Is Bedtime A Good Time For Self-Improvement?

The Bedtime Stories We Tell Ourselves and Others: Part 4 of 4

Lots of people are hungry, hungry to get better.

Some are more than hungry; they’re starving.

In the United States, the personal development/ self-improvement industry was worth almost $10 billion in 2019.

That number represents serious spending.

It’s a competitive world out there. In order to prosper, people want to build their skills and be better physically.

They conceive of human society as a pecking order where people are ranked on some objective criteria. They think it’s better to be near the top than it is to be toward the bottom. In many cases, it’s hard to argue that it’s not.

Sometimes this idea of a ranking goes by other names like caste or hierarchy.

Improving and learning anything takes time, sometimes a lot. A number that’s been thrown around is 10,000 hours, though some question it. 

Combine time spent in a quest for self-improvement with a job, activities of daily living, minimal recreation, and rest. You’re facing a time crunch. That can make you feel pressured like you can’t win.

Realize that rest and recovery give you the ability to prosper within these constructs, these ranges. Considerations about rest and recovery deserve a seat at the table.

When you’re focused on learning and self-improvement, you want every minute of your life to count in some way. You’re awake for around a certain number of hours a day; less when you’re sick. It doesn’t necessarily follow the more time you spend doing something, the better you’ll get at it. Efficiency matters and defies the strict amount of time you spend doing something.

Recovery helps you make that time count and bolsters your immune system preserving you from illness. You’re in better physical and mental shape when you tackle something fully rested.

A different way to think about a bedtime story

Our culture is achievement-based. You can do a search on the internet and find all kinds of things that apparently contradict this idea, a least in its headline. The best exercises to do before bed to burn belly fat!

Yet, they’re not incorrect, a least as far as sleep. It’s splitting hairs. They’re not talking about the hour before bed. They’re talking up to a few hours before bed.

Calling that bedtime is like saying to someone I’ll pick you up at seven, and the appointment is actually for 10. They’re going to keep you waiting for three hours. That’s not productive.

If that’s the kind of respect you show your and other’s time, you really have a problem. You need to find some kind of happy medium.

Articles like this are put forth by publishers that are a little mixed up, dare I say unethical?

There is, of course, no way to spot reduce a certain part of your body. Referring to it as such is misleading.

This publication blatantly contradicts itself. They know what’s right; they’re just trying to optimize their content in search engines. People really want spot reduction to be a thing. The site is giving them what they want. Just like people want a dream dictionary to be a thing.

I digress, back to thinking about bedtime.

A bedtime story is what you tell yourself or someone else at bedtime. The bedtime story is the few minutes before you turn off the light. It’s the frame of mind with which you enter sleep.

During the daylight hours, it’s obvious to many people you wouldn’t want to do things that upset you.

It’s not necessarily obvious at night when you’re living your life and one activity follows another. You must consciously adopt practices that encourage you to have affirming thoughts at bedtime.

The best bedtime stories are all affirming in some way. Most self-improvement activities aren’t. That’s inherent in their definition. If you’re not looking at how you’re deficient in what you’ve done, you’re not improving.

You might be trying to learn another language, get in your daily exercise, or trying to learn something right at bedtime. Stop! The problem is, self-improvement involves correcting, analyzing, and perfecting. There’s nothing affirming about it, not if you’re truly trying to improve.

Of course, you want to get better at whatever it is that concerns you about your deficiencies. You’ve got the rest of the day to do that. You can use all of that for the “extra mile.”

You should.

And, of course, you can do all kinds of things for your bedtime story that relate to your interests. For best results, when it comes to sleeping, keep them affirming.

Some good bedtime stories

You can review information related to your interests and congratulate yourself that you know it. That’s super affirming. It should feel like you’re making progress. It’s the mildest form of self-improvement because the most it’s doing is bringing something you already know to the forefront of your mind.

You can read a novel for pleasure, even a suspenseful adventure novel. It will follow a formula, a sympathetic main character, a dramatic argument, a plot. That it does this, is, itself affirming for many people. For these people, they can read something that’s as violent, gory, and nihilistic as it comes and it’s appropriate for before bed. That’s because what they’re reading is somewhat predictable and that makes it affirming.

You can do some devotional reading. It’s very good to read the Bible or another inspirational book. Probably there’s nothing more affirming and uplifting than contemplating how God loves us.

Another good practice is to mentally go over your day with an After Action Review.

Movies, smartphone games, and other activities involving a screen (unless it uses a filter) aren’t optimal. They require too much engagement. Dying in the game, failing at the puzzle, racking your brain for a certain word to fit in a space isn’t affirming.

What are some of your favorite activities before bed that are affirming in some way? What are your favorite bedtime stories, either following the strict definition of a story or the expanded one?

Other posts in the series: 

What Makes a Bedtime Story? 

No Matter Your Age, The Best Bedtime Stories Are Affirming 

Should You Bore Yourself To Sleep? 


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