Savoring Happiness: Using Positive Memories To Help You Fall Asleep - Skin Deep

Sleep researchers share that what we think about before falling asleep is an important part of our nighttime routine.

Savoring, or imagining a positive memory in great detail, is said to improve our general well-being. Studies show that it can boost our mood and help reduce depression and anxiety. Now the strategy is believed to help us fall asleep and improve the quality of our sleep. 

Instead of ruminating about past mistakes or tomorrow’s schedule, you can try this technique which “Gives your brain something else to focus on—something emotionally compelling and pleasurable,” says Dana McMakin, a professor of psychology at Florida International University.

READ ALSO: Practicing Positivity: How To Recognize And Manage Catastrophic Thinking

Unlike practicing gratitude, which tells us to think about something rather than feel, savoring focuses on recreating our emotional state during particularly happy experiences. Instead of quieting our mind, like during meditation, this strategy seeks to fill it with positive emotion.

Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, says that reproducing enjoyable experiences in your mind reduces your stress response and increases calmness in your body.

So how do we start using savoring to help us sleep?

First, pick the happy memory you want to imagine. It could be anything, from the birth of your child to any time you played with your pet. 

It could also be something you’re doing at the moment, like enjoying a really good book, or something you’re looking forward to doing, like an upcoming vacation.

Once you’re ready to fall asleep, imagine this experience in great detail, using all your senses. Dr. Mednick says that this will allow blood to flow to those parts of your body and away from your worrying brain, letting you relax.

If you’re the type to worry a lot, set aside some time for this several hours before you go to sleep. You can set a timer for 15 minutes where you can let your mind go wild.

Write down all the things that are plaguing your mind, then once time is up, close the notebook literally and figuratively. This will help free your mind from negativity before bedtime.

Like with any new exercise, being able to savor memories comes with practice. Instead of stressing out about it right before falling asleep, you can try imagining those happy experiences during the day.

Stretch your mind by practicing savoring, training it to focus on positivity. By doing so, you’ll also be able to recall memories more easily when you need them.

Zlatan Krizan, a professor of psychology and sleep scientist at Iowa State University, says that it may take time for the strategy to stick. Just don’t give up on it too soon, as it may eventually become a source of comfort for you.

Banner photo via Pexels by Ron Lach.

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