For several years now, I’ve closed out my day in a lovely way. I keep a Gratitude Journal. (You can also call it an Appreciation Log if that works better for you.) I keep a small notebook and pen next to my bed. I take a few moments- really just a minute or two- to think about my day. I reflect on what I am grateful from the day. I am very specific about what I appreciate and what I look for from the day. I don’t include general things, like “my family”.
This is what I ask myself: What nice moments or experiences happened today? Who did I communicate with? Did I have a nice conversation with a friend? Did I get a nice hug from someone I care about? What went well professionally? What did I eat or drink that I enjoyed? (You’d be amazed at how many things in my Gratitude Journal are yummy foods or coffee!) Was there something beautiful in the weather or in nature that I enjoyed, such as a beautiful tree, sunny day, lovely sunset?
I write at least 3 things that I appreciate from my day, and I often write more than that. And when I’ve had a particularly crappy day, I think it’s even more important to appreciate what has been positive. There are always things to be grateful for, even at the level of- I have running water. I have electricity. I have enough to eat. I have clothes. I’m healthy or not in pain. I can walk. I can see. I can smell.
I love this practice for two main reasons. First, it’s such a nice, positive way to end the day. It’s the last thing I think about before I turn out the light and snuggle with my husband. Second, it really has me searching for things to be grateful for throughout the day. It helps me practice gratitude more often, to search out these positive moments.
Many studies have documented a myriad of benefits of having a gratitude practice: Gratitude can improve our happiness and resilience, our ability to bounce back and grow from set-backs. Gratitude can have a positive impact on our overall health, how much we exercise, and it can really help our sleep. People who practice gratitude tend to be less envious of others. Additionally, studies that have looked at our brains have found that gratitude has a positive effect on your brain and also increases neurotransmitters related to well-being.
There are so many reasons to give this a try! Keep a gratitude journal for 2 weeks and see what you think. If you do, contact me and let me know what you think about it and what you experience.
-Keep a small notebook and pen next to your bed.
-Just before you go to bed, write down at least 3 specific things you experienced during the day that you are grateful for or appreciate. Write down more if you can.
-Take 20 seconds to really let the feelings of gratitude sink in to your body- they’ll also positively affect your brain.
-Turn out the lights and go to sleep in a positive headspace.
-Extra credit: pay attention to things during the day you appreciate and that you could write in your journal that night.
Sleep is extremely important for our well-being, both emotional and physical. Most adults generally need between 7-9 hours/night. What happens if you do not get enough sleep? As shown in many studies, lack of sleep can cause a variety of issues. For example, people who do not get enough sleep tend to gain weight and eat less healthy. It can also cause difficulties in both learning and memory.
Additionally, sleep is intimately related to our mental well-being. For instance, a recent study showed that people who don’t get enough sleep have higher levels of anxiety and/or depression. There seems to be something protective about getting enough sleep, as if it calms or diminishes our anxiety and improves our mood. Similarly, another recent study revealed that people who get 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night are as mentally impaired as if they were drunk; yet, these folks but think they are operating normally!
I can go on and on about the benefits of sleep. I work with people to improve their sleep quite often and have identified 4 important behaviors to help you have a better night’s sleep. This is definitely not an exhaustive list but includes behaviors that I think are extremely important.
Try all these suggestions, and you will have a more restful, peaceful sleep. If you have other things that have helped you sleep better, please leave them in the comments.