I was asked at a party recently, “Does your brain ever stop?” Being a songwriter, it’s assumed that I think a lot. It’s true. I’m constantly taking in information, turning it around in my head and making sense of the world. I’ve always been a consistent ‘analyser’. I analyse everything. I used to have a lot of trouble sleeping, similar to the woman who asked the question. I would go to sleep easy enough, but I would wake several times a night. Things I’d forgotten, conversation replays where I would answer very differently then I had earlier in the day, things I wanted to do, plans, ideas… The thoughts would just arrive and PING! I’m awake. The lady asked what I do to shut my head up and I realised just how long it’s been since I’d really had poor sleep.
I write. I journal, and I write my blogs and I write songs. If I have stuff churning inside of me, I write about it. I make sense of it all via paper (or computer), and I get it all out. If I’m writing, whatever form, I sleep well. If I’m not writing, if I haven’t written in a while, I don’t. It’s really that simple.
I was once told to keep a notepad on the side of the bed. So if I was being woken by thoughts presenting themselves as ‘urgent’, I could write them down, tell my brain that I will remember to deal with it tomorrow now as I’ve written it down, and then I could go back to sleep. That’s a great tool. But I also have a theory that if you can’t sleep because your brain won’t stop, that’s because you’re not listening to yourself enough. If you’re really busy and not putting in enough down time to really listen to yourself and what’s going on inside for you then that stuff is going to come out somehow.
If you can’t sleep because you can’t get your head to shut up, try journalling. Spend 10 minutes a day writing your thoughts in a book. Don’t try and structure too much just write whatever comes. I usually ask my self a couple of standard questions and then answer them. Questions like “How are you feeling?”, and “What’s going on for you right now?”, and then I dig a bit deeper and follow it up with things like “Why are you feeling like that?” and “What can you do to do things differently?” or “What needs to change here?”.
Asking yourself these sorts of questions is priceless. Sometimes I dig up stuff I had no idea was going on. I find answers to questions I didn’t know I even have. I get to know me and I get to actively participate in my own personal growth and future.
If you can’t shut your brain off, maybe it’s because you’re trying to tell you something. Sometimes there’s a deeper issue underneath all the frantic thinking. Before popping a sleeping pill or trying to drown it out some other way, why not try and find our what that something is? Maybe you’re trying to tell yourself something important.
Passionate storyteller, songwriter, writer and host of the Transformational Personal Growth Podcast on iTunes
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