Gratitude lists are certainly not my original idea. I have used them to good effect, though.
In fact, I don’t use them enough. But when I have, not only have they made me more appreciative and serene, but they have even helped me fall asleep when I had been laying awake in the middle of the night. I tried it because it was the only thing I could think of to do.
The basic idea of a gratitude list is writing down or thinking of as many things as you can that you are grateful for. Sometimes this isn’t so hard, and at other times you have to dig deep. But, I’ve also found that once you get rolling, the easier it gets.
If you’ve ever tried doing this, especially at times when you think your life is falling apart, cultivating gratitude almost instantly makes you feel better.
Even if the first few items on your list are: 1. I’m alive 2. The sun is shining and 3. I made it through all those green lights on the way home from work, it’s something. And you can always go from there.
I’m generally a really good sleeper, so nights where I can’t get to sleep at all or I pop awake in the middle of the night and start ruminating are unusual (which I am grateful for, by the way).
But one night, I popped awake and couldn’t stop thinking about a stressful relationship issue. An hour passed by and I still wasn’t back to sleep yet. I was getting more and more physically uncomfortable (too hot, too cold, can’t find the right position to sleep in, etc.) and my mind was running at full speed.
I was getting up to go to work the next morning, and I hate having to wake up early and go into the office when I haven’t slept well, so I was getting worried that I might not be able to get back to sleep.
I tried taking off all my blankets and laying in the cold for a while, which is a trick I will use when I can’t sleep (because then I can put all my blankets back on and get toasty warm again. This will often put me right out.) and it wasn’t working.
Finally, I started to make a mental gratitude list because I figured that if my mind was active anyway, I might as well put it to good use.
I’m sure I started off with things like the fact that I was in a comfortable bed, that I was warm, that I have a secure house, and I went from there.
The list went on and I kept thinking of more and more things. I felt calm where I had been anxious, and comfortable where I had been restless, and soon I didn’t need to continue with my gratitude list.
Because I had fallen asleep. 🙂