Anxiety and sleep (or a lack thereof) go hand in hand. Being unable to sleep is proven to heighten anxiety levels—and that whirring, panicking mind of yours does a very good job of making sure you don't get the rest you need to help it subside.
When you find yourself lying there in the dark of night—tossing and turning, unable to switch off—it can feel like the most frustrating thing in the world. But the founder of meditation app Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, has a simple solution to break the cycle— and it doesn't require using your phone.
The problem, Andy explains, is that when we struggle with sleep "we have an association that as soon as we lie on the pillow, our minds suddenly start racing". But in fact, that's not the case. "It's always been racing," the expert says of your brain. We have thousands and thousands of thoughts every single day, we just find ourselves specifically tuning into them when we're supposed to be resting.
The first step is approaching it from that view. The second step is to carry out exercises "to slowly bring the mind down."
One such trick is so simple, you might wonder why you've never tried it before. As a child, you were probably told to count sheep when you struggled to drop off. And while the Headspace founder isn't suggesting you literally do that, his technique isn't fundamentally all that different.
"It’s about gentle focussed attention. So once you’re lying down, take a couple of deep breathes, just to ground the body," Andy tells me in his famously soothing voice (for anyone who uses Headspace, Andy is the voice on the app.)
"Then, you start at 1,000 and gently count down back towards 1," he says, detailing his approach. "I'd be amazed if you could make it to 1."
Reiterating the importance of reframing your anxious thoughts, Andy says: "It's not about the thoughts being bad, or trying to stop the thoughts. It’s just about placing our focus in one place [through counting] and by doing that the mind knows to slow down."
Worth a try? I think so.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.