Last month, I shared what I feel is the most important hour of the day—and received incredible feedback from Healthy Vegan readers saying how much they were inspired to create a morning routine that’s not only stress-free, but enjoyable and something they look forward to. In my book, the first hour of the day is the most important hour of the day, as it sets the tone for everything else to come. But I think we can even take it further.
Let’s turn back the clock and focus on the second most important hour of the day—the hour before we go to bed. Not only is creating a nighttime ritual a luscious way to wind down the day, going to bed in a calm, peaceful state sets the stage for the morning … which in turn lays the foundation for the entire next day. So let’s create a routine that helps us live each day as fully as possible.
I have to admit that while my morning ritual has very much become habit, my nighttime practice is a work in progress. Let’s just say that I have yet to conquer the allure of social media, giving in to a late-night out, wanting to get things done around the house, or finishing up an important work project. But each night I do my best to move closer to my ideal and hope I can inspire you to do the same.
Colleen's Nighttime Ritual:
- Shut Down the Technology. Oh, how I love to dabble in my Facebook and Instagram feeds late into the night! But it doesn’t serve me and keeps my mind in an active state. When I’ve stayed up late on my tech devices, I invariably feel cloudy in the morning. So after 9pm, my goal is to shut it all off: the computer, the iPhone, the TV, and the tablet. At this time of night, our minds should be relaxed and winding down for a great night’s sleep. Think about what happens when you check your email and social media feeds—even if you don’t respond right away, your mind is processing the messages. Stepping away from the constant noise online helps to calm our nerves, and guess what? Not only does the world not end when we go offline, we’re more clear-headed in the morning to handle all that needs to be done.
- Take a Hot Bath. Nothing helps me relax more than a hot bath before bed. I take three to four a week, and try very hard not to bring my phone to the tub (it is seriously a challenge). I lower the lights, light a soy candle, close my eyes, and let my stress from the day melt away. A bath can seem like a luxury, but why not gift it to yourself whenever you’re in need? Sometimes, if I am working from home and life is particularly stressful, I’ll take a bath in the middle of the day. It does wonders for me!
- Brew a Cup of Herbal Tea. In recent years, I’ve really got into tea and its calming properties. Brewing a hot cup of chamomile, cinnamon, or peppermint tea helps me relax, and now I can’t imagine a night without a steamy cup.. Be sure to find your favorite herbal blend so it’s something you really anticipate and enjoy.
- Halt the Caffeine. If you’re having trouble falling sleep or getting solid, uninterrupted sleep, take a look at your caffeine intake. A cup of green tea helps me stay focused, but if I drink it later than 3pm, I am going to have trouble falling asleep. The same goes for consuming chocolate. Caffeine has become such a part of our existence, but when we overconsume it, we lose touch with our natural, circadian rhythm. If we get enough sleep, go to bed at a regular time, eat healthy food, limit our sugar intake, and get enough exercise, we shouldn’t need caffeine to function. Our bodies have everything they need to operate optimally without external stimulants.
- Prepare for the Next Day. When I’ve done a few things to simplify the next morning, I feel good and at peace. Not only is it satisfying, I am alleviating potential stress from when I have to take care of these same things under time pressure. I like to organize my computer bag, clean up the dishes, iron what I’m going to wear, and think about what I want to prepare for lunch. Going in to the next day with a few tasks checked off makes my morning that much more enjoyable.
- Enjoy a Nighttime Beauty Routine. I’ve mentioned before that I am somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to beauty products, but I like to stay moisturized using plant-based balms and serums. Before bed, I’ll use a serum on my face and then rub coconut oil into my hands and feet. In the bath, once a week or so I’ll use a salt scrub all over my body. And I always try to drink a few glasses of water before turning off the lights, as staying hydrated is so good for us
both inside and out.
- Create Peaceful Surroundings. Our bedroom should be our sanctuary, and the most peaceful place in the house. I always paint my bedroom a soothing color like all white or a soft green, I don’t plug in any electronics (I use a battery-operated analog clock), and I keep the decor to a minimum so there’s no excess clutter. I also invest in really good sheets and pillows so it feels nice slipping into bed. Do whatever you have to do to create your own sanctuary
to ensure the possible rest.
- Do Some Old-School Reading. By winding down with printed books or magazines (might I recommend VegNews?), I am not tempted by email or social media when reading or watching something on my computer. And, for me, it just feels good to curl up in bed with something tangible to read. I love to catch up on my magazine reading at night, as its helps me relax, escape, and feel inspired. That’s how I want to go into the next day, so it sets a good tone for me. I feel my best when I get in at least 20 minutes of reading before turning off the light.
- Go to Bed at a Set Time. This is another easier-said-than-done practice, but studies have shown that we live healthier lives when we go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time. Experts say that the ideal hours to sleep are between 10pm and 6am, so my goal is to be in bed by 11pm and get a solid eight hours. When this happens, I feel energized all day long, and I don’t need a caffeine or sugar boost to stay alert. Getting proper sleep is one of the best things we can do for ourselves in laying the foundation to live our best life.
- Practice Gratitude. After I’ve turned off the light, I make an effort to reflect on the good things that happened in my day and focus on how grateful I am to be healthy, surrounded by loving people, and have the life that I do. Yes, life is far from perfect, but we have much to be thankful for. Ending the night with gratitude and positive thoughts sets the tone for the next day, which I want to be
even better than today.