How to clear your mind so you can sleep

If you're kept awake by an overactive mind, you're not alone. Author Paul McKenna has a way to help you control your thoughts and clear your mind so you can rest

Paul McKenna, PhD

How to clear your mind so you can sleep

Quite often our lives get filled up with relatively unimportant things and it is difficult to find enough time for ourselves. The only time you get to think things over is right at the very end of the day when you have some time to yourself, in bed, in the dark and quiet, so the unconscious seizes the moment just before you go to sleep to get you to think about what really matters to you. That is actually a very good thing—it is just not the most convenient time to do it.

So what you need to do is to take that time for yourself—but to shift it to a more convenient time of day, set aside at least 20 minutes to think about your own priorities and to work out a way to achieve them.

If you have been kept awake by a busy mind, do this every day for at least three weeks. It is a good habit to have anyway, but after a while you may find that f you are not too busy you need to do it only once or twice a week. If your life gets busy again, you may have to do it every day.

Exercise: Value yourself

Read through this exercise carefully before you do it.

1. Find yourself a time and place where you can be undisturbed for 20 minutes. Take a pad of paper and a pen.

2. For the first five minutes, let your mind wander and think about anything under the sun.

3. After five minutes, ask yourself this question: “What do I want to do that is really important to me?” Make a note of everything that comes to mind. Don’t censor it, or order or rank it, just write down absolutely everything whether it seems important or ridiculous, everyday or fantastic. You can include anything. For example, you could want to move to a new house, learn to dance, write a book, get married, visit the pyramids, buy some new shoes, or change your job.

4. When you feel you’re done, just reread the list slowly and add anything else that comes to mind while you are reading it.

5. Now—and only now—go over the list one more time and divide the items into two groups—“important to have” and just “nice to have.”

6. Now choose one of the “important to have” items and ask yourself this question: “What is the smallest practical, achievable step I can take tomorrow that will move me toward reaching this goal?

7. Think about it, make sure that your step is realistic and sensible, and commit yourself to taking that step tomorrow. It could be a very small step—just making one phone call or looking up one piece of information on the Internet, but whatever it is, make a solemn promise to yourself to take that step.

Do this exercise as often as you need to and you will create two successful achievements:

1. You will sleep better and better.
2. You will move, step by step, toward getting what really matters to you.

Number 2 is a great side effect! You won’t be lying there thinking, “What if?” Instead you can get to sleep knowing that tomorrow you will get another step closer to your goals.

Excerpted from I Can Make You Sleep: Overcome Insomnia Forever and Get the Best Rest of Your Life.
Copyright © 2009 by Paul McKenna. Excerpted by permission of Sterling Publishing. All rights reserved.

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