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Top 5 Ways to Feel Gratitude in Challenging Times

Paula Gurnett, C.C.C. October 8, 2021

Life is unpredictable and often very challenging. Each day we are 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.

Consider these easy gratitude practices when you need support in challenging times:

  1. Include an act of kindness in your day. When we're going through a stressful or difficult period in our life, we can get so self-centered or self-absorbed that we rarely stop to think about others. This is precisely why we need to break away from this spiralling 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. There is a special kind of joy that comes from being thoughtful and kind to others. Be intentional about finding ways to live-out-love!

2. Say thank you for the little things. 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.

○ 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.

3. Re-frame your negativity. Challenging times can bring on lots of negativity. If you are struggle for any reason, you may start to sabotage yourself by creating sadness, falling into despair, evoking regrets, feeding into resentments, and cycling through unproductive negative thoughts.

○ Changing your perspective is the best way to re-frame 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.

○ If reframing the negative seems overwhelming and you’re feeling drained from practicing the skills of re-framing, give yourself permission to take a break from ruminating about the negative and redirect your attention to something healthy, positive, and unrelated.

4. Keep a gratitude journal. This is likely the most popular gratitude practice. 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 is a few moments of undisturbed time, willingness to reflect, and 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? What opportunities do I have today? What have the significant others in my life done that I am grateful for? How is my body serving me today?

○ Writing helps you to organize thoughts, process information and experiences, and supports you in accepting your challenging times by putting them in context.

5. Spread loving kindness. The practice of loving-kindness meditation is designed to emphasize the one’s strength and capacity to feel unconditional gratitude.

○ Besides opening your heart to appreciation, this tool is great for building lasting compassion towards yourself and others. Compassion is crucial if you’re looking to reduce stress and overcome obstacles in your life.

○ Loving-kindness meditation serves as a tool for creating unconditional, inclusive love that leads to true wisdom. The love created this way has no conditions and it doesn't need to be deserved in any way.

Everyone struggles, gets stuck, and experiences difficulty at times. Next time you find yourself having a tough time, remember that crisis is also a growth opportunity. Embrace the challenge, enrich it with gratitude, and you’ll experience genuine growth.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it”.

– Eckhart Tolle -

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