Why Gratitude Is Key to Helping You Wind Down

Research shows why writing down what you’re grateful for is so effective at reducing our stress and priming us for rest.

Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

So many of us run through our days faster than our minds can catch up: We wake up and get rolling at top speed, and often don’t slow down until it’s time to hit the pillow — and then we lie there wondering why we’re stressed out, restless, and not sleepy. But our brain can’t just fall asleep on cue; it needs time to relax, decompress, and process everything we learned and experienced over the course of our busy day. 

To build this dedicated downtime into your wind-down routine and ease your stress, start by simply writing down three things you’re proud of or thankful for at the end of the day. Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that writing about what we’re grateful for helps us reframe our stressors and reflect on what went well in our day, lowering our stress levels and elevating our mood and happiness. Other research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that a nighttime gratitude practice, in particular, can improve the quality and duration of our sleep, helping us fall asleep faster and preventing fatigue in the long run. 

What’s more, your gratitude doesn’t need to be limited to the evening hours. In fact, bringing a grateful mindset along with you throughout the day can help you feel the well-being benefits and stress release well before it’s time to turn in. For Shelly Ibach, Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large and the CEO of Sleep Number, her gratitude practice for quality sleep starts the moment she wakes up. “I start every morning in the same chair, reflecting on what I’m grateful for,” she says. “Coming from a place of gratitude helps me step back, put things in perspective, and get grounded for the day ahead.” So give your Microstep a go — you may be surprised by all the positives that otherwise might have been lost in the shuffle.

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