Today I am going to share with you my current evening routine. I don’t think routines should be rigid and static, but rather something that can be remolded as life and circumstances change.
I also don’t see these as a template that is one size fits all but I am sharing what is currently working for me. A lot of what I incorporated into my routine, I had come across from others I follow who shared their routines.
Finish eating two hours before bedtime
I make sure that I finish eating my last meal with at least two hours before I want to sleep. This isn’t always possible with training, but I find I sleep better when I do. It allows my body enough time to digest my meal.
Most of us spend too much time on our phones, and few actually track our weekly screen time (which is a good recommendation). 30 Minutes before bed we put our phone down and don’t use it again until the next day.
I do this for two reasons.
Screen time before bed is bad for your sleep quality, which has a direct effect on your hormones, mood, and even organ health. There has been a lot of research lately into the effects of blue light at night.
Being on our phones at night and having our mind still busy scrolling, thinking, judging, isn’t an ideal way to go to bed, in my experience.
The more you fill your mind the more stressed you will be. Even if you are scrolling online, looking at things you enjoy- compare it to not doing it and just relaxing.
I try to avoid anything negative as I’m getting ready for before bed. If it’s not urgent, it can wait until the next day. This includes avoiding social media and the news, and anything too stimulating.
At the end of the day my mind has done enough thinking, and giving myself less to think about before bed is more conducive to sleeping well.
We haven’t had a T.V. for years, so although we don’t have to limit that, we do put our phones down when we start our wind down for the evening. (I talk more about the reasons for this a little further down in this post.)
We try to switch off all or most of the overhead lights and use lamps and candles.
If you have bright lights or LED lights which have a lot of light in the blue spectrum, then you may want to switch it with warmer lights or smart bulbs that change the color temperature for your circadian rhythm.
Reading (5-15 minutes)
In the evenings I keep my reading around 10-15 minutes, a little longer than in my mornings. I usually read two books concurrently, one in the morning and one in the evening.
If it is a particularly difficult book – like the one that I am currently reading, Ernest Becker’s, The Denial of Death – I’ll just focus on the one.
Writing (10 minutes)
Research has shown that handwriting is better for learning and helps to encode the content better in your memory – even if you never revisit it again.
It also is good for brain health.
I love many things that are vintage, old films, old books, and cursive handwriting in one of them. Handwriting, especially cursive, is a lost art and I find it relaxing.
There are three sections to my writing, and under each section I write down three things.
I got this template from Simon Drew of The Practical Stoic but it’s used often in Stoic circles. It fosters better awareness, and helps bring together all the disparate elements of the day into focus.
Three things that I did well today:
I start by writing what I did well that day. This can be much harder than you realise, particularly if you tend to focus on what you did wrong or didn’t get around to doing.
This also brings more awareness to your day. Many of us tend not to be present in the scattered moments of our day but the evening brings back some awareness doing this. This is particularly true if you have a negative self-image or have struggled with mental health.
The ability to think and write about the things you did well is important and does raise your mood. It’s similar to the importance of gratitude. You need to have a balance between what you get wrong and what you actually get right.
Three things that I could I have done better or improved upon:
Next I write about what I could have improved on. I reflect on the course of the day and think of these separate things that I could have improved on.
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
– George Bernard Shaw
Three things that I am grateful for:
Lastly I end with gratitude and write three things that I am grateful for. Practicing gratitude is highlighted in many different traditions from Stoicism to Buddhism. With these, it’s easy to fall into a robotic process and make them quite generic but the key to this practice is to think of something that you generally FEEL grateful for.
On some days you may not feel gratitude for the same thing that you will on another day. Take your time and choose something that you do feel gratitude for.
Sometimes right before bed my wife and I ask each other what the best part of our day was, and even though you may have written it down, it’s a different experience sharing it with someone you love right there in front of you.
Practicing gratitude will improve your mental health and gets easier the more you do it.
After writing, we do 5-10 minutes of targeted stretches, loosening up the thoracic spine, exercises to maintain a healthy range of motion for healthy shoulders and to combat rounded shoulders, and open up the hips and chest to relax the muscles that tend to get stiff in our modern lives and contorted postures.
Not any set routine, just a few staple exercises depending on how we feel. The point is more to relax and just some maintenance for our training. I don’t believe in stretching for the sake of stretching.
Recommended reading: Mobility Explained by Barbell Medicine
For several years I have been a supporter of Sam Harris (neuroscientist, philosopher, author and an expert in mindfulness) – and was one of the first batches of users to use his app – Waking Up.
I’ve found it tremendously valuable. The quality of the content and editing of the audio recordings is the best that I’ve come across, and is arguably the best value for money, compared to other paid meditation apps.
It has an extensive library that is ever growing, with sections of notable guests doing guided meditations – sometimes a series of them, lectures, conversations, and sharing mindful thoughts and Q&A segments – a lot more than just a mediation app.
What I like about Sam Harris, despite disagreeing with him on many political fronts, is that he is someone who lives and breathes what he studies and shares, he is not some esoteric shill.
“The advantage of meditation is not that you’re suddenly going to gain the superpower to control your internal state, it’s that you will recognize just how out of control your mind is. It is like a monkey flinging feces, that’s running around the room, making trouble, shouting, breaking things. It’s completely uncontrollable. It’s an out-of-control mad person.”
– Naval Ravikant
Mediation has many benefits that are well documented.
Meditation has many forms, and when people say that they tried it once and say it didn’t work or wasn’t for them, it is most likely that they just haven’t found the right type of meditation for them.
We use Siri to launch the meditation, to avoid using the phone.
As someone who used to regularly struggle with insomnia, I found that by properly meditating and focusing on the breath, I feel calmer and my mind quieter.
If you’d like to start meditating Tim Ferris has a great video here.
Life happens and I don’t get around to all of these all the time, but when I do I feel so much better and sleep better.
Evening Routine In Summary
Ending the day:
- Finish eating 2 hours before bedtime
- No phone 30 minutes before bedtime
- Read a book
- Targeted stretches
What does your evening routine look like?