Having a little gratitude
Giving and gratitude before bedtime is a surefire way to sweet dreams...
My partner went away on business for six weeks recently, and without my evening companion to talk to over dinner and spend time relaxing with, I found myself going to bed earlier and having time to wind down before I closed my eyes. I read a book, or listened to some music, maybe watched some TV. It was luxurious to have that small space of time between the stressful preparations of the next day and the dark unconscious hours of the night, all to myself.
When my partner returned, I felt the need to cling to this time I had cultivated for myself before sleep. In those six weeks it had become routine, a habit, and I didn’t want to give it up. So I came up with a plan.
I bought a pair of beautiful notebooks, handwrote small personalised quotes on every page, tied one with ribbon and laid them on our pillows. “What’s this?” my partner asked as he pulled back the bedcovers, jetlagged. “Open it”, I said. He pulled off the ribbon and opened it up. On the first page, I had written:
“Thanks are the highest form of thought: And gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” - Gilbert K. Chesterton
“A gratitude diary,” he smiled. I explained to him my new routine and that I’d love us to try and make time for ourselves before we go to sleep by keeping our own gratitude diaries.
Keeping a gratitude diary is the perfect bedtime ritual. It is something small, achievable, and repetitive. For us as a couple, it is something we can do together, yet separately. It is introspective and meditative. It helps to focus on the positive aspects of life, on abundance rather than scarcity; on contentment rather than uneasiness.
It is surprisingly easy to find things to be grateful for when you put your mind to it; big or small moments, at work or at home, in the past, present or future. I promised myself I’d write three things I am grateful for each night, but often I’ll find myself scribbling down seven, eight, nine. It’s kind of addictive, that feeling it gives you, once you get started.
And the effects? Gratitude has been found to make us happier, healthier, more resilient and confident, more spiritual and less materialistic. It helps us sleep better and live longer, to name a few benefits. For us, I’ve found bedtimes to be a lot less frantic. We’re still doing our night-time dance, but we look forward to settling into bed and writing in our journals. I take a breath, slowly exhale and relax into it.
I feel like I’m doing something good for me – being a better person. I’ve found that focusing on the positives in life before I close my eyes and fall asleep helps me to dream happy and neutral dreams, rather than my usual stressful, disjointed nightmares. My sleeping hours feel longer, and when I do wake, I’m a happier person.