I turn over and lay my head on the other side of the pillow. I open my eyes and check the digital clock laying on my nightstand. 3:02am. Those big red numbers are taunting me. Laughing at me. They’re asking me why am I still up and why am I struggling so much. I have to get up in 4 hours and I haven’t’ been able to fall asleep yet. Why can’t I just go to sleep?! Okay, I’m going to close my eyes and lay perfectly still. Then I should be able to fall sleep right away…
Nope. That didn’t work. My body is tired but my mind won’t stop thinking. Maybe counting sheep will help. One sheep…two sheep…three sheep… ugh this is not working. I need to sleep!! This is SO frustrating!
If the above story sounds similar to a situation you may have had, then meditation may help you. It helped me. For years, I suffered from insomnia— I had trouble sleeping. In high school, in college, and during my early working years, falling asleep early and on time was few and far between.
I was a textbook case of an over thinker. I thought about all things that happened during the day. My mind would go through all my social interactions I had, and then precisely break them down into what exactly happened and what I messed up on—whether it was mispronouncing a certain word, wondering what they thought of my response, or how I looked that day. I would criticize myself endlessly. I would punish myself mentally for not saying something else instead, or wearing a different outfit that day. All these thoughts would run through my head at night.
In addition to insomnia, I also had social anxiety. I would get nervous when I had to talk to people, especially people I didn’t know. This was years ago, and slowly I got better and more accustomed to social interaction. I detailed in a previous post one of the more recent times I realized how meditation helped my social anxiety.
Because of my overthinking tendencies, the nights could get very long.
Nowadays, I fall asleep very easily. I credit part of that to meditation and mindfulness. When I meditate, I am letting my thoughts run free. I do not try to block my thoughts, because I feel that would just be unnatural. To the contrary, I focus on my breath, and if a thought comes to mind, I observe that thought, then let it pass. I then return my focus on my breath. The more I practiced meditation, the longer I was able to focus on my breath without being interrupted by a thought. There is something about letting go of thoughts that feels so freeing.
This practice helped me realize that my thoughts do not control me. I don’t, however, control my thoughts either. Actually, meditation guided me into recognizing that thoughts don’t have to have such a negative impact on me if I didn’t want them to.
When I suffered from insomnia, I would get angry because my thoughts wouldn’t go away. But now, when I lay in bed ready to fall asleep, I focus on my breath. And since I have been practicing meditation for so long now, I am able to go a long time without being interrupted by my thoughts. So now that my body is ready to fall asleep, so is my mind as well. They are finally working together and in sync. My mind is no longer grasping for attention and forcing me to stay awake.
To receive new posts automatically, enter your email and subscribe. For more information about myself or my blog, click About Meditating Millennial. My next post will detail my experience in making meditation a natural part of my life, and will include some helpful tips for you the reader.