After a long day of work or caring for your family, you often want nothing more in the evening than to relax and zone out in front of the television, or maybe surf the internet. While watching a show or two or spending some time online is fine, regularly spending whole evenings this way is detrimental to your well-being. What seems like a way to reduce stress can actually be contributing to your stress.
Approaching your evenings with mindfulness is key to reducing stress and living the best version of your life.
Examine Your Evening Routine
In order to be able to change your evenings to be more mindful, you have to take stock of what your evenings consist of now. Make a list of the things you typically do during the evenings.
- What time do you eat dinner?
- How much screen time is normal for you?
- What other activities, if any, do you do?
- Do you spend time with family or friends in the evenings?
- Do you have any goals you are working towards?
- What time do you go to bed? Do you fall asleep easily?
Being able to answer the above questions will help you realize what parts of your routing are working for you and what habits are not serving you well.
Identify Your Priorities
What are your priorities in life? Do the elements in your evening routine align with what you consider your priorities? If you consider your health to be a priority but yet are not making time to cook healthy meals or get in exercise, you are not living your values.
Is spending time with family and friends important to you? Do you make time for that regularly? People often comment that their families are the most important thing in their lives, but after dinner the members of the family retreat to their own private corners to get lost in a screen rather than spending time together.
Are you satisfied with your current life skills? If not, carving out some time each evening to learn how to bake bread or make soap, etc. will improve your life much more than the latest episode of a reality TV show!
If you truly lack time in the evenings due to obligations or extra-curricular activities, try combining your priorities. A family walk after dinner can meet your need to look after your health and spend time with those you love.
Once you’ve identified what your current routine and habits are and have compared them to your list of priorities, it is likely that you will see a discrepancy. Recognize TV and internet surfing for what they are – distractions that lead you further from the life you want to live.
That doesn’t mean giving up TV completely. Simply be mindful about what you are watching and the time that it takes away from your priorities. Pick a favorite show or two each week that you truly enjoy. Make watching the show a pleasurable event that you look forward to and not a time drain that leaves you unfulfilled and stagnant.
Set a Routine for Sleep
Make a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Pushing your bedtime later and later does nothing more than make you tired and unproductive the next day. Determine the best time for you to wake up in the morning and pick a time to go to sleep that will give you 7-9 hours of rest. You may have to try different times of going to bed to find the right one for you. Some people feel best on 7 hours of sleep while others may need closer to 9 to be productive the next day.
Give yourself time to wind down in the evening before your head hits the pillow. Working or watching TV right up until you are meant to be sleeping is not conducive to falling asleep quickly. Try reading, talking with loved ones, or doing another relaxing activity in the time leading up to bed.
Develop a personal care routine that helps your body realize it is time to relax and prepare for sleep. This does not have to take a long time but a quick, relaxing bath or shower, time to brush your teeth and care for yourself and your needs will help you be mindful.
Reflect and Prepare
At the end of your day, take a few minutes to reflect on the day that has just passed. Think about what went well and what didn’t. Did you move yourself closer to the life you want to live and towards accomplishing your goals? If not, what can you do better tomorrow?
Think about your day tomorrow and what needs to get done. Write down any urgent tasks that must be done and plan when and how you are going to do them. Reflecting on the day you just had while being intentional about the upcoming day will move you closer to the best version of your life.
Most people have obligations to work or family that take up most of the day. These obligations often spill over into the evenings. But it is essential that you carve out time to make sure you are living with intention and being mindful about how you are spending your evenings.