Typically, I have 2-3 hours to kill in the evenings. This is after I finish eating dinner. Right after, I watch a little bit of TV and I might play Candy Crush or check social media. And then after, I brush my teeth, take a shower, and change into my pajamas. I try to record something I accomplished or experienced as positive that day. Then, I go straight to my evening activities, which involve less gaming than before and much more coloring.

These days, I think a lot about coloring sheets. I’m not even that great at coloring, but I enjoy it so much. It’s a relaxing activity to help me wind down during the evenings.

The reason I took up coloring is because I wanted to have an activity to help me relax specifically in the evenings. I experience hearing voices, and it used to be pretty active in the evenings. But when I started reading in the evenings, it quieted down. And then one day, I had the idea to color. When I started that, I noticed that the experience was even better. It’s only been a few nights of coloring, but so far, it’s going well. I find coloring to be a good coping skill.

Coloring hasn’t always been the ideal coping skill. Previously, I couldn’t always focus on coloring. My mind was so active. I was focused on other ideas or activities that required more energy. I could only color for 15 minutes or less before I was distracted.

But these days, I’ve been coloring for up to an hour or longer. I don’t really create much nowadays besides blogging. Maybe that’s why? Or, maybe I just needed to do it for a specific purpose or time of day. Not sure exactly what the difference has been between then and now.

The same happened to me with reading. I don’t know if it’s because reading on a tablet is easier. But, now I can read more on a tablet than I can with a hard copy.

Though, I guess I’ve been able to be more selective of what I’m coloring, and I enjoy the medium I’m using. I use dual tip markers, one side with a brush nib and the other side with a fine point. The colors appear vibrant. I can print out whatever sheets look enjoyable to me.

I’m trying to find more engaging material for me to read in the evenings. I started with one book, but have been feeling bored with the text lately. Just to make sure I read at least 20 pages a day, I’ve been reading earlier in the day. It wouldn’t be a problem if I was more engaged. Maybe 20 pages is pushing it. I thought about reducing the number of pages, but I like the idea of sticking to my original goal. So for now, I’ll split reading in the morning and evening just to complete the 30-day challenge. Then after that, I can adjust.

The long-term idea is that I would spend at least half an hour of my evening reading. I don’t really do much else in the evening at the moment. And, I feel like I’m doing something growth-oriented. Reading stimulates my mind.

If my sleep were better, I’d probably just stick to coloring and maybe finding another hobby. Then, I could sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 5 or 6 AM. If I were to wake up that early, I’d spend half an hour to an hour reading. But because my sleep is a bit of a mess right now, I don’t do any of that. I try to stay up later to compensate for typically waking up so late.

That’s another problem I have to troubleshoot. For now, I’m glad I figured out 80% of my evening activities. The other 20% I want to solve is finding alternative activities to turn to as well. I’m not entirely opposed to gaming, but sometimes I feel like I’m not really being social or learning anything. I guess I could argue that coloring isn’t really teaching me anything either. It’s just a fun side hobby. So, maybe I won’t rule out gaming entirely. Gaming has its own benefits.

I think I have to eliminate this mindset of whether I’m using my time in the most efficient manner. Honestly, I don’t even spend my time efficiently during the day. And, life is more than just being productive all the time. Besides, even the most successful aren’t productive 24/7. They rely on self-care, such as going for walks, or reading rather than working straight away, or even just enjoying a nice dinner with friends.

Plus, we never know where certain activities will lead. Some people make entire careers out of gaming, sports, reviewing books, teaching people coloring tricks, networking, and more. So, why am I trying to limit myself? If it’s an activity I enjoy and it’s not harmful to others, it should count for something, right?

I think my next goal after my reading challenge will be to find ways to fix my sleep. I was trying a few different ideas, such as sleeping later. I’m getting mixed results so far. I think part of it is that I worry I might wake up too early, and then what do I do? I have to sort out that gray area.

I’m glad that my evenings are a lot calmer than before. I’m also glad that the activities I’ve chosen feel good to me. I’m not just doing things for the sake of doing things. I’m choosing activities that align with my interests. I hope this positive trend continues.

Last night, I stayed up later than previous nights. I started with watching YouTube videos around 8 PM in the living room. Ideally, I would have stayed in the living room, but I was feeling uncomfortable sitting there. So, I ended up reading in the bedroom. After reading for 2 chapters for 55 minutes, I got curious about other topics and was Googling for a while. Around 11:15 PM, I turned off the lights. But then, I was still curious about what I was Googling, so I only put away my tablet by 12 AM. I think I ended up sleeping before 1 AM. It still took some time to fall asleep because I wasn’t really sleepy, but this night was better because even when I woke up throughout the night, I would focus on falling back asleep. And eventually, I got out of bed by 9:50 AM. Quite an improvement! That’s the earliest I’ve gotten up in weeks.

This time, I got lucky because I found something to keep my mind occupied beyond 10 PM. But if I didn’t, I would have just stayed awake in bed for additional hours. And maybe, I would have woken up later. Who knows.

I’m not sure if it’s necessary to not be in bed while reading. I don’t know how that’s affecting the time it takes me to fall asleep. Some people say the bed should only be for sleeping. But, I’ve also heard of others sitting up in bed to read. Or in some cases, like when someone lives in a studio apartment, the bed might be the place to sit for almost every home activity, like eating or watching videos. Yet, they can sleep fine at night.

My resolution for now is to spend more time on evening activities that will keep me up until at least 11 PM. I thought about getting an adult coloring book. Or, I could just print out coloring pages and buy some colored pencils or markers to fill them in. That might be a relaxing activity. I could start with 15 minutes, or commit to coloring half a page.

In the past, I’ve thought of writing books. When I was younger, I wanted to write fiction. As I grew older, I’ve come around to non-fiction. I don’t typically have any creative ideas for novels. I thought I could journal ideas, but usually, I have writer’s block. Or well, I have no idea what to write. I guess I could research what other people do to draft books. It would not only push me to be more creative, but maybe even be profitable depending on what I write.

I’ve also thought about trying to find some sort of activity book. It reminds me of when I was a kid and was subscribed to the Highlights magazine for kids. They had different kinds of puzzles or activities such as finding differences between two pictures or word searches.

I could also just go through a workbook of a particular subject. I’ve been so bored that I’ve thought about learning or re-learning different subjects, such as math, a foreign language, or English vocabulary. I’ve thought about preparing for various exams just to see how well I would do, like TOPIK or the GRE. But, the material would have to be engaging. I’ve tried dabbling into a Udemy course on Spanish. My progress has been quite slow. It’s just not that interesting to me the way they present the material in the particular course I’m enrolled in.

I think I’m going to order some colored markers today and print out a few adult coloring pages. Then, I’ll have them ready for next time. So far, this is the routine I’ll be experimenting with:

– Watch fun videos on YouTube, or Running Man for at least 30 minutes
– Color in at least half a page
– Read at least 20 pages of a book
– Journal one accomplishment or positive thing that happened that day
– Listen to a sleep meditation if not sleepy

All the activities I listed can also be viewed as coping skills. I hope eventually, I can build up interest in enough activities that I have plenty to choose from rather than create a planned-out routine. Though, I will likely keep part of the routine, such as reading and one-minute journaling. I’ve lost interest over many activities previously, so I’m new ones and old ones to see if my feelings have changed, or if I can change my feelings through repetition. I wasn’t a big book reader before (reading at most one book a year), but I’m trying to change my habits so that I can become one. I’ve found reading on a tablet to be enjoyable.

I hope I can learn to enjoy exercise again. At one point, I was going to the gym regularly (pre-COVID-19). I even remember trying dance classes at some point. But, the tiredness got to me. It probably won’t be an evening activity. I’d rather exercise in the morning or afternoon. It’s possible that once I incorporate more physical activity into my day, my sleep could improve.

I’ve talked about the importance of tracking progress through charts, spreadsheets, or even simple journaling. I haven’t really done anything for tracking my sleep recently besides blogging about it. There’s so many factors that affect sleeping that I’m not sure what to record specifically in a way that won’t overwhelm myself. I did look into sleep logs that various organizations have share online. I might try that, even if it’s short-term. It’d be nice to look back and discover certain patterns with my sleep.

I hope that my sleep pattern continues in a positive trend. My current ideal would be to sleep by 11 PM and wake up by 8 AM. That’s still 9 hours of sleeping or being in bed, though eventually with doing more, I could adjust the times. I’m still hesitant to wake up before 8 AM because sometimes I become anxious about what I should do with all the extra time. It’s a weird concern, but I definitely get that way from hearing voices. I like to minimize hearing voices as much as possible throughout the day, and sleep is one of my coping skills in a way. It’s one of the times when I don’t have to deal with it as much.

I’m not crazy about getting a 9-5 job, but I’ve recently became curious about crisis helpline opportunities. There’s one I recently requested more info about. Ideally, it would work with my schedule. Whether it’s paid or volunteer, I could work between 11AM to 6PM. And, it would have to be part-time. I don’t know if I could concentrate on a regular daily job. I only like committing to consistent projects if I know that I can do it. I definitely won’t entertain the idea of working night hours, because I know how important it is for me to have a routine schedule to minimize hearing voices.

Different things work for different people. This is just what I’ve been trying. So anyway, I’ll try implementing my improvised evening routine. I’ll also try searching for a good sleep log and test it out for a week or so.

Last night, I attempted to rearrange my evening activities so that I could stay up a little later and hopefully fall asleep within 15 minutes or less. Compared to the night before, it was definitely an improvement, but I still have ways to go. I ended up trying to sleep around 10:20 PM. I don’t think I ended up actually falling asleep until an hour later, so that part still needs work. I woke up several times throughout the night, first noticeable around 2 AM, then 5 AM, then 7 AM, then a few times more before I decided to get up at 10 AM. This is progress because I got up an hour earlier than usual, and settled for bed more than an hour later than usual. I went from 14 hours to less than 12 hours in bed trying to focus on sleep.

I initially planned on sleeping around 10:45 PM or later. However, I was trying to adjust to a new schedule. I thought I would feel relaxed watching Running Man. However, I wasn’t too crazy about the particular format of this episode. So instead of watching the whole episode, I finished just the first hour. If I had stuck to the whole episode, I would have slept 20-25 minutes later.

After Running Man, I tried reading. I first attempted reading in the living room. Then, I shifted over to the bedroom. It was a little harder to concentrate compared to previous days. I think it had to do with hearing voices. I kept getting these thoughts of “this is taking long” and “when will I finish”. On previous nights, I didn’t have this problem. I was curious about what I was reading and challenged myself to read more than 20 pages. I feel like the voice was influencing me to feel anxious about finishing. I didn’t have any particular reason to feel rushed or anything. I just wanted to relax. And I was also getting to the good parts of the book, so these intrusive thoughts felt contradictory to what I actually felt/perceived. I guess this is what I can expect though with hearing voices. It might fight you, but you have to press on with what you want to do.

After I finished reading only 24 pages (compared to the 30+ pages I’ve read the previous nights), I tried putting on my headset and listening to a sleep meditation. That was relaxing. Though, I did have to take off my headset and turn off the tablet after I was finished. I feel like ideally, I would just fall straight asleep. I thought about how nice it would be to have headphones you could sleep in, and you could call them sleepphones. (Turns out, they already exist! 😂) Even though I felt a little bit of tiredness, I still didn’t fall asleep for another hour or so.

Next time, I’m thinking about reading first, then watching Running Man, then reading again. So, maybe I could read one chapter. Then, take a break. Then, continue reading another chapter. I’d try to read close to 15 pages on the first go, so just in case I feel too distracted, I would only have 5 pages left the second time.

I could experiment with white noise after my sleep meditation. I haven’t used white noise since probably May. After that, I started using my window air conditioner, and that became my white noise. And then even when I didn’t use my air conditioner, I kind of forgot about using white noise and seemed to be doing okay without it. But, white noise can be relaxing. It can help you to focus on something soothing rather than being distracted by your wandering mind.

I struggle with setting a later bedtime in the evening with a lack of activities, which is why I’m trying my best to plan activities that feel relaxing or calming. It wasn’t always like that. I could just sit and do nothing before and stay up until I was tired enough to go to sleep. But with hearing voices, sometimes I get this uncomfortable feeling and the voice gets me to hyperfocus on it, that I just want to do anything to get rid of the feeling, which is usually to lie down right away and focus on keeping my eyes closed. It might help me to relax a little more, but it doesn’t help me to go to sleep right away.

Before, I used to go for walks sometimes in the evenings, for half an hour or longer. And, I used to play games on my phone. I shifted my walks to afternoons now that the weather is colder. I like to walk when it’s still sunny out. Also, I don’t play games as much because it’s not something I want to do in the long-term. If I were playing games with other people or maybe live streaming, it’d be different. But, I don’t really socialize while playing games on my phone. I’d rather watch Running Man, because at least then, I’m passively learning another language. I used to also watch some TV (the news and game shows). I still do, but not as much. I guess I want to be more intentional about what I’m consuming, which is partially why I decided to read books every day.

I was reading about this method for improving the amount of time you are asleep in bed. The target goal is to be asleep for 90% of the time. I would say right now, I’m only asleep for at the most 50% of the time. I was in bed for 11 1/2 hours last night. So, I was asleep for a total of 5 3/4 hours. If I were to be asleep for 90% of the time based on how much sleep I’m actually getting, I’d have to be in bed for close to 6 1/2 hours before the time I want to get up.

Wow, that observation is actually very eye-opening for me. Basically if I want to wake up at 9 AM, I’d have to be in bed by 2:30 AM (and not earlier than that). Well, that’s going to prove very difficult for me to adjust to with my difficulties of hearing voices. So, I’m just going to have to focus on increasing the amount of time I spend on my evening activities and try to get to the point where I’m going to sleep when I’m sleepy and fall asleep right away.

I’ve also heard that you should only go to bed when you’re ready to sleep. I sometimes read in bed, but mostly just out of convenience so I can put my tablet on the nightstand without having to get up. But, I’m going to try to limit my screen time to the living room. The only exception will be when I’m listening to a sleep meditation. I’ll do that in bed. But, I won’t be looking at a screen then. And, the meditation would be to aid my sleep.

I also was thinking about switching the device/location for watching Running Man and reading. Instead of using a tablet downstairs in the living room, maybe I could just use my desktop computer in the office room. I just installed f.lux just in case. It’s a free software for Mac OS that adjusts your screen’s level of blue light based on the time of day (daytime, sunset, and bedtime).

Since I’m still trying to get into the rhythm of my new evening activities, it’s still too early to tell how much of an effect they’re having on my sleep. And ideally, I would read after watching Running Man because from what I’ve read, watching a show is more stimulating than reading a book. But, I want to be able to stick to my 30-day reading goal. I don’t want to shorten the amount of pages. I don’t want to allow the voice influence me in a way that I wouldn’t act otherwise (skipping reading for the sake of just feeling comfortable). So, I have to find a way to stick to my new habit. The long-term goal is to be a daily book reader.

To be honest, the only reason I’m watching Running Man is to fill the time. And, I find Running Man to be a more thoughtful use of my time than just playing games. I did think about maybe trying a language learning app such as Memrise. Though, I don’t know how much time I could spend on it without wanting to take a break. Usually, I can sit through a whole episode of Running Man. Well, at least in the day. I’m still experimenting with the evening time.

I’ll try adjusting my evening activities with the tweaks I’ve suggested in this post. I’ll continue researching ways it in which other people fall asleep quickly. I’ll look into other people’s evening routines as well.

Prior to my 30-day challenge of reading 20 pages of books per day, I wasn’t really focused on my sleep. But 3 days into the challenge, I couldn’t help but notice how my quality and quantity of sleep have truly suffered. It’s not because I’m reading, but because of how I’ve been doing things differently lately. I’ve been sleeping a little earlier than usual, somewhat affected by mother sleeping earlier, and so I thought, “Hey, I might as well too.” And another being that I have been spending a lot less time playing games on my phone in the evenings and thus just having a lot more spare time in general.

What I noticed is that even if I feel a little tired from after reading, I still don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes. I usually take another hour or so before I fall asleep. It’s probably just too early to fall asleep in most cases. So, I have to think of either more activities or increase the time I’m spending on current activities.

If I were falling asleep right away at 9 PM, it wouldn’t be a big deal to wake up at say 3:30 AM. Sure, it is extremely early in the morning, but maybe 6 1/2 hours is adequate enough sleep for me. I could start off the day lightly, maybe meditating in the living room. It’s somewhat inconvenient because of how my house is set up and where everyone sleeps. I’d have to set up things differently depending on what activities I would like to do. For example, if I want to do light exercise in the morning, I’d either have to suck it up and just exercise in my pajamas, or find another place to access my workout clothes while others are sleeping. But basically, I don’t even think about getting up at 3 AM because it takes me more than an hour to fall asleep, I wake up at least once before 3 AM before falling asleep again, and so I just don’t think it’s enough of a quantity to stay asleep to justify getting up.

However, some articles I’ve read suggest getting up temporarily. You could read for half an hour or so for example with dim lights and then try to fall back asleep after that, when you might be feeling a little more tired. I am considering this suggestion. My default activities will either be to read one or two chapters of the current book I’m reading, or to listen specifically to a sleep meditation of 15-30 minutes. I could set my headset near my phone the evening before just in case I find myself in this situation. Usually, my headset is upstairs near my computer, where I mostly use it during the day.

People have suggested to me sleeping later in the night. It makes sense. If you’re not sleepy, why force yourself to lay awake in bed? I just have to find activities to do that will keep me up beyond a certain time.

My current schedule goes something like this. I cook/prepare dinner at 6 PM and usually eat before 7 PM. I spend half an hour watching TV or playing games / engaging in social media on my phone. Then, I brush my teeth and take a shower. I journal. Then, I read. Usually by the time I finish, it’s somewhere between 9 PM – 9:30 PM. I’m not particularly tired by the time. I just resort to going to bed out of convenience.

So instead, maybe I could try this. I’ve thought about watching Running Man in the evenings. I just didn’t want it to keep my mind active late at night. So instead of reading right away, I could watch Running Man first. And then after, I could read. And lastly, I could listen to a sleep meditation. The typical Running Man episode lasts at most 1 1/2 hours. I’ve been reading around an hour each evening so far. And, I’d probably listen to a sleep meditation that is 15-30 minutes long. So, that’d keep me set up until 10:45 PM – 11 PM. To be honest, I might have to stay up even later than that. But, that’s definitely a start.

These days, I manage to get out of bed by 11 AM. That’s quite late. It didn’t really bother me before because I had no real need to wake up early. It’s not like I have a 9-5 job that I have to get to. And, I don’t really do anything quite profound in the mornings. But when you go to bed at 9 PM and you only manage to get yourself out of bed 14 hours later, you start to question things…

One thing I’m glad about is that I no longer nap in the day. I also don’t consume caffeine on a daily basis. Actually, I haven’t had caffeine since the beginning of the pandemic pretty much. I would try coffee or tea once in a while when going out with friends, but I haven’t done that in a long time. So, I know midday naps and caffeine are not contributing to my problems with sleep at night.

I think the main reason I want to improve my sleep is to wake up feeling refreshed. And, I want to improve my energy levels throughout the day. I want to naturally feel sleepy before bedtime and not have to toss and turn for hours. It’d be nice to wake up early (at a reasonable time, without an alarm clock) and maybe even get creative with morning routines. Maybe I’d feel more purposeful.

The only downside to sleeping less hours and being awake more hours is that you have to figure out what you want to do with all that time. I have to be a little more creative these days with the pandemic going on. I’ve been avoiding the gym. I don’t go to friends’ houses to hang out. I’ve stopped going downtown visiting different places. So, I’m mostly trying to find indoor activities. A lot of time is spent in front of screens (computer, tablet, phone, TV).

Sometimes, I think of an activity, but don’t follow through. There could be many reasons for it. I think that’s partially why I decided to give 30-day trials a try again. I want to give myself time to try old or new activities for an extended amount of days and outweigh the pros and cons. I want to engage myself in interesting activities, not just mindless ones just to pass the time.

I guess I just have to be careful of what will happen if I don’t have any activities prepared for when I awake or before I go to sleep. Right now, I have a morning routine I follow. It’s not anything profound. It’s just the way I start my day. I usually spend a lot of time in front of the computer during the day if I don’t have anything else planned. I go for walks in the afternoon now that the weather has cooled down. I like to go when it’s still sunny out. I try to avoid getting back on the computer in the evenings, just to keep things varied I guess.

I usually eat dinner before 7 PM, but I was thinking about pushing it back to 6 PM. I don’t know if that will help with my sleep. It might. The only downside to this is that I’d have to start an evening routine of some sort earlier in the evening. Would I have enough activities to keep me up beyond 10 PM? Though, would I need to? Maybe I’d wake up at 5 AM every day and that would be enough sleep for me.

I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. I am glad that I decided to pick up the habit of reading books before bed. It’s better than aimlessly playing Candy Crush. It’d be one thing if I were playing games with another person, or as a livestream. But, I just do it to pass time. Sure, it could improve your mind. But, reading could improve your mind too. Watching a show in another language can improve your mind too. And, I feel like the last two activities are more useful.

Anyway, I’m glad I decided to write this post out. I don’t know if my experiment will work out, but I’ll keep you posted in future blog posts. I hope I can continue reading in the evenings and that it affects my sleep in a positive manner. I thought about trying to read for more than an hour, but even that is more than I expected at first. I usually end up reading a couple chapters, which takes me close to an hour. And by then, I usually feel content with just reading that much. But hey, maybe I could develop into a super-reader like Warren Buffett, who I’ve heard reads up to 500 pages a day. Though, that’s how he starts his days. I just want to find a relaxing way to end my days.

So for now, I’m going to eat dinner at the same time. I’ll just try watching Running Man before reading and see how that goes. I’ll be trying the sleep meditations too most likely. So, it’ll be a combined effect I guess. We’ll see!