Cultivating gratitude in difficult times doesn’t have to be about ignoring or denying how you feel—instead, it’s about acknowledging and appreciating what you do have even in your darkest moments.
Life is unpredictable and often very challenging. Each day we're faced with obstacles that test our ability to cope well with difficulties. It's easy to get angry, scared, or resentful and forget about gratitude for the good things in our life.
Gratitude isn’t something we think about much when our lives are going smoothly, but when things get tough it can become an important part of coping with the situation at hand.
Here are some tips on how to cultivate gratitude in difficult times and start focusing on the positive aspects of your life
If we don't cherish and feel grateful for the good things, how can we justify wanting more of them?
What exactly is gratitude?
A feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for what we have. It means appreciating those around us, those that love us, those that inspire us, and people we can learn from. We need all of these things and more every day. But it's easy to focus on what we don't have and forget about all we do.
Why be grateful?
The power of gratitude comes from our need for hope. When you look for reasons to be grateful, even in times of great difficulty, it's easier to see that life is still good and that things could always be worse.
Being grateful when life is difficult may not make your difficulties go away, but it will help you overcome them more easily and with a positive attitude. By cultivating gratitude when times are tough, you can stay strong and optimistic—and maintain a sense of joy through even your worst moments.
Here are four ways you can start cultivating gratitude today.
Consider these easy gratitude practices when you need support in challenging times
Include an act of kindness in your day
One of my favorite things about doing what I do for a living is reading stories from people who have been touched by something or someone they feel profoundly grateful for. You can cultivate gratitude in difficult times by finding ways to be kind to yourself and others during your day. A great way to do that is by performing an act of kindness for someone every day.
When we're going through a stressful or difficult period in our life, we get so self-centered and focused on self-pity that we rarely stop to think about others. This is precisely why we need to break away from this negative mindset by doing something kind.
- Who is the most deserving of my simple act of kindness today?
- Who has shown me support and love lately?
- What can I do to honor their support and affection?
By being kind and generous to others, you create a greater sense of connection that generates a more positive outlook on life. You feel better about yourself.
Say thank you for the little things
You’re going about your day when suddenly you have a meltdown because someone didn’t hold a door open for you or spilled something on your shirt. Instead of reacting with frustration, take a step back and let it go.
When things don't go your way and you feel like a victim of life, it can be extremely hard to feel grateful and notice things to be thankful for. Yet, there are plenty of small joys around you even on the most difficult of days. You can notice them by shifting the point of your focus.
You can do something as simple as taking a step back, noticing your thoughts and feelings without judging them, and shifting your focus onto what you're grateful for.
Say thank you for little things:
- What kind of blessings have I received lately?
- How can I show my gratitude for those blessings?
- Is there someone who deserves a thank you note from me?
Being able to say thank you for the small things helps you in shifting your focus from life's challenges to life's pleasures.
This way, your mind expands and supports you in finding solutions and ways to get unstuck and move forward.
Challenge your negativity
Challenging times bring on lots of negativity. If you struggle for any reason, you will likely start to sabotage yourself by creating sadness, falling into despair, evoking regrets, and generating tons of unproductive negative thoughts.
If you tend to take a negative view of challenging situations, try changing your attitude by focusing on gratitude for something positive you’ve been given. When a difficult situation arises, it’s easy to dwell on what could go wrong. Losing sight of all that’s going right. If you consciously push yourself toward a more positive outlook, it will be easier for you to handle challenges with a calm state of mind.
Changing your perspective is the best way to reframe negativity.
Remember that everything in life comes in the form of duality. Nothing is purely good or bad. Look at the goodness and benefits in your current struggles and try to learn from them.
Negative thoughts only have the power to hurt you if you let them.
Keep a gratitude journal
Remembering all of your blessings can help you be happier, healthier, and even more successful. For example, studies show that people who write about things they’re grateful for can overcome negative moods and feelings of depression. We may take many things for granted because they are possibly overlooked. Things like your eyesight, your ability to walk or run or talk. But if you reflect on them every day by writing down three new things you’re grateful for each day, you’ll see your life improve in many ways.
Journaling is likely one of the most popular gratitude practices.
It comes with a variety of benefits, including better quality sleep, increased immunity, greater levels of resilience, and improved mood. All these benefits are needed when you’re going through a tough time in life.
To start a gratitude journal all you need are a few simple things:
- just a few moments of undisturbed time
- a willingness to reflect
- a way to capture your thoughts (notebook, phone, laptop)
You can start by reflecting on the following questions:
- What experiences in my life can I be grateful for?
- What happened lately that makes me feel thankful?
- Are there opportunities I have today to express grattitude, no matter how big or small?
- Are there things that significant others in my life done that I am grateful for?
Writing helps you to organize thoughts, process information, experiences and support you in accepting your challenging times by putting them in context.
Everyone struggles, gets stuck, makes mistakes, and experiences difficulty. Next time you find yourself having a tough time, remember that crisis is also a wonderful growth opportunity.
Embrace the challenge, enrich it with gratitude, and you’ll experience genuine growth.