Sometimes it takes a long time to get my son to sleep. I walk him around the room, rocking him in my arms, humming or shushing until his eyelids droop. This can get kind of boring after awhile, so I play little games with myself. I name all the Presidents of the United States in order, or all fifty states (it's harder than you think). I think of all the authors or composers I know whose names begin with a particular letter, or I make up stories about the rest of a character's life after a novel ends.
My favorite game was suggested to me by my sister a few weeks ago. She told me the story of a man who would write down 25 things that happened each day that he was grateful for/happy about. Then he would put the list under his pillow and fall asleep thinking of those things. This is a wonderful exercise! I don't write them down, but just naming the 25 things in my head as I walk back and forth seems to make my spirits lift, my heart rate slow down, and my son feel lighter in my arms. Even when I've had a bad day, I can still find 25 things to be grateful or happy about. They don't have to be big things. Items on my lists recently have included green on the trees, listening to bird calls, my son's funny expressions, and my husband giving me a back rub. It only takes a few minutes, but it seems to help me process every day in a positive way.
I also have to use games like this to help ME get to sleep sometimes. If it was easy to get Edwin down, I might play the 25 Things game as I'm attempting to drift off. I also like to think about my dream house. I have two: a big sprawling ranch in Colorado, and a small cottage on the coast of Maine. I imagine what each room would look like and what kind of lifestyle I'd have there. (Colorado: hiking, riding horses, a gourmet kitchen, lots of fireplaces, and an outdoor hot tub; Maine: biking to town for groceries, spending the day writing on a screened porch smelling the salty air, a big lovable dog at my feet, and my husband cooking dinner every night on a butcher block island.) If I really can't sleep, I pull out the big dream: what I'd wear to the premiere of the incredibly successful movie adapted from my novel. (That's what dreams are for, right?)
What do you think about during the parts of your day when your mind can wander? What do you dream about before you go to sleep?