In my house, we have evening routines. For the past five years, I have been reading a series of books to my oldest daughter. When she was younger, we read every night. But now, we have a set aside time once a week for reading. We both look forward to this ritual. Not only do we enjoy the story, but we also enjoy the time together.
I have other bedtime routines with my other girls. We play games, we give hugs and kisses, and we do the usual evening routine things like pajamas and teeth brushing. These rituals help get us ready for the night — and set us up for success the next day.
Rituals are important parts of our lives.
We find it tragic when families can’t be together during holiday seasons, and we mourn missed milestones. Whether its an annual barbecue during the summer, or that road trip to Grandma’s every fall, these rituals are what provide meaning and bonding for us.
Rituals are just routines with emotional attachments. And that emotional significance is what ensures that we will continue that routine. If you want to start or change a habit, change the emotion that holds that habit.
Evening routines prepare us
Science has long known of the value of evening routines in preparing children (and adults too!) for sleeping. These bedtime rituals play a vital role in helping our bodies and minds relax in order to go to sleep.
And not only do these routines help with sleep, but they have a ton of other benefits. Consistent bedtimes work with our natural circadian rhythms and promote good health. The bonding of bedtime rituals give us emotional resiliency and strength. And if we have good evening routines, we can get ready for the morning, preparing for success.
Evening routines take care of our health
When I turned 30, I bought myself these expensive skin care creams as a birthday gift. And I gave myself more than the gift of luxury facial care. I began to take care of myself. I set aside that time every evening for a little bit of self-care.
Evening routines allow for those moments of self-care. These are vital, especially as moms. We give to everyone else all day long, and rarely do we take those moments for ourselves. The cost of expensive creams or luxury bed linens or super soft pajamas is minor compared to the cost of neglecting our own health and well-being.
Evening rituals tell us it’s time to sleep
When my marriage ended, I struggled with insomnia. I would lay awake for hours in the dark, tensing at every small sound, afraid. When I did sleep, I would dream nightmares and wake again shaking and heart pounding. I dreaded going to bed, wrestling with fear.
As I’ve developed my own evening routines, it has become easier. The rituals of self-care, of preparation, of turning it off and writing it out have helped my body and my mind relax for rest. I still wake with nightmares occasionally. But I can now settle for sleep on time.
Evening rituals prepare for the next day
My morning routines are easier because of my evening rituals. I can wake up refreshed knowing what’s going to happen that day, having already made the decisions about clothes, meals and activities. I spend my evenings in preparation, putting away and planning, so that my mornings are less rushed and chaotic.
What will make your day easier? Maybe laying out clothes for the morning, or getting everything ready for breakfast will help with the morning busy-ness. Or maybe you’d prefer to wake up to clean sinks, clean floors and clean surfaces. So your evening routines will include a bit of clean up.
Evening routines help you turn it off
I’m an admitted technology junkie. I joke that my smart phone is glued to my hand, because it often feels like it. I’m constantly checking my social media, my email and looking up things of interest. Some of us might be television binge watchers, or video game fanatics. And if screen time isn’t your hang up, you probably have a hobby or task you find it hard to shut off and shut down at night.
A bit part of my routine involves turning it all off. I’m often working late at night, so when I’m done my work on the computer, I turn it off. I walk around my home, turning off lights and checking doors, and it helps my brain also “turn off” in preparation for sleeping. And I plug my phone in away from my bed, in order to help me turn off the flood of information.
Evening rituals promote creativity
One of my evening routines involves a “brain dump”, where I write out all the tasks, worries, reminders, notes-to-self, and fears that my brain is holding. Writing it down helps me to face and deal with what’s bothering me emotionally. It also provides some security in knowing that what I didn’t want to forget is now written down. (In the morning, I pick up that brain dump and transfer the tasks and reminders to my to-do list.)
Some people prefer to end their day with a gratitude journal, where they write out the blessings and miracles of the day. Others will spend time in meditation or prayer. And reading a book before bed has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. The creative connection helps you disconnect from your everyday reality, so that you can sleep better.
What’s your evening ritual?
My evening rituals start with the evening meal. We progress from eating to clean up to our evening activity. After we return home, I get my children into bed, and then get some work done. After my computer is shut down, I check on my menu plan for the next day, look over my calendar, and go around turning off lights and locking doors. Finally, I spend a few minutes in self care and journalling, before going to bed myself.
Do you have an evening routine? If you don’t, consider starting one. Start with bedtime for yourself and work backwards. Don’t make it elaborate, but just add in a few things at a time. As you work out the kinks in your routines, you’ll find your nights – and your mornings – will be smoother, more relaxing and prepare you for success.