How Journaling Helps Me Relax Before Bed
I Journal Every Night Before Bed, and It Sets the Tone For a Truly Restful Sleep
Is there anything better than a good night's sleep? The kind of sleep where you don't even dream, or if you do, there's no way you could ever remember. A deep slumber where your arms and legs slowly wake up again as you do, feeling foreign for a second until your mind says, "Oh, we're in this dimension again." This kind of rest is a process and an art, a goal that is left in the dust when anxiety, stress, and worries are involved.
No trick or tip will ever guarantee perfect rest every time, but finding that one thing that disconnects your body, The Matrix pod style, is paramount to not just improving your energy throughout the day but also to boosting your immune system, improving your mood, and, yep, even giving you glowing skin. A few years ago, I found my perfect nighttime routine to pave the way for a deep night's sleep, and now it's become second nature.
Journaling is the one step in my nightly ritual that signals to my brain that it can stop running for now. By sending a deluge of information out from my cerebral cortex and onto a few blank pages, I create a precursor to dreamland, allowing my brain to begin summing up the day before my head hits the pillow. Any word, phrase, drawing, doodle, song lyric, or quote is fair game, and all these quickly populate the page, filling up the notebook with all sorts of random thoughts. Here, the weirder the better, because although it can be poetic, it's more a strategy than anything else. And it really works.
After getting my creative writing MFA, I was deeply drawn to all things surreal. Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, and René Magritte filled my head, and all I wanted to write was a mix of Spanish and English; fantastical poeticism and stark reality. Teaching classes as part of the program, I focused on surrealism, urging students to enter dreamland when they wrote and to get away from all self-judgment — the top killer of creativity. Teaching surreal parlor games like Exquisite Corpse (try it; it's way more fun than it sounds!), I realized that getting out subconscious thoughts might work as a way to literally clear the mind. Writing away randomly generated ideas just floating in my brain, whether remnants of TV commercials I've seen, social media posts I've devoured, books, billboards, songs, or conversations, automatically made me feel lighter. So why not try this technique when it came to sleep?
Whether there's any science backing my theory or not is truthfully besides the point. Simply feeling like I'm freeing my subconscious of the off-kilter, delightfully weird thoughts that live rent-free in my brain gives me a sense of peace and a soothing calm, one that will at least remain until the next day. Just like many scientists theorize that the brain creates dreams to process our thoughts and the events of the day, journaling is my dream before the dream, where I try to process my thoughts and events before my brain does. As I tumble into rest, I do so with a calmer mind that's more willing to sleep deeply. Putting pen to paper will always be cathartic, and just maybe making a nighttime ritual of it will send you right into slumber, too, waking the next day with a clearer mind (and heart).