Ah, nighttime — the work day is over and we’re finally free. It’s tempting to hit up happy hour every night of the week or collapse in front of the TV in exhaustion. However, establishing a routine of healthy evening habits can have major benefits for your overall physical and mental health. So you might want to consider turning off your electronics for a while (yes, even Netflix), because winding down your busy brain will help you drift off into a peaceful sleep.
The following five simple habits can easily be integrated into your routine starting tonight — you may even practice some of them occasionally but want to increase the frequency. Don’t worry, none of these activities will feel like chores — they actually may remind you how pleasant it can be to sip tea and read a book rather than kill an hour on Facebook reading your high school classmates’ horrifying political commentary. (It’s like a trainwreck — we want to look away, but sometimes we just can’t.)
These five healthy evening habits will help you smoothly transition from the workday into a restful night of beauty sleep.
1. Unplug completely & read a book
In the interest of getting a good night’s sleep, experts suggest unplugging from all electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed. But what’s even healthier is unplugging earlier and engaging in an entirely different activity — reading. It’s been shown that reading before bed has health benefits such as enhancing the quality of sleep and reducing cortisol levels. It can also improve cognition and help with mild forms of anxiety and depression.
It’s easy to spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, but that time would be way better spent reading. If you really don’t enjoy reading, try another non-electronic activity — for example, adult coloring books are similarly soothing and can make a great addition to your nighttime routine.
Meditating right when you get home from work is a healthy way to create a natural boundary between your professional life and your personal life, so a meditation session is the ideal method to unwind and shift gears into evening mode.
There’s no shortage of health benefits to meditation — the practice has been shown to reduce stress and build self-awareness. It can also help manage the symptoms of illnesses including asthma, depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Just make sure you don’t meditate right before bedtime — the practice is all about mindfulness and being fully awake, so allow at least an hour in between meditation and sleep.
If you’re new at meditation, you can use something like YogaGlo, an app that provides you with thousands of different guided meditations with experienced meditation teachers. The classes range from 5 minutes to an hour.
3. Drink herbal tea
Rather than having a beer or glass of wine to relax, try drinking herbal tea in the evening. Tea is one of the healthiest drinks — it’s been shown to be good for the heart, and some studies indicate that it boosts the immune system and soothes the digestive system. Plus, it tastes delicious.
4. Eat a carb-filled snack
Eating a big meal right before bedtime can interfere with your sleep, but most of us need a snack before our heads hit the pillow. According to research published in Cell Reports, eating a carb-rich snack at night can help reset the body’s internal clock. Milk with cereal is the ideal nighttime snack because the combination of carbs and tryptophan converts to serotonin and melatonin in the brain. If you’re looking to add more fruit to your diet or just mix things up, cherries also contain a combo of carbs and tryptophan.
5. Make a gratitude list
Studies have shown that people who actively practice gratitude are physically and psychologically healthier than those who don’t. Life gets hectic, and it’s easy to focus on our massive to-do list and all the big and small stressors in our lives, so it makes sense to carve out some time to reflect on what you’re grateful for. It’s the perfect evening activity to help you relax.
No matter how bad the day has been, it’s beneficial to look at the big picture and list everything that you’re grateful for in your life. It ends the day on a positive note, and you’ll go to bed feeling at least a little more positive than you would have otherwise.