? When it’s two in the morning, are you taking turns tossing, peeking at the clock, and pestering yourself with some thought? This is a grave problem. When your mind gets no chance to rest, when all that your mind has been doing, hour after hour in that eerie darkness, is stewing and bouncing thoughts from wall to wall, it starts to deteriorate, hallucinate, fabricate, and just plan sicken. Your mind needs its rest!
How can you get it some rest? You might count sheep. You might take some chemical, which might produce the effect you want but which likely will come accompanied by profound side effects. One well-known actor pictured a red dot that he made larger and smaller and larger and smaller until he wore himself out. Maybe you have your own favorite tricks. Maybe it has to do with how you prop your pillows. Maybe it has to do with some special tea. Everyone is trying something because everyone is having trouble sleeping, living in a fog, and on the brink of decomposing.
What else might you try? Here’s one possibility. Ceremonially say goodnight to everything in the room that is your mind as if you were saying goodnight to all those beloved stuffed animals with which you populated your childhood bedroom. Visit the room that is your mind and say goodnight to the concert poster. “Good night, concert poster!” Say goodnight to the pile of unpaid bills. “Good night, bills!” Say goodnight to the slight you experienced at work. “Good night, slight!” Say goodnight to the memory that keeps haunting you. “Good night, memory!” Say a gentle, pleasant goodnight to each and every thing, to the objects, the worries, the dust mites, and the laundry.
Say goodnight to your bucket of ice water, to the windows you installed, to your safety valve, to your easy chair, to all the fittings you’ve provided yourself to make your mind the most hospitable place you can make it. And say some special goodnights. Do you have a grandchild halfway across the globe who makes you smile when you think of her but who also brings you pain because you see her so rarely? Wish her a special goodnight. Say, “I love you, granddaughter. I wish I could see you more! But here I am hugging you, dearest. Goodnight, love.”
Do you have a pestering thought that has pestered you for eternity, maybe the thought that you just aren’t talented enough to write your novel or attractive enough to compete in the singles’ world? Say a special goodnight to that thought. That special goodnight might sound something like the following: “Enough about talent, mind. I love the idea for my novel. Let me just try to write it. Peace to you, unfortunate thought. Goodnight to you, unfortunate thought. Sleep very tight!”
As you quiet yourself for sleep, be gentle, peaceful and comforting in that room that is your mind. Be gentle with each object, each worry, and each memory. Be as peaceful as you can be. Sing a lullaby to the umbrella stand. Pat the desktop. Unfold your patchwork comforter. Listen for the sounds of sleep around you, the light snoring of vague and distant memories, the rhythmic breathing of your kindness toward yourself, the whispers of dreams arriving. Be gentle, quiet, peaceful and comforting as you tiptoe about shutting down your mind for the night.
Your electronic devices have a way of powering down even if you forget to shut them off. They go to sleep and that conserves them. Your way of conserving yourself is exactly the same: a good night’s sleep. If that good night’s sleep eludes you too often, your mind will begin to wear down. You may become strange to yourself, edgy, paranoid, unlikeable, and miserable. Your mind really does need its rest. Tonight, if the moon is too bright and your thoughts are too pestering, try making the rounds of your mind and saying a sweet goodnight to anyone awake there.
This lesson is part of the Your Best Mind Ever series. In this groundbreaking program Dr. Eric Maisel teaches a brand new way to get a grip on our minds.