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Switching to ‘Being Mode’ for Better Sleep

When experiencing a sleepless night, our mind’s often caught in ‘doing mode’, but we can choose to shift gears for optimal rest, relaxation and sleep.

Have you ever gone to bed feeling really tired, but then found yourself wide awake in the middle of the night tossing and turning unable to get back to sleep. You might've found yourself ruminating on a problem or dwelling on something that happened or might happen. Maybe things are difficult with a friend or a partner, and you're worrying about what might happen next, or perhaps you have a major deadline at work and you just can't imagine how you're going to meet that demand. Perhaps someone said something to you that stayed with you. All kinds of thoughts can fill our minds and haunt us in the nighttime quiet.

This kind of rumination and revved up quality of the mind is strongly associated with insomnia and ongoing sleep problems for many people. When the mind is racing, it really just sends us round and round in helpless mental circles, which is a consequence of how our human minds work. Our minds try hard to protect and serve us. They've evolved to identify problems and find solutions. Now, this is an amazing quality of the mind, and it's really helpful sometimes.

Imagine an architect trying to figure out the best way to design a staircase. The architect needs the cool logic of our problem solving mind to achieve this task. But if that same architect is lying awake in bed in the middle of the night, worrying and ruminating about all the different ways he could do this staircase, then the chances are that he'll arrive at work the next day feeling tired and stressed with a limited capacity for finding the real solution. Sometimes you just need to let go until it's the right time to solve the problem. So how could this architect snap out of those worrying thoughts in the middle of the night and get a decent night's sleep? The answer lies with understanding the two different modes of the human mind.

You can think about these two different modes of mind as analogous to different gears in a car. So the two gears are the two modes are first of all, doing mode. So doing mode is the mode of mind that is its job to get things done. So doing mode allows us to achieve our goals, making, carry out our plans, share our thoughts and ideas with people and fix and change things. It's the mind's problem solving powerhouse.

This mode of mind involves what is called a discrepancy monitor. This is where we constantly evaluate our current situation and then compare it to where we would like to be. So in doing mode, the discrepancy monitor is switched on and the mind will find mismatches between how things are now, how we would like them to be and how to fill the gap in between. That's it's job, finding the gap between where we are, where we want to be, and figuring out how to close that gap through solving problems and making plans. Now, this is a wonderful capacity of the mind, but the trouble is that we can easily become locked into doing mode a lot of, or even all the time.

And we can fall out of balance. Many of us these days are just doing, doing, doing all day. And then we go to bed with a really, really revved up mind that's stuck in doing mode and then we can't switch it off. We can't let the body and mind rest. Now, one of the biggest obstacles with getting stuck in doing mode is that at night, our mind will just keep desperately trying to fix things and do to-do lists and find problems and find solutions.

When the best thing to do at night is just let everything go and rest. In doing mode, instead of rest, what we get is thoughts that just spin around and around and around in our head in circles. Now, the other mode of mind is called the being mode. The being mode is a mode that actually unhooks us from our thoughts and connects us to the present moment via our senses. The aliveness and the richness of being mode is not easily conveyed in words.

By contrast to doing mode, being mode is not devoted to achieving any particular goal. In being mode the discrepancy monitor is turned off and instead the focus is accepting and allowing and being fully alive to the present moment, just as it is. Being mode relaxes into the present moment with no agenda, no need to evaluate. Just the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, vividness and richness. So how does any of this relate to sleep? Well, when we're having a sleepless night, because our mind is caught in doing mode, we can choose to shift gears into being mode, the optimum mode for rest, relaxation and sleep.

Here's the trick to it. All you need to do to switch gears is change what you're paying attention to. To engage being mode, all you need to do is start paying more attention to your sense perceptions in the present moment. You see, this is because our attention is finite. Yeah.

So when we focus on our senses, there's not much room left to focus on our thoughts in doing mode. Not that all thoughts will disappear, they won't, but they won't dominate. Being mode invites us to simply acknowledge that the thoughts we're having are the thoughts we're having and we let them float by as we gently keep them majority of our focus on what we can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste, just moment by moment. There are now many published studies that have shown a marked link between meditation, which engages that being mode and improved sleep. Allow me to share with you an example of doing and being mode in action.

This was a, a personal experience that I had that sent me into a bit of a cycle of worrying thoughts that kept me awake one night, and quite a typical one. I think we've all been there. Took me a while to realize though that I was stuck in doing mode, but when I did, I was able to connect with being mode again and let go of my worrying thoughts. So here's what happened. I was at a dinner party.

And someone said something at the table about me and in front of everybody that I found really embarrassing. And they didn't think that I would feel embarrassed, but I did. And they had informed, sort of formed rather, an impression of the kind of person that I am and that they chose to make very public in that moment. It wasn't entirely true, but there was a, there was a grain of truth to it and I was embarrassed. So I stumbled for the right words.

And then I said something clumsy, which made it even more embarrassing. So I was so conscious of everybody looking at me while this awkward exchange happened. So what do you think happened to me when I went to bed that night? Of course, my brain started playing the event over and over in my head. I kept thinking about what I should have said instead, or what I could say to redeem myself when I see those people again. And I wondered, you know, what this was going to mean for me, what people's opinions of me would be now.

So while my mind, was running through all these really unhelpful thoughts, my body was tossing and turning. I couldn't get just sleep. My whole body was tense. My jaw was tense. There was no chance of sleep in this state.

So fortunately, after a while, I caught myself engaging in this cycle of thoughts and I saw how unhelpful it was. And I realized that I could help myself out of this state and get some rest. So the first thing I said to myself mentally was, thanks mind, since I know that my mind has evolved to try and protect and serve me by always trying to solve life's problems and challenges. And then I fully accepted that I wasn't asleep. So I didn't fight the fact that I was awake anymore.

I just allowed it to be. And then I brought my focus. Into the feeling of the breath in my body. I took a couple of really deep breaths. I put my hand on my tummy and I just felt the way my hand moved up and down on my tummy as I breathed.

Now, of course, all the unhelpful thoughts didn't disappear. They were still there. And I took a moment to acknowledge them and just let them flow through my experience. And I, I knew that I didn't really have to solve this problem now. I just accepted that.

And I just kept bringing my attention and focus back to the feeling of the breath moving. And then I took some time to listen to the sounds of the night. The crickets were going, and there was wind rustling in the trees. I could hear some noises of birds and bats. And then I brought my focus to the weight of my body against the bed.

The heaviness, the textures of the bedsheets against my skin. And as I did this, I felt my whole being just settling back into the present moment, out of problem-solving mind and into the actuality of what was happening around me. I was warm. I was safe. I was comfortable and everything was going to be okay.

In the end, I managed to get a really good night's sleep. And the next day, the problem actually solved itself. The lady who made the comment actually commented. She contacted me to apologize and, and commented that she also had, had a very sleepless night thinking about it. And she also felt really embarrassed about what she'd said.

So somehow everything sorted itself out. If I hadn't found my way out of doing mode and into being mode, my sleepless night would have been for nothing. So while doing mode has a very important place in our lives, sometimes we just need to shift gears out of doing mode and into being mode, like that night that I had. Cultivating this capacity to switch gears over time will make it a bit easier every time you do it. It takes practice to keep connecting with the present moment and letting go of doing mode.

A couple of deep breaths is a really good start. Aim to switch into being mode just before you go to sleep so that you are really ready for a restful, peaceful and nourishing sleep. There's no right or wrong way to prepare yourself for bedtime, but you might find that if you can cultivate a routine that works for you personally, where you can switch off doing mode and then settle into being mode, these little personal rituals that you could create could help you slow down a little bit, engage with being mode and turn off those racing thoughts. To get started with this, it really is a good idea to just try and physically slow down a bit before you go to bed. And when you do lay down trying some deep, slow breathing, perhaps with a hand on the belly or the chest can be really, really helpful way of settling in.

And if you ever find that the mind is really busy and revved, you can also use a mental mantra that can help you to stay focused on the breath. So something really simple, like mentally saying to yourself, now I'm breathing in. As you breathe in and now I'm breathing out, as you breathe out. It's really simple, just helps you to stay focused on the present moment. Another trick sometimes that can be used to engage your senses is to tense and release muscles of the body one by one, from the bottom of your body all the way to the top, just after you lay in bed.

Or another way to engage your senses is to lay in bed and then listen to the sounds of the night. If all else fails, just try deeply breathing, one hand on your belly and feeling the rise and the fall of each breath until you feel ready to fall asleep. But the main thing to remember is just to bring your awareness to your senses. Other tips for preparing for a good night's sleep could include much more practical things like not drinking alcohol too close to bedtime or eating too close to bedtime. You want to really have a routine around getting your mind and body ready for rejuvenating sleep.

If you'd like to try a meditation to guide you into being mode, you can use the accompanying meditation to this talk. This meditation aims to connect you with your senses, untangle you from racing thoughts. So I hope you find this helpful and find your way into a more easeful night's sleep.

Talk

4.6

Switching to ‘Being Mode’ for Better Sleep

When experiencing a sleepless night, our mind’s often caught in ‘doing mode’, but we can choose to shift gears for optimal rest, relaxation and sleep.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Have you ever gone to bed feeling really tired, but then found yourself wide awake in the middle of the night tossing and turning unable to get back to sleep. You might've found yourself ruminating on a problem or dwelling on something that happened or might happen. Maybe things are difficult with a friend or a partner, and you're worrying about what might happen next, or perhaps you have a major deadline at work and you just can't imagine how you're going to meet that demand. Perhaps someone said something to you that stayed with you. All kinds of thoughts can fill our minds and haunt us in the nighttime quiet.

This kind of rumination and revved up quality of the mind is strongly associated with insomnia and ongoing sleep problems for many people. When the mind is racing, it really just sends us round and round in helpless mental circles, which is a consequence of how our human minds work. Our minds try hard to protect and serve us. They've evolved to identify problems and find solutions. Now, this is an amazing quality of the mind, and it's really helpful sometimes.

Imagine an architect trying to figure out the best way to design a staircase. The architect needs the cool logic of our problem solving mind to achieve this task. But if that same architect is lying awake in bed in the middle of the night, worrying and ruminating about all the different ways he could do this staircase, then the chances are that he'll arrive at work the next day feeling tired and stressed with a limited capacity for finding the real solution. Sometimes you just need to let go until it's the right time to solve the problem. So how could this architect snap out of those worrying thoughts in the middle of the night and get a decent night's sleep? The answer lies with understanding the two different modes of the human mind.

You can think about these two different modes of mind as analogous to different gears in a car. So the two gears are the two modes are first of all, doing mode. So doing mode is the mode of mind that is its job to get things done. So doing mode allows us to achieve our goals, making, carry out our plans, share our thoughts and ideas with people and fix and change things. It's the mind's problem solving powerhouse.

This mode of mind involves what is called a discrepancy monitor. This is where we constantly evaluate our current situation and then compare it to where we would like to be. So in doing mode, the discrepancy monitor is switched on and the mind will find mismatches between how things are now, how we would like them to be and how to fill the gap in between. That's it's job, finding the gap between where we are, where we want to be, and figuring out how to close that gap through solving problems and making plans. Now, this is a wonderful capacity of the mind, but the trouble is that we can easily become locked into doing mode a lot of, or even all the time.

And we can fall out of balance. Many of us these days are just doing, doing, doing all day. And then we go to bed with a really, really revved up mind that's stuck in doing mode and then we can't switch it off. We can't let the body and mind rest. Now, one of the biggest obstacles with getting stuck in doing mode is that at night, our mind will just keep desperately trying to fix things and do to-do lists and find problems and find solutions.

When the best thing to do at night is just let everything go and rest. In doing mode, instead of rest, what we get is thoughts that just spin around and around and around in our head in circles. Now, the other mode of mind is called the being mode. The being mode is a mode that actually unhooks us from our thoughts and connects us to the present moment via our senses. The aliveness and the richness of being mode is not easily conveyed in words.

By contrast to doing mode, being mode is not devoted to achieving any particular goal. In being mode the discrepancy monitor is turned off and instead the focus is accepting and allowing and being fully alive to the present moment, just as it is. Being mode relaxes into the present moment with no agenda, no need to evaluate. Just the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, vividness and richness. So how does any of this relate to sleep? Well, when we're having a sleepless night, because our mind is caught in doing mode, we can choose to shift gears into being mode, the optimum mode for rest, relaxation and sleep.

Here's the trick to it. All you need to do to switch gears is change what you're paying attention to. To engage being mode, all you need to do is start paying more attention to your sense perceptions in the present moment. You see, this is because our attention is finite. Yeah.

So when we focus on our senses, there's not much room left to focus on our thoughts in doing mode. Not that all thoughts will disappear, they won't, but they won't dominate. Being mode invites us to simply acknowledge that the thoughts we're having are the thoughts we're having and we let them float by as we gently keep them majority of our focus on what we can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste, just moment by moment. There are now many published studies that have shown a marked link between meditation, which engages that being mode and improved sleep. Allow me to share with you an example of doing and being mode in action.

This was a, a personal experience that I had that sent me into a bit of a cycle of worrying thoughts that kept me awake one night, and quite a typical one. I think we've all been there. Took me a while to realize though that I was stuck in doing mode, but when I did, I was able to connect with being mode again and let go of my worrying thoughts. So here's what happened. I was at a dinner party.

And someone said something at the table about me and in front of everybody that I found really embarrassing. And they didn't think that I would feel embarrassed, but I did. And they had informed, sort of formed rather, an impression of the kind of person that I am and that they chose to make very public in that moment. It wasn't entirely true, but there was a, there was a grain of truth to it and I was embarrassed. So I stumbled for the right words.

And then I said something clumsy, which made it even more embarrassing. So I was so conscious of everybody looking at me while this awkward exchange happened. So what do you think happened to me when I went to bed that night? Of course, my brain started playing the event over and over in my head. I kept thinking about what I should have said instead, or what I could say to redeem myself when I see those people again. And I wondered, you know, what this was going to mean for me, what people's opinions of me would be now.

So while my mind, was running through all these really unhelpful thoughts, my body was tossing and turning. I couldn't get just sleep. My whole body was tense. My jaw was tense. There was no chance of sleep in this state.

So fortunately, after a while, I caught myself engaging in this cycle of thoughts and I saw how unhelpful it was. And I realized that I could help myself out of this state and get some rest. So the first thing I said to myself mentally was, thanks mind, since I know that my mind has evolved to try and protect and serve me by always trying to solve life's problems and challenges. And then I fully accepted that I wasn't asleep. So I didn't fight the fact that I was awake anymore.

I just allowed it to be. And then I brought my focus. Into the feeling of the breath in my body. I took a couple of really deep breaths. I put my hand on my tummy and I just felt the way my hand moved up and down on my tummy as I breathed.

Now, of course, all the unhelpful thoughts didn't disappear. They were still there. And I took a moment to acknowledge them and just let them flow through my experience. And I, I knew that I didn't really have to solve this problem now. I just accepted that.

And I just kept bringing my attention and focus back to the feeling of the breath moving. And then I took some time to listen to the sounds of the night. The crickets were going, and there was wind rustling in the trees. I could hear some noises of birds and bats. And then I brought my focus to the weight of my body against the bed.

The heaviness, the textures of the bedsheets against my skin. And as I did this, I felt my whole being just settling back into the present moment, out of problem-solving mind and into the actuality of what was happening around me. I was warm. I was safe. I was comfortable and everything was going to be okay.

In the end, I managed to get a really good night's sleep. And the next day, the problem actually solved itself. The lady who made the comment actually commented. She contacted me to apologize and, and commented that she also had, had a very sleepless night thinking about it. And she also felt really embarrassed about what she'd said.

So somehow everything sorted itself out. If I hadn't found my way out of doing mode and into being mode, my sleepless night would have been for nothing. So while doing mode has a very important place in our lives, sometimes we just need to shift gears out of doing mode and into being mode, like that night that I had. Cultivating this capacity to switch gears over time will make it a bit easier every time you do it. It takes practice to keep connecting with the present moment and letting go of doing mode.

A couple of deep breaths is a really good start. Aim to switch into being mode just before you go to sleep so that you are really ready for a restful, peaceful and nourishing sleep. There's no right or wrong way to prepare yourself for bedtime, but you might find that if you can cultivate a routine that works for you personally, where you can switch off doing mode and then settle into being mode, these little personal rituals that you could create could help you slow down a little bit, engage with being mode and turn off those racing thoughts. To get started with this, it really is a good idea to just try and physically slow down a bit before you go to bed. And when you do lay down trying some deep, slow breathing, perhaps with a hand on the belly or the chest can be really, really helpful way of settling in.

And if you ever find that the mind is really busy and revved, you can also use a mental mantra that can help you to stay focused on the breath. So something really simple, like mentally saying to yourself, now I'm breathing in. As you breathe in and now I'm breathing out, as you breathe out. It's really simple, just helps you to stay focused on the present moment. Another trick sometimes that can be used to engage your senses is to tense and release muscles of the body one by one, from the bottom of your body all the way to the top, just after you lay in bed.

Or another way to engage your senses is to lay in bed and then listen to the sounds of the night. If all else fails, just try deeply breathing, one hand on your belly and feeling the rise and the fall of each breath until you feel ready to fall asleep. But the main thing to remember is just to bring your awareness to your senses. Other tips for preparing for a good night's sleep could include much more practical things like not drinking alcohol too close to bedtime or eating too close to bedtime. You want to really have a routine around getting your mind and body ready for rejuvenating sleep.

If you'd like to try a meditation to guide you into being mode, you can use the accompanying meditation to this talk. This meditation aims to connect you with your senses, untangle you from racing thoughts. So I hope you find this helpful and find your way into a more easeful night's sleep.

Talk

4.6

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