OPINION: How gratitude cured my insomnia, fear and sadness

Robert Labayen

Posted at Jan 15 2020 05:49 AM

Being inside a car stuck in traffic used to make me panic.

It started with a simple case of transient insomnia. But when it went on for days, weeks, and months, I lost any capacity for joy and I often felt claustrophobic.

I am writing this article because I have learned that so many relatives, friends and friends’ family have been screaming inside because of sleeplessness that has snowballed into other emotional and mental health concerns.

If you are suffering from insomnia now, don’t be scared. You will not go through my ordeal if you’re not a hypochondriac like I was. After reading this article, you may feel more reassured that you can be cured easily.

My insomnia was caused by the worry that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. The more I tried to sleep, the more my mind resisted. Panic would seize me the whole night. I was scared because before those sleepless nights, I knew that that’s how captors destroyed their captives: deny them any sleep. After 3 days, prisoners totally sleep-deprived would become disoriented.

A good doctor instantly cured my first few nights with a powerful drug. But he advised that it was not good to be dependent on the drug. After I have maxed the dosage and stopped taking the meds, the sleeplessness came back. That’s when I felt depressed and distracted during the day and anxious at night. A massage therapist who didn’t know what I was going through actually complained that my whole body was so tense!

It felt like my life would never be the same again.

The same doctor advised me to go through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and I had a very nice psychologist to guide me to healing.

About the same time, I chanced upon a comforting Bible story when I opened a book while praying in the adoration room. It was the story of St. Paul and Silas when they were in jail. Instead of complaining to God and blaming the world, the two spent the whole day praising and thanking God. Preacher Joel Osteen called it “a sacrifice of praise.”

That night, according to the story, an earthquake cracked the jail cell open allowing St. Paul and Silas an easy exit. It was symbolic of how God can free us from our troubles.

So, that’s what I did. From morning to night, I praised God. I thanked Him even if my life and my health were not perfect. Every time, a feeling of calm would take over my anxiety and my misery. Soon enough, I was no longer thinking of my illness.

It was consistent with the scientific approach.

In the book Say Good Night to Insomnia, Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs advised patients to replace Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs) with positive thoughts. Instead of saying “my insomnia is taking too long to get cured,” think “my sleep is getting better and better each night.” Instead of thinking “God, why have you forsaken me,” you say “Thank you, Lord, for the healing you are giving me today.”

Because insomnia, fear, worry, and depression are battles for the mind, the cure must start with the mind. Actually, it’s more like getting these things out of our mind.

So, I also followed the advice of Sasha Stephens, author of the ground-breaking Effortless Sleep Method and Effortless Sleep Companion. A former insomniac for 15 years, Ms. Stephens said that instead of forcing herself to sleep, she didn’t even think about sleeping. She just lay in bed to relax. Before she knew it, she would be sailing in dreamland.

As I mentioned, I thanked God even if my life was not perfect. Nobody’s life is perfect. But there’s always so much to thank God for. In my work, I have met a blind mother with a daughter with down syndrome. She endures every challenging day by expressing gratitude for the life that God has given her and her daughter. No complaints.

Joel Wong and Joshua Brown conducted a study involving 300 patients seeking mental health counseling. They found that gratitude exercises positively changed brain activity. They concluded, “Regardless of whether you’re facing serious psychological challenges, if you have never written a gratitude letter before, we encourage you to try it. Much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and things we do.”

If you have a physiological condition, the proper medical care will, of course, be necessary. But thinking happy thoughts will rescue you from a bad feeling immediately.


Effortless Sleep Method by Sasha Stephens*

Effortless Sleep Companion by Sasha Stephens*

Every Day a Friday by Joel Osteen

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown in The Greater Good Magazine website

Say Good Night to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs, Ph.D.*

(*If you wish to read these books right away, you may buy the Kindle versions at Amazon.)



Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.