We’re always looking for techniques to help you get better sleep, but this technique does so much more. Not only will it help you sleep better, it will also reduce stress, expand your self-awareness, and teach you how to view events in your life from a more productive perspective.
The method is simple but the effect it can have on your outlook on life is quite profound.
Best of all, this technique is simple to practice, takes very little time, and can be done at night while lying in bed before you fall asleep.
There are two parts to the technique. The first part is easy. The second part is where you’ll take things to a whole new level.
As you lie in bed at night before drifting off to sleep, think of something you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Even the little things count. Being thankful for the comfortable bed you’re about to fall asleep in is a good place to start.
Once you’ve come up with one thing you’re thankful for, use that as a foundation and branch out to other things you’re thankful for.
If you’re thankful for the bed you’re lying in, you can extend that feeling into gratitude for your home, or gratitude for the electricity that keeps so many things in your home running, or gratitude that you live in a safe neighborhood, or gratitude for your spouse lying next to you in bed. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
Keep branching out that gratitude to touch upon other things in your life. Your job, your family, your health, your freedom — all of these areas provide a wealth of things to be thankful for.
Spend a few minutes thinking about all these things and letting that feeling of gratitude wash over you. Let it really soak in.
When you first use this method, you’ll probably try it not for the gratitude itself but for the other benefits — the improved sleep, reduced stress, and more meaningful self-awareness — but after a few days you’ll realize you’re practicing it for the sake of the gratitude itself, not just for the extra perks that come with it. Pay attention to that subtle change in your approach. It’s a good sign.
You’ve spent a few minutes thinking of all the great things in your life, all the things that bring joy and prosperity and make you happy. You’ve probably built up a nice surplus of good cheer. You might even be thinking, “Wow, I really do have a lot to be thankful for.”
This is where things get tricky.
Now it’s time to think of something that makes you unhappy, something that frustrates you or annoys you or just plain makes you feel bad.
Maybe your boss is piling more work on top of your already overwhelming workload, or you’ve had an argument with your spouse, or your child is failing math, or someone rear-ended your new car. As before, it doesn’t have to be something huge. Little things count as much as big things.
Have you come up with something yet? Good. You’re ready to tackle Step 2.
Think of that one thing that’s frustrating you or worrying you or making you miserable. Now find a reason to be thankful for it.
You’re probably wondering how — or why — you’re supposed to be thankful for something that’s obviously an unpleasant part of your life. Let’s start with how to do it and then we’ll move on to why it’s definitely worth doing.
How do you express gratitude for the bad things in life? You need to start by reframing the situation, by viewing the problem from other angles and determining how you benefit from it.
Sometimes it’s quite easy to reframe a bad situation, while other times it’s more difficult to take a step backward and view it in a new light. You might have to ponder all the details for a while but in time you’ll come up with something.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how you might reframe a bad situation into an amazing gratitude-generating experience:
- If you’ve had an argument with your spouse or significant other, try to look at the situation differently and discover what it can do for you. Be thankful you’ve been given an opportunity to learn patience. Be grateful for the chance to work together to find a solution and build a foundation for a stronger relationship.
- If your child isn’t doing well in school, be thankful that circumstances have given you an undeniably solid reason to spend extra time with your child each night, even if that time is spent helping him or her with schoolwork. Or, feel gratitude that your child is growing up in a country where education is available to all children.
- If your boss is piling on the work, reframe it as a challenge rather than a struggle. View it as an opportunity to test your own skills, to push yourself to excel. Be grateful for the opportunity to challenge yourself. If you need to break the situation down into a more practical form, be grateful for the job and the steady paycheck.
The goal is not to attempt a Pollyanna approach of denying that bad things happen or of refusing to think about the bad things that have happened in your life. That approach doesn’t accomplish much. Bad things happen. They’re a part of life, and if you refuse to think about any of the bad things that have happened in your life, you’ll fail to learn the lessons those struggles could teach you.
If instead you view those events from another perspective and reframe the situations in a different light, you can uncover the lessons buried in them and grow stronger, mentally and emotionally.
If you spend a few minutes at bedtime each night thinking about things from the perspective of gratitude, you’ll sleep better and you’ll feel less stressed but you’ll also notice a shift in how you think about things throughout the rest of the day as well.
The more gratitude you express each night and the more experience you gain in reframing your view of unpleasant situations, the more the things that once caused you frustration and stress will start seeming less frustrating and less stressful. You won’t eliminate the cause of the stress but you’ll significantly limit the negative effect it has on you.
This technique produces a cumulative effect. The more gratitude you express, the less stress you feel. The less stress you feel, the more gratitude you’ll feel. It builds on itself and the benefits reach into every corner of your life. The investment of just a few minutes each night is well worth it.