The end of a day sets up the potential for tomorrow. We talk a lot about morning routines being the start of a great day but the truth is, the night before is of equal importance. When you're making the most of every day, squeezing the good, finding all of those perfect, quiet moments, it becomes easier to find in the evening. Let's outline what is said to be the 'perfect' evening routine for someone trying to live a more mindful lifestyle.
Shut it All Down
Turn off all electronics or put them on silent. For one, when was the last time your computer or phone was completely turned off? Like fully shut down? For me, sometimes it's weeks or months! Shut it down, all the way down. Doing a full shut down and restart on phones and computers is good for them too, not just for you.
In addition to the benefit of lasting technology health, your health is more important. For starters, the blue light of your phone, laptop, and TV can disrupt sleep hormones like melatonin so it's best to give yourself an hour or so before bed where you're not looking at screens.
Set a Caffeine Curfew
Ending your evening is a slowing down process. It's when you start winding down into your sleeping state. To make this happen, you should also be off all stimulants, like caffeinated coffee, pop, or energy drinks at least a few hours before you head to bed. Not only do they make it hard to sleep but the caffeine can keep you up for hours and lead to irritability the following day.
Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours. On average, a cup of regular coffee can have, at a minimum, 90-100 mg of caffeine. So you will still have about 50 mg of caffeine in your system 6 hours after you drank your first cup. Be careful when you do, if you do, drink caffeine in any form as it will upset your sleep patterns and ability to get fully rested each day.
Read and Reset
A good nighttime routine includes reading at least ten pages in a book before bed with complete focus and attention.
It's a great way to unwind, let you mind wader through a story or a process, or simply zone out for a short while in a quiet space. Choose books you love that are easy to digest at the end of the day. Maybe you normally prefer non-fiction during the day, try a fiction book or something light and enjoyable instead of a book heavy in information that requires a lot of concentration. I actually enjoy reading poetry. Books like 'Clarity and Connection' by Yung Pueblo are a really great way to end the evening. This also helps separate us from our phones by choosing to read a physical book. Turning pages and staring at paper instead of a screen are both so calming.
Sip Something Warm
There's something really nice about going to bed with something warm in your belly. I like to sip decaf coffee before bed. It's a low stimulant drink that is about 99% caffeine-free, so I can still unwind after my nighttime routine without worrying about being up all night wired with energy. If you don't want to give up caffeine altogether, that's fine! Drink your caffeinated coffee in the morning and end you day with quality decaf. It warms you and stimulates the senses. Making a simple coffee with milk or cream really hits the spot.
We also recommend tea if you're not a coffee-drinker, but choose something that's decaf. Decaf teas aren't as 'clean' or decaffeinated as they may note on the package so just be cautious drinking teas before bed as well.
Ready Your Room
Pro tip, make your bed inviting at night. This could be something added to your morning routine as well, but just make a habit of making your bedroom more inviting. Make the bed, tuck the sheets, and fluff the pillows so that when you come into your room to shut down for the day, your bed beckons you and makes you feel better and sleepier just looking at it.
We get that special feeling when we stay in a hotel. You walk into to a clean, put-together space that seems welcoming. Of course, this isn't your home, but there's still something so nice about climbing in the sheets in your own bed at the end of the day to cozy in and fall asleep.
Journal Your Thoughts
Another great evening practice is journaling. Most people think journaling needs to be this complex and emotional experience. While it can be for some people, it doesn't have to be. Journaling can be as simple as just writing out what you did today - either in lists or sentences. It's a brain dumping exercise mixed in with gratitude. It recaps what you accomplished, what you didn't and how you felt about it at the end of the day.
Lay a small notebook by your bed on on your nightstand and write the date, a smiley face based on how you felt about the day, and just a recap of what you did. This will be especially helpful if you're making any changes, no matter how big or small, in your life. You can track how much weight you've lost, how well you managed your emotions, or simply how much water you drank that day. These journaling principles are overwhelmingly positive and it's so much fun to look back on years from now.
Along with journaling, which is used to dump out what happened that day, so you can go to bed with a clear mind, we recommend doing the same thing, but for tomorrow. Take some time in your Calendar App or planner to outline what tomorrow looks like. A brief review is just fine - we're not suggesting you plan out each detail of tomorrow. Just walk yourself through the things you need to complete. What meetings do you have, are you prepared for them, what are some deliverables, what time do you need to pick up the kids, what are you planning to have for dinner tomorrow night?
All of these questions help empty your mind further letting you sleep more soundly without waking up right away and being stressed about something that came up and surprised you. One of the biggest benefits of outlining your tomorrow is that is allows room to see where you have space. This space could get filled with more immediate or urgent matters as the day progresses, but these could also turn into pockets of quiet for you. Even 20 minutes here, or 30 minutes there between meetings - find some time for yourself too. Take a break from your phone or the computer or your co-workers. Take a walk, close the door, do some breathing exercises, you get the idea.
Organize Your Work Space
If you work in an office, make it part of your routine to clean the area up at the end of every day. The same is true if you work from home. Any work station you find yourself in most often should be clean, organized, and inviting each time you walk through the door. Starting the workday with everything to do still ahead of you causes stress on its own, you don't want to walk in and see your desk in disarray. Papers everywhere, sticky notes all over, old cups and mugs from yesterday.
A clean workspace is so important. Of course, it will get filled with plenty of things throughout the day but it's crucial that you make time - it seriously only takes a few minutes! - to clean this space at the end of the day so you feel great when you walk up to it tomorrow for another great day of work.
Be With Your Family
When we say 'be with your family' we mean 'be WITH your family'. Find time, even just a few moments around dinner when everyone has their phones and computers away, the TV is turned off, and you're all just there, together, being. These moments can be fleeting and rare but they are definitely worth the effort to manifest with those you love most. Even if it's just you and your pet!
Take some time to shut everything off and just be with your family. Talk to them, share with them, ask questions, listen carefully, be engaged and interested in their lives. Even just 30 minutes of this time spent with them will pay you back 10-fold with trust, love, attention, and joy. Do your best to meet them where they are. Avoid distractions, and try to end the night in a way where everyone has been seen, heard, and loved on a little bit at the end of the day.
Take your nightly routine seriously because what you do the night before impacts the next day. Your sleep, energy, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can be influenced by the littlest of things - journaling, drinking a warm beverage, cleaning your desk - and they make a huge difference in how you approach the next day. Being intentional and mindful about your evening routine makes for a more intentional and mindful tomorrow.