The Art of Being Grateful on Really Hard Days
“If you’re always grateful for the little things, it’s hard to avoid happiness. It’s a lack of gratitude that often keeps us feeling down.
There’s a little ritual Angel and I practice every single day, that can turn hard days into easier ones, and extremely difficult life situations into far better ones—and it won’t surprise you either. It’s the ritual of gratitude.
Of course, this is such a fundamental ritual, and yet it’s one we often forget to practice. But when we do practice diligently, it can quickly transform both our minds and our lives.
Let me give you a quick example. Just over a decade ago, I remember one specific night I was struggling with grief, and also feeling very stressed about being broke, without work, and unhappy with the direction of my life. I was depressed, and very lost.
But that night I pushed myself hard to put things into perspective. I wrote out a list of everything I was truly grateful for, even as everything in my life seemed to be going wrong. It ended up being a pretty long list, and I still have the list hanging on my home office bulletin board today. Some of the key things on it include:
- I am married to a loving, encouraging, beautiful woman named Angel.
- I am alive.
- I have a relatively healthy body.
- I have a roof over my head.
- I have loving parents and other extended family members, who I love.
- I have a few close friends.
- I have the ability to learn new things and grow.
- I can read.
- I can hear music.
- I can see the sun rise and set.
- I can run at the beach (at the time we lived in San Diego, walking distance to the ocean).
- I can taste delicious home-cooked food (Angel is a pretty darn good cook).
The list keeps going and going, of course, but you get the gist. The little yet marvelous things I was taking for granted every day were now in black and white right in front of me. The hard times I was struggling to cope with didn’t suddenly vanish, but things were put into better perspective. I was no longer focusing solely on the hard times with tunnel vision, but instead broadening my focus into the periphery of my life where a whole list of amazing things existed that could nurture my inner spirit.
Yes, there are incredibly painful parts of my life, and it’s OK to feel the pain they bring. But it’s also important that I remember the rest of my life too, and to also remember that even the painful experiences make life as intricate and remarkable as it is. Life would be impossible without challenges. There is no happiness without some sadness—one requires the other.
The makeover of my mindset and how I felt about my life in that moment, on that really hard night, was extraordinary. And it all stemmed from going back to the fundamentals—I found some gratitude.
I’ve used this same process dozens of times since that night, and it continues to make a world of difference:
- When someone upsets me, I try to find one thing about them I’m grateful for.
- When I catch myself procrastinating on a task, I look at why I’m grateful for a opportunity to complete the task.
- When I get sick or injure my body, I focus on how grateful I am to be alive and able to heal.
- When I lose someone I love, I grieve, but I am also grateful for the time and experiences I shared with them.
- When something negative happens with the work I do, I remember to be grateful for the ability to work and serve others, and that these challenges allow me to grow wiser.
- When someone doesn’t like me, or judges me unfairly, I do my best to be grateful that they care enough to even pay me some attention. Attention is time, and time is a gift.
The bottom line is that the art of being grateful on really hard days starts with you. And make no mistake about it: the secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. If you forget, begin again.
A few minutes per day spent journaling a gratitude list, or just reflecting on what you’re grateful for at the moment, can change your life. Do it every morning or evening, by setting a reminder alarm if you must, and see how it affects you.
Don’t rush through it either—don’t do it carelessly. Really try to feel genuine gratitude in your heart and mind for everything you list. Focus on the little miracles in your life. And appreciate all your progress too. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot through the ups and downs. Give yourself credit and gratitude for your resilience, and how far you’ve come.
If you’d like some additional support with this ritual, or would like a bit more perspective, I invite you to listen to a recent podcast episode Angel and I recorded for you, entitled…
How to Find Gratitude When Everything Goes Wrong:
Also, you can subscribe to our whole podcast, THINK BETTER, LIVE BETTER (yes, it shares the title of our annual live event), and you can then listen to the first season (30 episodes) on your favorite podcast player right now (M&A on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts).
Now, it’s your turn…
Please let us know…
Which point mentioned above or in the podcast episode resonates with you the most today, and why?
Anything else to share?
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