When Gratitude Doesn’t Work

As you probably know, I’m a great believer in the power of gratitude.  In fact, one of my power tools for getting good sleep is to cultivate a regular pre-bedtime practice of counting your blessings.  But lately I’ve become aware that this doesn’t always work.  I have clients who grind their teeth at night (bruxism) to the extent that they have to wear a mouth guard or gum shield to protect their teeth.  They usually suffer from headaches or even migraine.  I’ve noticed that such people are often perfectionists, are very hard on themselves and find it excruciatingly difficult to speak the truth.  I’m not saying that they are liars but they find it very hard to get things out and tell people exactly what they think.  These are the people who sit quietly in patient groups or workshops, not wanting to cause upset or offence to anyone; they are the Pollyannas of the world.  I’ve recently come to the realisation that my beautiful 10 year old daughter is also a member of this club and that this is a significant cause of the painful migraines she has suffered for the past few years.  How did she learn to hold things in like this?  We’ve always encouraged her to express herself and her feelings but it seems to be innate to put a smile on her face and say ‘I’m ok’.

Saying ‘I’m ok’ all the time can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing.  While such people can be a joy to be around, their inability to let it out, so to speak, can come at tremendous cost to themselves and their health.  Apart from the aforementioned, dental issues, headaches and migraines, holding it in just isn’t good for you. There is an abundance of evidence that shows that bottling it up is harmful to your health and can even change the structure of your DNA.  In my work, I see  emotional repression causing insomnia and even nightmares and night terrors.

So how to let go and express when for perhaps years, you’ve learnt that you need to maintain a stiff upper lip.   This is about learning to speak your truth whether at work or in your personal relationships, and especially to yourself.  I speak from experience when I say this can be tough – but often the toughest part is taking the first steps.  Those first tentative steps which are actually steps towards yourself in which you remove yourself from distraction (we’re so good at that aren’t we?) and we courageously ask: ‘What is it that I want?’  And then from this place: ‘How do I say it to you?’

The first step in this process of learning how to express has to come from within and in this inquiry you may encounter the emotion that has been stopping you all along.  What is the emotion?  Usually it’s fear.  Usually it’s irrational fear.  So now you go to the next step which is ‘What is the worst thing that can happen if I say this?’   And this is where the magic happens  and the fear ‘bubble’ – which is invariably a fantasy created by your ego – bursts and you realise that actually, you have nothing to fear and everything to gain by speaking your truth.

If the idea of expressing in this way feels overwhelming and scary, then you might want to experiment by expressing through art, journaling or even singing.

We all have so much to be grateful for in life but there are times when no amount of positive thinking and counting blessings is going to get you sleep.  Free the inner voice, speak your truth and trust me, you’ll sleep and feel so much better.

Yours in amazing health and energy,


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