Developing a calming evening routine is one of the best at-home accomplishments I can name for this year. That’s how much I believe in it.

If I can help it– and usually I can– I now try to be asleep before 10PM. Call me a granny, but this schedule has worked wonders on my energy levels, my peace of mind, and my general feelings of rest.

Falling asleep early is not just a matter of planning out a long, exhausting day to precede it. Granted, the past several months have been quite the hustle season, especially on weekdays. But choosing to sleep in order to reap its benefits requires discipline; and there’s nothing better than strong rituals to keep that discipline alive.

Why your evenings matter

Sleep is associated with productivity– but it has to be good sleep. National averages don’t reflect well on Americans’ sleep habits, and it most likely is costing us in our work, our relationships, and our overall health.

More importantly, evenings matter because they’re an opportunity most of us can’t afford to miss. If we use our evenings well, we can reflect, learn, prepare, and improve during this time. The added bonus is that deep sleep allows our minds to develop in ways it can’t while we’re awake.

So evenings are our chance at making our days count– really count. Here are the elements of a calmin evening routine that have been game-changers for me.

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4 elements of a calming evening routine

1) Gather and tidy.

The early evenings are a great time to put away tools, clothes, dishes, accessories, and other items that were used. My favorite thing about this exercise is that it allows me to review in my mind the events of the day. When I do this, I ask myself a few questions. What were some successes today? Am I holding onto any regret or disappointment? What surprised me? What am I grateful for

Another obvious bonus of tidying up the day’s clutter is that it won’t greet me early the next morning. Mornings should be peaceful and productive, not crowded with yesterday’s unfinished business.

2) Relax your body.

After a long day, my body aches from having been in a chair, in front of the computer, or in the car for hours. Rather than carry that tension into my sleep, I try to relieve it with a quick hot shower, essential oils, and stretching. I will often also take the time to put moisturizer on my hands– I am loving this cream by Deep Steep.

While I’m not the most informed when it comes to essential oils, I do know that lavender helps me immensely with relaxation and reflection in the evenings. Putting a few drops in the shower does the trick!

I should also add that I work out as often as I can: two to four times a week. Exercising, combined with relaxing in the evening, helps me feel completely refreshed and energized the next day.

3) Calm your mind.

I’ve started getting in bed sooner than I want to fall asleep. I keep a stack of books at my bedside that are engaging, positive, and inspiring to my soul. There are other times of day when I want to read challenging, intense books– but in the evenings I stick to voices that remind me of what’s most important, of beauty, and of truth.

Another amazing practice that I am learning about is contemplative prayer. Taking the time to simply devote my mind to God, but without any words, helps me be present. If that’s not your style, writing a few thoughts down in a journal is another way to bring your mind to a place of rest.

4) Take deep, grateful breaths.

This is a bit of a combination of all 3 practices above. Regardless of what happened during the day, I can be grateful that I made it to my bed and that tomorrow is a blank slate. Deep breaths calm both the mind and the body, and are a simple physical reminder that life is a gift. 

It just so happens that focusing on your breathing is a common method for relaxation and falling asleep. Most of the time, it’s the last thing I find myself doing before I sail off into dreamland.

The bottom line: be intentional with your evenings.

The evening can be just a handful of hours (or minutes) we waste away– especially if we’re looking to numb away the confusion or disappointment we feel from a long day. Often times it’s a reflection of the state of our souls; frantic and anxious, or confident and at peace. Choosing intentionality with this precious time of day not only means a promising night of sleep, but also the energy and acumen we need for the next day.