How Gratitude Can Improve Your Sleep
We’ve all experienced gratitude and can recognize it in ourselves. But what distinguishes gratitude from being thankful or having appreciation?
Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, defined it perfectly.
Emmons said that, in one part, gratitude is the acknowledgment of all good things in the world or one’s life. The other part is the recognition that something else is the source of this goodness, whether it’s other people or a higher power.
Though gratitude is a hot topic, did you know that it doesn’t only affect your well-being but your ability to sleep soundly as well?
Benefits of Expressing Gratitude
There are many physical and emotional benefits to expressing gratitude. Regular practice can help to:
Improve Mental Health
Something as simple as an end-of-day gratitude meditation can contribute to improvements in mental health. A study from 2003 showed how gratitude helped to improve mood and general well-being.
Another study in 2022 showed how practicing gratitude helped to minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When done regularly, gratitude meditation and other forms of expressing gratitude can contribute to a healthy mind.
Boost the Immune System
Because gratitude helps to boost overall well-being, this in turn, can help to boost the immune system and help the body fight off illness. A 2017 study even showed that gratitude intervention may help to reduce inflammation associated with heart failure.
Practicing gratitude can aid in strengthening current relationships and help you to form new, healthy ones.
Regarding romantic relationships, gratitude is a way to help you feel more satisfied with yourself and with your partner. A 2020 study showed how daily gratitude boosted romantic relationships and improved happiness the next day.
Having an optimistic outlook on life will help to enhance different areas of your life, including the way you age. If optimism doesn’t come easy to you, practice gratitude to get a more positive outlook and increase optimism, like in this 2018 study.
Does Gratitude Help with Sleep?
Gratitude does more than uplift someone’s spirit; it produces a serenity that carries into bedtime. Scientists that have studied the effects of gratitude on sleep have found some illuminating results.
One study that included over 400 adults, forty percent with sleep disorders, found that the quality of sleep was greatly improved by gratitude. Thoughts of thankfulness for positive things before sleep resulted in falling asleep more quickly and for a longer period of time.
The most comprehensive research conducted on gratitude, headed by Emmons, examined the healing effects of having gratitude across three studies.
One study on subjects with neuromuscular diseases showed only one area of remarkable difference compared to the control group — sleep. The subjects practicing gratitude got a half hour more slumber than the group that didn’t.
Finally, another study observed a group of women keeping a gratitude diary. It might not come as much of a surprise that the group doing gratitude exercises had elevated optimism, improved well-being, decreased blood pressure, and better sleep quality.
How to Practice Gratitude for Better Sleep
With several methods for practicing gratitude, it’s helpful to experiment with different exercises before sleep and observe what works best for you.
The following techniques can be done quickly, right before you fall asleep.
Daily Gratitude Check-In
As you lie in bed with your eyes closed, ask yourself, “What am I grateful for today?” Slowly allow the answers to come to you. Repeat the question as many times as you want.
As you ponder each answer, let the feelings of gratitude fill your body. If you prefer having guidance, this exercise is available on the BetterSleep app.
While lying in bed with your eyes closed, breathe in gratitude and anything you’re grateful for. As you breathe out, release any unwanted feelings.
Repeat. Inhale the good feelings of gratitude and exhale tension and negativity. Repeat until you drift off to sleep.
Fill Up with Gratitude
As you lie in bed, focus entirely on one thing you’re currently grateful for in your life. Think of as many details about this subject as you can. Continue to focus on it and notice the feelings of gratitude fill your body and mind.
Observe what gratitude feels like in your body. Continue to focus on your source of gratitude and feelings of well-being as you fall asleep.
Keep a notebook by your bed to be your gratitude journal. For the last 10 to 15 minutes before you sleep, write down everything you’re grateful for.
It’s essential that this is the last thing you do before you lay down so the joyous feelings of gratitude remain with you as you drift off to sleep.
If you’re a visual learner, gratitude mapping is perfect for you. It incorporates a visual mood board with notes and images of all the things you’re grateful for.
Once created, this gratitude board should be placed somewhere in the home that you see every day. Each time you walk past, you’re reminded of something to be grateful for.
Gratitude jars are a great idea that’ll give you a pick-me-up anytime you’re feeling down. Whenever you feel thankful or grateful for something, write it on a piece of paper and put it into the jar.
Before you go to bed, shake the jar, pick out a piece of paper and read it out loud. This serves as a reminder of the good things and experiences you’ve had in your life.
Practicing gratitude meditation before bed can help you sleep faster and more deeply. Lie or sit in a comfortable position and start to focus on your breathing.
Start to remember the things you’re grateful for, or even reflect on how far you’ve come. If past bad situations come into your mind - let them. This can help put into context how grateful you are to be where you are today.
If you can’t think of any big things to be grateful for, think about the little things we often don’t appreciate, like the ability to see, hear, taste, and walk. Start small with 5 minutes of meditation and build up to 10 or 20 minutes if it feels comfortable.
What Is World Gratitude Day?
World Gratitude Day is celebrated each year on September 21st. It’s a day that encourages everybody across the world to remember what they’re thankful for.
Individuals, nations, and organizations join World Gratitude Day and share their gratitude for each other in various ways. Showing gratitude for someone else is good for them, but it can have a host of physical and mental benefits for the giver.
World Gratitude Day started in Hawaii in 1965. An international gathering decided that one day a year to express gratitude would be hugely beneficial to people across the world.
The first official World Gratitude Day came the following year - September 21, 1966. Since then, the World Gratitude Day concept grew to be celebrated by millions across different continents.
How to Celebrate World Gratitude Day
There are many different ways you can celebrate World Gratitude Day. Practice gratitude by being thankful for what you have in life, no matter how small.
Take a minute to appreciate nature, be thankful for your health, and appreciate your children and the relationships you have in your life.
Another way to celebrate is by eating together on World Gratitude Day just like you do for Thanksgiving dinner. Having a meal together and showing appreciation for family and friends is important.
As you integrate one or more of these gratitude exercises into your nightly routine, notice how much better you’re sleeping— yet another thing to be grateful for.
Find gratitude exercises, guided meditations, and curated sleep music on the BetterSleep app.
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