by Janet F. Williams
Can’t sleep? Today’s multitasking lifestyles mean many of you are go-go-going until it’s past bedtime. Research shows turning off the TV or computer at least an hour before bed rest is ideal, but in real life that doesn’t always happen. Over-stimulation compounds your racing thoughts about work, family, and other responsibilities. You can’t be at your best when you don’t get your rest. What to do? Draw a mandala!
Much of the mental churning keeping you awake at night takes place in the left side of your brain. Drawing a mandala helps move you out of the analytical left side and into the right side, where creativity flows. There’s no on-off switch to control your thoughts, but you can activate certain brain activity centers and calm others. Drawing a mandala can help.
Simply put, a mandala is a circle. Cultures around the world embrace the mandala design as a representation for the universality of wholeness. Mandalas appear in many forms. No doubt you have seen them, from the ying-yang symbol to the Mayan calendar to a dangling pendant. All you need is a blank piece of paper and a pen, and you, too, can create a mandala.
Start with a dot or small circle in the center of the page. That center is you. Draw out from there – shapes, flower petals, squiggles or lightning bolts. Don’t worry about being a great artist. Give yourself permission to let the lines work for you, irrespective of how beautiful, misshapen, or odd your drawing may appear. Don’t fixate on perfection, erasing, or somehow correcting your artwork to fit an idea of how the picture should look. Let it happen and let it out. Journaling is another helpful bedtime exercise. However, words require a different part of the brain and may get you thinking again. Instead of words, use lines, shapes, shading, or an actual picture to keep using the right side of your brain.
You can put emotion into your picture – joy, fear, gratitude, or anger, using the pen (or other drawing instrument) to press lightly, or hard, to help express yourself. Let your feelings pass through your pen. The object is to draw long enough to move out of your left brain while quieting unwanted noisy thoughts so you can sleep. When you have shifted your brain activity and sense completion, turn out the light.
Buy a small book of blank pages to keep by your bedside. Get into the habit of drawing a mandala before you sleep. You will be amazed at how different each picture looks depending on what kind of day you had. As with many exercises, your ability to use the mandala will improve with practice, as might your artistic ability, and you may find some of your mandalas take less than a minute. And guess what? That gives you more time to enjoy your rest. Good night!
– Janet F. Williams is a consultant for personal and professional development, and is the author of “You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get: Proven Techniques to Get More Out of Life.” Please visit: www.janetfwilliams.com.