a bedtime ritual for empowering sleep

Earlier this week, I posted a morning ritual for self love, and hopefully it helped get the juices flowing about how to optimize your morning routine to fill your day with empowerment and self love.

In order to make it all come full circle, though, wouldn’t it also be great to have a bedtime ritual that helps you shed any negative influences or energy from the day, dump frustrations, release what’s weighing on your mind, and set you up for empowering sleep so that you’re ready to roll the next day?

Well, let’s approach this process from a similar perspective as creating a morning ritual.

Sleep Hygiene

First and foremost, as a clinician, discussing sleep hygiene with patients was one of the most difficult things to get people to change, even though the payoff for it is massive.

All these people who have trouble sleeping are usually doing at least some things that are directly impairing their quality and duration of sleep. I won’t get into a long medical discussion here, because its been written about ad nauseam elsewhere, but you can google these and read more if you want.

Here’s my basic list of barebones stuff you absolutely need to pay attention to with a nighttime routine:

  • Put all devices down at least 60 min before you want to be asleep. This isn’t just because of the blue light, its also because of the stimulatory nature of consuming digital content and all the ways it stresses us out, makes us feel bad about ourselves, or is full of anxiety-causing subjects, triggers, and noise. This includes phones, watches, tablets, computers, and TV. If you use a bluelight-canceling reader that is literally only a reader, then that might be okay, but stay away from reading on other digital devices, as its way too easy to ‘I’ll just check Facebook before I turn the lights out’ and then 45 min later you’re still there.
  • Do something that symbolizes a break between your day and your night. This could be a simple stretching routine, reading an actual book, or breathing/meditating. Whatever you prefer. But it serves as a signal to your brain that from here on out, its all about sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom clean. I feel like some people are going to be like ‘what? People don’t clean their rooms?’ but yeah, this is all about the energy of your bedroom. Clutter, dust, and disarray invite negative energy to hang out. Period.
  • Keep your bedroom cool. If you already sleep in a cool/cold bedroom, you know exactly what I mean and why this is a game changer. If you don’t yet, try setting your thermostat down to like ~64-66F (or even lower if you can tolerate it) for a couple nights and just see how much difference it makes. Studies do show people who sleep in colder rooms sleep deeper.
  • Sleep in a dark room. Turn digital clock faces away, put phone screens pointing downward, cover up any other little LED devices, and maybe even consider blackout curtains if you have bright lights coming in from the outside, or if your windows let in a lot of ambient light.
  • Clean yourself. I’ve always been a nighttime shower-er and mostly because it physically and symbolically washes off the day, but even if you are a morning shower-er and nothing will make you change that, you can still perform a form of self-cleaning like washing in the sink or a basin your hands and feet, arms, neck, face, whatever and rubbing something purifying on your skin, like a favorite essential oil to signify you’re clean. Visualize rinsing away stress, negative thoughts, worries, or other things bugging you.

Some of the things listed might be already intuitive to you, but some may not. If you’re not doing all or most of those things and you’re having trouble sleeping, start with that list first, because no amount of other ritual will replace the fundamentals of preparing the body and mind for deep, restorative sleep.

Creating a Personal Empowering Bedtime Ritual

Let’s say you’re doing all or most of those things, though, and now you need to really turn bedtime and sleeping into something that works for you and gets you closer to your goals.

As I mentioned before, we want bedtime rituals to do these things, at a minimum:

  • shed any negative influences or energy from the day
  • dump frustrations
  • release what’s weighing on your mind
  • set you up for empowering sleep so that you’re ready to roll

Here are some things to consider adding, and, just like the morning ritual creation, pay attention to which of these, if any, jump out and speak to you as something you find appealing or appropriate for your situation:

Cleansing

This could be just showering or bathing, especially with herbs, essential oils, or soaps made for magickal or therapeutic purposes. It could also be symbolic like burning herbs or incense to cleanse your space before bed. You could also cleanse the energy of your bed or bedroom by spraying something like Florida water or an essential oil blend to uplift the energy and instill a clean energetic feeling to the area.

Releasing

This includes letting go of thoughts, worries, tension, or other things that are going to occupy your mind as you fall asleep or even during sleep in the form of bad dreams, or waking in the middle of the night because you are anxious about something.

It might also be thinking through who or what you got upset or frustrated with during the day and writing it out, practicing forgiveness, or creating a plan for how you want to approach it or deal with it tomorrow. Whatever it is you choose is something that helps you relieve your mind of this particular thing so that it doesn’t feel obligated to chew on it all night.

Releasing could also be stretching, yoga, massage, or even orgasms, whether with a partner or yourself; those can all be forms of letting go of energy or tension you don’t want to keep holding onto.

Calming

Whereas our magickal morning ritual was all about finding and maintaining the right energy and self love to start the day, we don’t really want to build energy up right before we need to sleep. We can, however, redistribute energy that’s maybe too intense or too plentiful in order to calm our mind and body.

Things that calm and promote balance might include the aforementioned stretching, as long as its not overly strenuous or painful, aromatherapy with essential oils, drinking a non-caffeinated hot beverage (I’m a huge fan of tea), reading something non-digital, journaling/writing, spending time with a beloved pet(s), cuddling a partner, meditating, and so on.

There are probably dozens more things you could add to this list that are more specific to your life and situation, so think about what you typically do to calm down or wind down when you’re in need of it.

Empowering Sleep

Now we get to the actual part about making sleep work for us.

What are your goals right now? Are there any projects or things you’re working on that you want to ensure are going to work out or be successful? Are you trying to make changes in your life or attitude? Are you trying to attract people or things to you?

Write those things down on a slip of paper.

Also write down anything else like “I will sleep soundly without waking,” or other similar action statements about specifically impacting your sleep quality/duration. Or, perhaps, that’s all you are really focused on here, and don’t really have any outside goals you want to wrap into this.

You can take those slips of paper and meditate on them each night before heading to sleep, breathing deeply, envisioning the successful outcome you want, then tuck those slips of paper under or into your pillow before you fall asleep.

You can also draw those statements out into sigils you meditate on.

You could write out positive affirmations that empower you, such as ‘I speak my truth, unafraid of standing up for myself.‘ Or maybe draw symbols, scenes, or sigils of those affirmation statements. State them out loud a few times, keep them by your bed, and/or place them under your pillow while you sleep.

The empowering piece here is the stuff we need to do to change our mindset from whatever we experienced during our day to what we want our next day to ideally be.

As we practice this act of envisioning and setting our expectations and intentions, we can create a conscious mind space of receptive, open, and abundant thinking.

Whatever elements of this ritual you ultimately settle on, its important that you honor the ‘ritual’ part of that. Which means, you do it consistently with the intent of affecting yourself and/or your life,

how to create a magick morning ritual for self love

When I initially planned this post, it was simply from the perspective of creating rituals of any level of simplicity or complexity to begin one’s day with an attitude of self love and empowerment.

And, that will be what this is about.

However, after a comment from @clairalchemy on Twitter encouraging me to expand on a comment I made about creating sacred devotional time with my spirit, this sort of morphed into something much larger, which deserves to be more fully developed and structured, perhaps even some kind of template to help others implement this approach and mindset into their lives in an expanded system.

So, be on the lookout for that from me in the coming months, but for now, let’s talk about rituals and self love.

Rituals in Magickal Practice

The term ‘ritual’ may engender visions of arcane and complex undertakings, dark robes, ceremonial sacrifices, and chants in languages you don’t understand.

Or, it might make you think of practicing something many times over in order to perfect it or learn it better.

Or, maybe its a gathering with fellow magick practitioners or pagans wherein you celebrate an important lunar or solar date.

None of these are necessarily wrong, but I want you to step back away from preconceived definitions and ask yourself what rituals you have already created in your day. That is, what things do you do most days, or almost always the same way, or in symbolic honor of something or someone?

Most peoples’ days are not that extremely different and variable, as humans are creatures of habit in many ways. Even the most spontaneous of us still get dressed the same way each day, shower and brush our teeth in a certain order, or eat the same 10-15 foods fairly consistently.

So, its likely you have some rituals already established. Some of them serve you to get to work on time looking professional, others ensure that you complete work effectively, and still others may assist you in caring for family members such as prepping dinner each night or tucking kids into bed.

Rituals in magickal practice are not extremely different in that they follow a certain structure, even if you do not follow a more defined path such as Garderian Wicca or Voudon, its likely that there are certain steps or actions you take before, during, and after all of your rituals, regardless of the purpose or workings contained therein.

For some people, rituals and spells are completely separate undertakings. For others, they intertwine as needed. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, ritual is something that has repeatable elements and builds behaviors that yield change in our lives or our world in some way, either through physical/psychological/spiritual action, or symbolic actions.

Examples of how ritual may impact us include:

  • establishing a deeper connection to external spirits, divinity, source, or ancestors/guides
  • building a community and fellowship with peers when done in social groups
  • sending forth energy in the form of requests, spells, prayers, or workings to affect ourselves and our environment
  • creating subconscious or spiritual connections to actions, elements, ideas, and more in order to grow or change our spiritual or even physical self
  • learning to be more present and focused

There are plenty more ways that ritual practice may affect you, but most importantly, it is time dedicated to a person(s), spirit(s), deity/ies, concept, project, or other pursuit that is a priority to you.

The bottom line I want you to take away is that ritual time is time focused on a person, task, idea, or element, not on distractions that have nothing to do with it. It is devotion of time, action, and thought and being present in the moment.

So, if you consider yourself a priority (and I hope that you do), are you incorporating rituals for yourself?

Self Love and Acceptance Actions Ritualized

For some of us, its not simply enough to think we’re great, the power of a regularly implemented ritual can create magickal ripples of energy flowing from within you to affect your environment, the people around you, and, yes, even the rest of the world.

There are many ways you can practice self love. They don’t all incorporate bubble baths and pedicures. Sometimes the things you may need to do to love yourself are organizing your monthly bills or grocery shopping for fruits and veggies so you can snack on those instead of empty calories like chips.

And yet, still other examples of self love include taking care of your physical body with movement. Do you have an exercise ritual? What about getting outside daily to breathe fresh air? There are plenty of ways you can ritualize this.

Maybe ritualized self love for you is affirmations in the mirror before you get ready for the day. Instead of focusing on what you perceive are your flaws, perhaps you can create statements of self love to repeat out loud before you do your make up and hair?

Embrace the things about yourself you find beautiful, alluring, sensual, special, or otherwise remarkable or unique. Remind yourself about those first thing every day.

Ritualized self love may be a meditation (guided or not) in which you breathe deeply in a quiet space or outdoors, imagining yourself embracing and accepting what you have and what you want, pursuing your goals, and acquiring your desired outcome. Consider it a visualization pep talk.

Or, maybe its writing down your thoughts before getting ready for the day. Write down your fears, worries, regrets, irritations, and any other feelings typically perceived as ‘negative.’ It’s important to acknowledge these exist, and not just ignore them and pretend like they’re not there.

Then, write down all the positive attributes you feel like you have. All of them, no matter how small you think they are. They’re all important. Look at your list. Isn’t it awesome? Aren’t you awesome? Now you’ve taken away the power of your fears and worries, and you’ve established your self worth and empowered yourself to start the day with a mindset focused on bringing out those strengths.

You may also ritualize letting go of past hurts or experiences that hold you back. This could be in the form of journaling, reading tarot or oracle cards, creating art to tell your story, or meditating, as just a few suggestions.

Creating Your Own Magickal Morning Ritual for Self Love

I can’t and won’t tell you what ritual to create, as I’m not you, and I don’t know what will work with your life. Only you can decide how much or little of this you need, and in what form it will occur.

But, at this point, after reading through the above suggestions or ideas, did anything jump out at you as appealing?

If nothing was appealing, its possible that your self love ritual needs to include more specific things, besides just ‘movement,’ ‘nourishment,’ ‘spiritual work,’ and so on.

Think about how you feel at the end of a day. What are the things you think to yourself ‘I wish I had time for that‘ or ‘I wish I could change this about myself’?

That is the first thing to start with. Whatever you want to do more of, or want to approach differently, should be a ringing bell that perhaps it would benefit from some ritualized self love.

An example of this would be ‘I wish I had more time to read for enjoyment.’

So, then part of your morning ritual might involve waking up 10-15 min earlier and grabbing a book from your nightstand and reading for a bit before doing anything else. Start the day with that little bit of time that’s devoted to just you, and I promise your day will flow much smoother and you’ll begin to see your self worth show up in ways you had not expected.

Or, ‘I wish I could change my body.’ I don’t want to get into the realm of bodyshaming, but coming from a background in nutrition and fitness, having worked with hundreds of women of all ages, this is so ubiquitous these days and believe me, every single one of us can name off numerous things we want to change about our bodies if we could. No matter how body positive we are publicly, we’re still human inside.

This propensity to be unhappy with our bodies has to be acknowledged, instead of continuing to sweep it under the rug and pretend like we’re not all at least a little bit insecure about our bodies, no matter what they look like.

And saying that we should all want to keep them just as they are, no change needed also minimizes the very real emotions and feelings that come along with inhabiting bodies. It makes women feel bad about their bodies, and then makes them feel bad about feeling bad about their bodies, which further works against us.

And, I also refuse to jump on the ‘y0u should love your body no matter what’ train. Y0u should love your body, but if you don’t, that is not a sin, and there is nothing wrong with you. Sometimes loving your body does mean making it healthier, depending on what your definition of healthier is.

Ultimately, you are the one that has to live in your body. Change it or don’t change it based on what you like or want or feel, not anyone else’s opinion of what it should look like, nor whether you should care what it looks like.

Decide if/how you can make changes and what you are willing to give up to make that happen. Some changes are unrealistic and the urge to make the change is based on misogynistic ideals we’ve embraced for women’s bodies and lives, and some are simply impossible based on individual factors.

This type of statement, however, can be transformed into self love in one of two ways:

  1. Is this something you can actually change? And, if so, can the change be attained without risk for your personal health or safety? If the answer to both of those is yes, then consider creating a self love movement/exercise, skincare, diet, medical, or other bodywork ritual geared toward your goals. Always work with a healthcare provider when appropriate.
  2. If this is not something that can realistically be changed (wanting to be taller than you are, wanting a body shape you genetically or anatomically cannot attain, etc), then you might focus on removing the urge to want to change your body and hone in on the aspects of your body that you find spectacular. I worked with a client years ago that was ~ 5’2″ and was obsessed with the idea of having ‘long lean muscles’ like I did at the time. But, I’m 5’9″ and genetically that’s how people in my family are built. After discussing this in great depth before working together and during sessions, she came to the realization that she had the perfect build to develop gorgeous curvy muscles, which she ended up loving even more. Sometimes, we realize that what we originally wanted is not really what is best for us or isn’t going to yield what we think it will. The grass is almost never greener.

Beyond those things, perhaps your self love is changing your mindset or creating a path to growth through the arts, self exploration, or other pursuits that flex your spiritual and psychological muscles in various ways.

You might want to add to your ritual chants or mantras that help you internalize concepts you want to be better at.

For instance, lets say you feel like you are short-tempered with your partner and you want to approach discussions or situations with friction more calmly. You could create a sigil, a chant, or any other written or verbal element to symbolize yourself remaining calm and diffusing your temper when put in those situations.

You could also sit with your favorite houseplant or in your garden, touching nature and breathing deeply to fill yourself with gratitude and the beauty of what the earth has to offer us every day. Visualize drawing energy from those sources if you need it, or returning excess energy if you feel you have started the day a little too tightly wound.


All of these things are merely suggestions for you. Ultimately, decide what elements, if any, you want or need in a morning ritual.

Because this is a morning ritual, it should be based around the things that you feel will put you in the best mindset going into the rest of your day.

Whether that be being more assertive, drawing firmer boundaries, showing compassion, improving your health, helping those less fortunate, learning a new skill, or listening to others instead of doing all the talking, decide what you want this ritual to provide you with, and craft its elements accordingly.

As long as you are devoting that time, no matter how long or short, to yourself and practicing an act that you consider to have the intention of self love, it can help to grow and heal you spiritually and emotionally as you are consistent.

Personal empowerment is everything, and being who you want to be is at the root of this ritual self love practice.

shadow work: why you should do it

if you’re newish to whatever spiritual journey you’re on, particularly if you’re newish to witchy shit, you might have heard the term ‘shadow work,’ but you might not be that familiar with it.

witchery isn’t all crystals and moonlit baths, regardless of what instagram would have you believe on your curated timelines.

i personally think this is the most powerful personal protection you can build in this world.

if you’re doing it right, you’re bound to encounter dark things, and sometimes, depending on what’s going on in your life, or what you’ve been through, you may encounter more dark than light.

if you’re suppressing or ignoring your shadow self, when these dark things come up, they can be even darker (or scarier) for you.

here’s why.

your shadow self is part of who you are

the prolific psychiatrist, Carl Jung, referred to the shadow self as“…to become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”

it’s a conglomerate of all the so-called negative feelings, emotions, behaviors, traits, thoughts, and experiences that you have lived through or portrayed at one point in your life, but have been taught, either by other people telling you, or by the reactions of others, that these are ‘undesirable’ or better kept locked away somewhere dark inside.

you repress all of these things, but they never go away.

and when they occasionally emerge, like when someone cuts you off in traffic and you hope something horrible happens to them, or someone says something about you that you don’t like and the thought of cursing them and watching their house burn down flits across your consciousness for just a split second, this is your shadow self.

and then you feel ashamed, because you’ve been taught its bad to feel or think those things. and that shame then becomes part of how you feel about yourself. you begin to try harder to deny that part of yourself, and in so doing, you deny a part of you.

the point of shadow work is not to get rid of your shadow

on the contrary. the point is to acknowledge that it exists and that its completely human to want to get revenge, or to be angry when someone does something that hurts your feelings, and so forth. it is what you do with that emotion, how you respond to it, and how you let yourself know its okay to feel that, that changes how you and your shadow co-exist.

your shadow will always exist, but if you’re never acknowledging that inside of you there is darkness along with the light, you will find that in your magickal practice, you will only be a surface-level witch. and its okay if that’s what you’re comfortable with. its not a judgment.

but if your goal is to be a powerful witch who can control her destiny and manifest her will, seeing and acknowledging your shadow must be part of your self-improvement efforts, or it will hold you back. you will experience things like fear, anxiety, self doubt, and more, that all just stand in your way.

this goes beyond the concept of ‘white magic’ and ‘black magic.’ magic is neutral. but the intent of the one casting is not neutral.

many witches shy away from using any type of magick that may be deemed ‘dark,’ and that’s perfectly fine. you may have absolutely no need for it, or simply find other means to solve your problem (and that’s actually a great thing, rather than resorting to magick that may affect another person).

we’re taught that ‘dark’ magic is bad, but what’s actually happening is just further reinforcement of the ‘bad’ or ‘dark’ aspects of our humanity, which further encourages us to suppress them, shove them deep down, and pretend as if everything is okay, i’m okay, you’re okay, and all we need is to just take an herbal bath and pull a tarot card.

but we know truthfully that’s not solving these dark existential problems, is it?

what you can gain

i recently started doing a shadow work journal. i really highly recommend that one i just linked. i don’t get any kind of financial incentive for linking it, i just think its a good product.

in just the first handful of exercises, i can already see myself consciously making changes to how i think about myself and others. i’ve begun to think on the macro level vs the micro level.

instead of focusing on taking things personally or worrying if i am up to a particular task, i’m changing my perspective to think about how i can benefit from a mistake or criticism, or what positive lesson can be learned from an experience i would previously have thought was negative.

i can already see how this type of self-exploration changes peoples’ lives radically, to include healing from illnesses, elevating their careers, and saving their relationships, to name a few.

think about if you could remove all those self-limiting or self-sabotaging thoughts in your head, even for just a week, what could you do? let alone long-term…

if nothing stood in your way, where could you go in life?

what new path would you venture down if you were no longer afraid to?

how would your life improve if you began to conquer every goal you set out?

so, beyond just making you a better magickal practitioner, because you will be able to use all of your energy and will, unblocked and released from the boxes you have tucked them away into, you’ll be a phenomenally more stable person.

cautions

the one caution i have with shadow work is that this can be extremely uncomfortable, especially as you dive deeper and deeper into your psyche and dredge up emotions that have been bottled away for some time.

you may begin to relive experiences that were traumatic or hurtful, and you may pull up memories you had suppressed in the name of self preservation.

its not recommended to do shadow work if you suffer from low self esteem, and i can see why. you will actually just feel even more terrible about yourself if you did that.

you may need to couple this with copious amounts of meditation at times, as well. the darkness in all of us is natural, but can be difficult to accept if we have built our entire psyche around ‘only light,’ ‘only good,’ and ‘only positivity.’

i’ll just be blunt and say that each of the exercises i have done so far have brought tears forth, as i finally physically write down these things that i’ve held onto and not faced (some for almost my entire life).

but the feeling of therapeutic relief once i do so, the words plainly sitting there on the page staring at me, released and out there for the world to know, is priceless. its like an actual banishing of your barriers.

it has helped me begin to eliminate fears one at a time, and its liberating.

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