Which should probably be enough of a reason for you to give this basic happiness practice a try, but in case you were looking for more reasons to be grateful, new research recently uncovered one. You'll probably not just be more optimistic, you'll also sleep better.
Thankful people sleep better.
When it comes to bedtime rituals for better sleep, gratitude is less well known but probably far more effective than fluffing pillows or sipping a nice cup of herbal tea. In fact, according to Robert Emmons, a psychology professor and one of world's leading scientific experts on gratitude, just jotting down a few reasons to feel thankful before bed could net you an extra half hour of quality shut eye.
"A number of studies have shown that gratitude promotes physiologically restorative behaviors, chief of which is better sleep," he wrote recently in Greater Good Magazine. "Grateful thinking and grateful moods help us sleep better and longer. In one study, people keeping a gratitude journal slept on average 30 minutes more per night, woke up feeling more refreshed, and had an easier time staying awake during the day compared to those who didn't practice gratitude."
A simple gratitude practice, it seems, acts like a supercharged version of journaling, helping calm anxious thoughts that can keep us tossing and turning at night. Or to use Emmon's own more technical language, "research suggests that grateful people have more positive 'pre-sleep cognitions' and fewer negative pre-sleep cognitions."
What's an extra 30 minutes of sleep worth?
If you're super exhausted I probably don't have to explain the benefits of an extra 30 minutes a day of peaceful slumber to you, but in case you're looking for scientific evidence of the value of a little more rest, plenty exists. According to the the CDC 30 percent of Americans sleep six hours a day or fewer. Not only is that sort of chronic sleep deprivation terrible for your body, other studies have shown it makes you less charismatic, more paranoid, and can even reduce your IQ as much as being drunk.
So how exactly do you go about adding a bit more gratitude to your nighttime routine? Here are a few simple suggestions from Emmon, advice on how to create a more thankful office, and another massive list of gratitude practice ideas, including options for more crafty folks and families with kids.