Healthy Beginnings

Can’t sleep? Instead of counting sheep, count your breath

JC Conway operates the Meditating Millennials website, focused on teaching people how to meditate and live with mindfulness. Courtesy photo

It was 2 a.m. and it seemed like the whole world had been asleep for hours.

But not me.

I begrudgingly rolled over for what seemed like the hundredth time desperate to fall asleep.

But I couldn’t! It was no use! I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking! It felt as though my brain was somehow full and yet empty at the same time.

“OK,” I told myself. “If I fall asleep now, I can still get 3 hours of sleep before I need to be up and ready for my test … come on JC, don’t think! Just relax, you have to ‘will’ yourself to sleep…”

Seconds later, another thought came abruptly to my mind that sent fear trembling through my entire body.

“What if I sleep through my alarm and miss my appointment tomorrow?” I worried. “I won’t be able to take the test AND I’ll have to pay for it again! That’s $300 that I don’t have! What am I going to do? What if I don’t get into grad school? What will my family think of me? I’ll be such a failure, and then no one will…”

Beeeep, beeeep, beeep!!!

Dang … time to get up.

Sadly, this is a true story of the night before I took the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), while applying for business school in 2011.

Now, why am I telling you this story? Because we’ve all been there before.

We’ve all kept ourselves up at night, worrying about things completely outside of our control. Some might even think of these sleepless nights as a badge of honor — a sign you’re becoming an adult or whatnot.

But I have a secret I want to share. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Being an adult is not about enduring sleepless nights. It’s not about taking on all of the world’s problems and taking life so seriously that you can no longer find joy in life’s simplest pleasures.

Being an adult is about overcoming your mind and your impulse to immediately respond to emotions. It’s about transcending your ego and creating the life you want to live. As they say — you don’t find yourself, you create yourself.

So you might ask, how do we transcend the ego and create a better life?

Try mindfulness!

Nowadays, if I’m having a hard time falling asleep because my mind is racing, I can use my mindfulness practice to help separate myself from the thoughts. I don’t fall asleep because my mind is empty — I fall asleep because I can see my mind clearly.

When my mind tries to pull me into an “important” thought, all I have to do is simply remind myself that I’m safe, in bed with my wife, in our beautiful home, and I can’t do anything about tomorrow, tonight.

So the next time you can’t sleep, try being mindful.

First, see your thoughts. Then, realize it’s OK to have thoughts. However, they aren’t useful at 3 in the morning. Finally, direct your attention away from your mind and into the present moment.

You can do this by simply feeling your breath, listening to the sounds in the room or by doing a quick body scan. The more space you create between you and a thought, the more restful you feel.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself and bring some mindfulness to your bedroom! If you are successful, I have a feeling the next time you open your eyes it will be morning!

JC Conway is a millennial mindfulness and meditation blogger/vlogger who wants to help people see that they are much more than just their thoughts. He partners with local companies such as Purposeful Living Healing Center and Good Elephant Co. in Reno. Visit www.meditatingmillennials.com to learn more.