Being Grateful in Challenging Times

Have you ever tried to find the silver lining where there just didn’t seem to be one? That feeling of trying to learn a lesson from a really bad situation can be demoralizing.

I’m sure you’ve experienced times when gratitude didn’t seem like an appropriate response.
Sometimes you just can’t find the lesson you want to learn, and you can’t find a feeling of gratitude in the midst of hard times.

I admit that I have had moments in life where I thought, why on earth should I be grateful for THIS? He sucks. I don’t want to be grateful for bad things, misfortune should not be something we appreciate!

Obviously, I was missing the point and the essence of what gratitude is.

It is a tool, a coping strategy to raise your vibration when you are feeling low. It does not mean to accept bad experiences or to support bad behaviour; it means being able to gain perspective on your life and find beauty in small things, or things you take for granted. That feeling of shifting your attention to what is happening right is a way of controlling your own energy.

It is an essential strategy for life.

Science tells us that being grateful can help us cope with trauma, balance our nervous systems and improve our well-being. It also has a positive impact on those around us. It’s kind of a win-win. If you practice a gratitude journal, according to a 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough, you will have better sleep, reduced physical pain, a greater sense of well-being, and a better ability to manage change.

Instead of seeing gratitude as a “cure all” in particularly dark or challenging times, let’s see it as a tool we can use to bring us back to center.

Like mindfulness, gratitude exists in the moment. Keeping a gratitude journal and making gratitude lists is a fantastic way to cultivate gratitude BUT you also need to find it in those little moments in life that seem mundane when you just are.

  • That first moment when you wake up in a warm bed after a great sleep.
  • The shadows play on the wall.
  • The innocent, playful laughter of a child.
  • The friendly cat that wraps itself around your legs to be petted.
  • The delicious meal you shared with your friend while laughing so hard you cried.
  • The sweet message from your loved one, just when you thought you forgot.
  • The freedom of a beautiful sunrise.

These are the kinds of things that make me feel grateful every moment of every day.

I realize as time goes by that gratitude is inextricably linked to mindfulness.

If you can’t practice mindfulness, it will be harder for you to find gratitude.

At the heart of gratitude is appreciation and the ability to notice what is beautiful, what is good and what is true.
It seems that you will be able to recognize that while you may have had a bad day at work, you are enjoying an incredibly blessed life in many other ways. This does not mean that you ignore your emotions about having a bad day, it means that you choose not to dwell on those emotions and watch them grow as you add to your grievances.

Someone once asked me, are you a collector of positivity or a collector of s**t?

If your roof starts leaking, do you freak out, raise your blood pressure and panic about it before you act, or do you think, hey it’s really leaking, but should I call the roofers to come and fix it?

Of course, context is always relevant, but it got me thinking. How do I react under pressure?

The way you currently react to challenges says a lot about your ability to be aware, and grateful. Being calm can really change the way you go through life and they are inevitable challenges.

Stay grateful in the difficult moments and trying times of life with these simple strategies:

  • Be kind to yourself – Find a reason to feel proud of yourself.
  • Have a gratitude conversation – Tell someone else what you are grateful for. Saying out loud the things we appreciate has immense power, and it can help someone else feel positive too.
  • Pay it forward – Do something nice for someone else and preferably don’t tell anyone else about it. Make it something that you simply do for this other person, or a friend or an anonymous person. Keep your ego out of it.

I find that these three simple steps go a long way in helping me cultivate a grateful attitude in general.

I use them to accompany my gratitude journal and can turn to them when I’m having a bad day and want to change.

I hope the same can work for you!