Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)

Try counting your blessings for a restful night's sleep.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and it’s time, once again, to renew my gratefulness practice.  

It’s time to take more seriously Bing Crosby’s crooning advice to count my blessings.  

It’s time to pay closer attention to the science and study of gratefulness, and to not only be more grateful, but to express that gratitude more often.


Singing "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)"

Irving Berlin wrote the classic crooner’s song, “Count Your Blessings” in 1954 for the film White Christmas.  Undoubtedly, when Berlin wrote the lyrics, “When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep” he understood the effect such a practice could have on the practitioner: Gratefulness helps a person feel happier and sleep better.  However, what he did not know in 1954 is that scientific studies have been conducted that prove the merit of this sage advice.

The lyrics of the song from the 1954 film, White Christmas.

The Science of Gratitude

A study by scientists Algoe, Gable, and Maisel (2010) published in Personal Relationships, suggests, in the words of the writers, “Gratitude may help to turn ‘ordinary’ moments into opportunities for relationship growth, even in the context of already close, communal relations” (pg. 232). Additionally, Sheldon & Lyubomirsky (2006) found that a long-term practice of counting one’s blessings helps keep the counters in a positive mood.  

Furthermore, being more grateful and counting my blessings “instead of sheep” can truly help me sleep better!   “When falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts, and more likely to think positive thoughts. It appears that negative pre-sleep cognitions impair sleep, and gratitude reduces the likelihood of such thoughts, protecting sleep quality. Equally, it appears that positive pre-sleep cognitions have a positive effect on sleep, and that gratitude facilitates these thoughts, leading to superior sleep quality” (Wood et al., 2009, pg. 46). Who knew?

Preparing for the Holiday

So, as I prepare for Thanksgiving this year, in addition to making pies and peeling potatoes, I’ll be sure to prepare in one additional way.  I’ll count my blessings each night, instead of counting sheep.



  • Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L. & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It's the Little Things: Everyday Gratitude as a Booster Shot for Romantic Relationships. Personal Relationships, 17: 217–233.
  • Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotion: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2), 73-82.
  • Wood, A. M., et al. (2009). Gratitude Influences Sleep through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48. 

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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