Let’s connect the dots between creativity, awareness, and gratitude.

Creativity is beautiful because there are no rules. In the Wild West of your mind—where awareness lives, in other words—you’re free to do whatever you damn well please. And gratitude’s the sweet, sticky glue that holds ‘em both together.

What does any of this have to do with sleep, you ask?

Give me three minutes to show you what I mean.

We’re Not Worthy

Sam Harris says, “Anything—literally, anything—can be worthy of your full attention.”

The thing is, everything in the universe has already decided it’s worthy of your attention. Every moment of every day, something is knocking at the door of your awareness, begging for you to listen, watch, tap, scroll, eat, play—whatever.

If you don’t consciously decide what to let in, the “happiness robbers” will sneak in and make themselves comfortable. Envy, jealousy, hate, anxious rumination about the future and the depressing pull of the past will take every last drop of positive energy in your body.

It’s your job to give the “happiness inducers” priority, to make those other guys do the Wayne & Garth at the front door of your awareness.

Easier said than done, right? 

Just, like, think positive thoughts and everything will be fine is not what I’m recommending. That alone doesn’t work too well. 

And what if you don’t even know what makes you happy?

The good news: there are ways to gain clarity on what makes you happy and consistently point your attention in that direction.

Practicing gratitude is my favorite one, and there’s a creative way to do it that not only strengthens your mindfulness muscle but also makes you more creative in the process.

Gratitude for Skeptics

You may be wondering, what if I don’t have anything to be grateful for?

Perhaps you don’t consider your life particularly interesting or eventful. Maybe you get annoyed by people who are so happy-go-lucky, always seeing life through rose-colored glasses. Of course, it might also be the case that you’re going through difficult times.

Whatever your particular situation, remember, the more attention you give to something, the more meaning you contribute to it. In that case, doesn’t it make sense to create meaning around things that induce positive emotions?

Practicing gratitude helps you direct your attention to the things that make you happy. And if you’re one of those people that’s not sure what brings joy to your life, you’ll start to recognize patterns if you consistently make time to be grateful.

“Fake it ‘til you make it” is so true in this context because acting grateful can make you feel grateful. Do it long enough, and you’ll start to have a better understanding of what gives you a sense of contentment.

Personally, noticing what I’m grateful for makes me more likely to do those things. It’s made my life much better—I’m happier because I’m looking for happiness.

Related: Opinion | Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

The Gratitude ABCs

Counting sheep is so 20th century.

Next time you’re lying awake, late at night, thinking yourself out of a good night’s sleep, try these two exercises. 

First, with genuine gratitude, ask yourself: How many people made it possible for me to sleep in my bed tonight?

Say thanks to everyone. From the people who put the bed in your room to the manufacturers of the sheets and every person in between, express gratitude to them for giving you the good fortune of a safe place to sleep.

When you start to put together the entire supply chain, you’ll find you direct your attention to new, interesting places, and you’ll be using some serious creativity to do so. 

Next, think of things you’re grateful for, each representing a different letter of the alphabet. I’ve done it, many times, and never gotten past ‘J’ without dozing off.

Both of these exercises allow you to creatively make connections to the meaning in your life (with the added benefit of a great night’s sleep).

I learned about this from A.J. Jacobs, the author of Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, a book in which he “chronicles his journey around the world to personally thank everyone along the supply chain who makes his morning cup of coffee a possibility.”

That’s all for today.

Your life is now. Everything else is just a thought.

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