When your child is feeling worried about something, anxious thoughts can fill their mind at bedtime – making it difficult to for them to go to sleep.
The mindful garden technique teaches them how to recognise their thoughts – good and bad – and let them go.
Our bedtime podcast is brought to you in association with parenting website MadeForMums. Each episode is written by psychologist and yoga teacher Suzy Reading and narrated by Gemma David of The Quiet Heart.
Read on for a transcript of the episode…
Learn how to manage anxious thoughts at bedtime with Suzy Reading’s mindful garden technique
We spend all day focusing our minds on different things – learning in the classroom, listening to our family and friends, moving our bodies, reading books and concentrating on our play and the games we enjoy. Now it is time to rest so we can fill up our bodies again with energy. Sleep recharges us, like giving us fresh, new batteries.
Snuggle up into bed, get comfy into any position that feels good to you and know that you can move again whenever you like, to get even more comfortable. Feel your body sliding into your covers, your head sinking into your pillow. Spend a little while just feeling how it is to be lying in bed. A soft relaxed breath in and a lovely long relaxed breath out. Maybe a little sigh or two might feel good to you. Just let all that doing drop away. Another calm breath in, and another smooth breath out, ahhhhh.
After all the busyness of your day, your mind might still be busy now! You might have lots of different thoughts or maybe there is one that keeps popping up. Maybe your mind is busy thinking about all the things that happened in your day. Perhaps your mind is like an excited little puppy, leaping about thinking of all the things that might happen tomorrow. Maybe your mind is already thinking about some dreams you’d like to have. It is all ok. Let your mind be as it is. Let all those thoughts just come and go.
Let’s try a little exercise that will help you just watch your thoughts and relax into rest until sleep comes along. It is ok to be awake, you can just lie back and watch your thoughts and this little exercise will help you choose the ones you like the best, helping you soften into sleep.
Imagine that in your mind there is a beautiful garden. Your thoughts are like little seeds you plant in your garden. There will be thoughts that you enjoy and these ones will bloom into your favourite flowers. Spend a little time now thinking about the ones you love, the colours you love, imagine even the scent of your favourite flowers if you can! Think of the little tiny wildflowers you see in open fields or on the lawn. Think about the flowers you might see around parks in your neighbourhood. Think of a vase filled with your favourite flowers. Think of all the gorgeous ones you see in people’s gardens that they so lovingly look after. All these different blooms and all your favourite colours.
The happy thoughts you have blossom into these beautiful flowers in the garden in your mind. If you keep focusing on this enjoyable thought, watch how this helps the seed grow and start to bud. See the stem stretching up towards the sky, see the leaves unfurling, see the petals popping open, all their brilliant colours! The more time and energy you give it, it’s like you are tenderly watering it and directing the sunlight towards it. See it bloom and grow!
Sometimes we have thoughts that we don’t enjoy so much, sad thoughts, angry thoughts, unpleasant ones, worries. These are all normal thoughts too and everyone has them. These thoughts are like tiny weeds in our mind garden. They pop up from time to time, every garden has some weeds!
But we don’t have to give these thoughts all our energy and attention. We don’t have to spend lots of time watering them, sending the suns rays to them. We can just notice when we have one of those thoughts and then bring our mind back to planting a seed that we do want to see grow in our garden. We can choose the thoughts we have, we can choose how we look after the garden in our mind.
So just lie back and let your mind garden grow, filling it with all the plants and flowers you love the best. Every time a weed pops up, its ok, just notice it and bring your mind back to planting a seed that you want to see flourish. Use your attention to nourish the beautiful flowers in your mind garden, spending time watering them and bathing them with warm sunlight. You choose! Just let yourself rest and watch your mind garden bloom.