Counting blessings instead of sheep
Are you ever sleepless? Sometimes it’s hard to stop ruminating over things long enough to fall asleep. We replay events of the day, preview possible scenarios for tomorrow, stew over grievances from yesterday. It’s hard to just sink off and get the sleep we need.
In her short story, “The Cure for Sleeplessness“, Maeve Binchy creates a magic cure for sleeplessness:
Molly read the advice slowly. It was a detailed instruction about how the cure would take three weeks and you had to follow every step of it. First you had to buy a big notebook with at least twenty pages in it, and stick a picture on the cover, something connected with flowers. It could be a field of bluebells or a bunch of roses. Then on the night you couldn’t sleep you must get up quietly and dress properly as if you were going out visiting. You had to fix your hair and look your best. Then you made a cup of tea and got out the notebook with the flower on the cover. In your best handwriting you wrote “My Book of Blessings” on it. That first night you chose just one thing that made you happy. No more than one, and choose it carefully. It could be a love, a baby, a house, a sunset, a friend. And you wrote one page, no more, no less, about the happiness that this particular blessing brought you.
Then you spent a whole hour doing something you had meant to do, like polishing silver, or mending torn curtains, or arranging photographs in an album. No matter how tired you felt, you must finish it, then undress carefully and go back to bed….
Every night she wrote about a different blessing.
Things like the night Gerry finally told her he loved her, when his face was white and red alternately, in case she might not love him too.
Like the moment after Billy was born when she held him in her arms.
Like her parents’ silver wedding anniversary, when they had said that they knew their daughters would be as happy as they were and everyone had cried.
Like that time in the advertising agency when the boss said that Molly had saved all their jobs by her quick thinking and they had all raised a glass of Champagne to her for winning the account.
Now most of this advice and all of the examples are pure Binchy, but the gratitude part is backed by science.
A gratitude journal is good for what ails you. As you call to mind your blessings, think about why you are grateful for that particular blessing, the details surrounding it, the sensations associated with it. Write it down somewhere so you can remember. If so inclined, write a thank you note to someone who made a difference in your life. Remember to say thank yous at work, home, and school. If you encounter a problem, try to see if there is an unexpected blessing hidden there somewhere.
And then, tonight, if you should have trouble falling asleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.