Don’t you hate being told to be grateful? So do I. That may be the problem, however, because annoying as it may sound—and it’s never more so than when you’re in the throes of a personal problem, or sunk in the slough of despond that is financial worry—research suggests that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ confers real benefits on an overtaxed brain.
In fact, if your worries are keeping you up at night taking time to think about the blessings in your life may help you nod off, or so says a recent paper published in the academic journal Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing (via Women’s Health).
Interested in exploring how mental state affects sleep quality, researchers observed the sleeping habits of a small group of college students. Those students who took time to focus on feeling grateful were less anxious before they turned in for the night and as a result experienced a better night’s sleep.
Insomnia has often been linked with negative emotional states, such as anger, depression, and anxiety. And some researchers believe that rather than reach for a sleeping pill, suffers can combat these negative states with their emotional opposite: enter gratitude.
Gratitude has previously been linked to improved sleep quality—even in fairly challenging circumstances. One 2003 study asked those diagnosed with neuromuscular disorders to list three things they were grateful for every night before bed for 21 nights. The effort paid off: the participants not only reported a sounder, more restful sleep but they felt more refreshed in the morning.
Another UK study by psychology researchers at the University of Manchester supports the idea that what a person thinks before falling asleep—called “pre-sleep cognitions”—affects sleep quality.
So get into bed and think about what a jerk your boss is or how your friend really hurt your feelings before bedtime, and you’ll probably toss and turn. But spend a few minutes thinking about how grateful you are to be able to help your parents, or your friends, or how good it feels to go for a walk in fall and you’ll set yourself up for a better night’s rest and a sunnier wakeup call.