Even if you’ve never put much thought into it, you probably have some kind of morning routine in place. Maybe you always have a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up, or you check your email while you lay in bed, or you repeat your favorite positive quotes to yourself before heading to work.
You have this routine because it helps get your day started—without having to put too much thought into it. And for that very reason, you should have a nighttime one as well. In fact, the best evening rituals help you reflect on your day, relax so you can go to sleep more easily, and prepare you for the morning. (Yeah, see how that all just came full circle?)
Since most of us don’t have the luxury (or the energy) to maintain a two-hour step-by-step process before falling asleep, I’ve created a 20-minute routine that anyone can maintain. Take a few minutes for each of these steps before hitting the pillow:
Plan Out Your Morning
One of the most stressful things about going to bed is feeling like you have so much to do the next day—even though there’s nothing you can do about it in the moment. So, while you may not be able to finish your group presentation right now, you can do a few small things that’ll help you alleviate that stress.
Such as taking a few minutes to pick out an outfit, decide what you’re going to eat for breakfast, prepare your work bag, or even write a short to-do list of the things you need to accomplish before you head to the office.
Even if you don’t have every detail of your morning thought out, doing this gets the stressful thoughts out of your brain and makes you feel less scrambled when it’s game time.
Get Your Bed Ready
This is the most underrated part of any nighttime routine ever. Are your pillows as fluffed as they could be? Is your comforter evenly laid out? Does your bed look appealing to get into?
Most people don’t give much thought to the aesthetics of their snoozing space, but you’d be surprised how big of a difference it makes. Research shows that things like fresh sheets can easily make your slumbering experience better, and 71% of people surveyed said they sleep better when their sheets are clean. (And I’d guess that 72% of you are reading this right now and trying to figure out the last time you actually washed your sheets.)
Most people don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to writing in a journal every night. Not when watching mindless TV sounds far more fun. But before you hit the hay, it’s important to take five minutes to consider how your day went: Studies have shown that journaling reduces stress and helps boost your EQ.
Instead of going the “dear diary” route, write two bullet points for each of the following questions:
- What are two things you did well today?
- What are two things you can improve upon tomorrow?
Not only does this help you wrap up your day mentally and positively, it’s really cool to look back on them throughout the year and see how far you’ve come.
Researchers at the University of Sussex found that just six minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68%. That’s more than virtually any other popular remedy, including drinking tea or listening to music! It can also improve your memory and increase your productivity. Yes, all of that in just six minutes.
Oh, and going along with the whole “unplugging” theme that your mom’s always going on and on about, I’d suggest a good, old-fashioned paper book or magazine. Or, if you’re one of those people who has to read on a tablet, try to use one that doesn’t have blue light (which keeps you awake).
By taking 20 minutes per evening to unwind, you’ll be setting yourself up for success every day.