We all know that gratitude is a valuable trait to practice—it makes you happier, improves self-esteem, and even improves your physical health. And luckily, it’s quite easy to be grateful when life is going well! When you’re thriving at work, your house is clean, and your kids are healthy and happy, you can easily see all that you have to be grateful for.
But what about when times are tough? When life is hard, it can also be quite hard to remember all that you have to be grateful for. Instead, many of us become mired in our difficult situations, stuck in our bad moods, and wondering “Why me?” on an endless daily (or even hourly!) loop.
But no matter the situation, being grateful makes you conscious of all that is good in your life, despite temporary negative circumstances. It lifts your spirits, and often, you’ll soon find that life doesn’t actually feel so hard. It makes sense then that practicing gratitude is valuable in every phase of life.
These are five of our favorite ways to experience gratitude, in good times and in bad:
1. Pick One, Small Thing
Gratitude has been “trending” for awhile now—and with good reason! Both research and Oprah have proclaimed that being grateful makes you happier and healthier. But as with anything that becomes a popular form of self-care (meditation and green juice, anyone?), it can also sometimes seem like another chore; another to-do on your already too-long list. And it can be that much harder to get yourself to do it when life is already hard. So consider this your permission slip to make it easy: every day just pick one, small thing to be grateful for. It might be a warm cup of coffee before an early-morning shift or a beautiful butterfly that flits by on your lunch break. Is it making your day or your life better in some way? It counts. Give thanks for it.
2. Be Thankful for the Lesson
Another one of life’s great practical jokes is that we learn the most through difficult times. We learn not to procrastinate by feeling ill-prepared for a big presentation at work, and we learn to set a budget because we once forgot to pay our electricity bill. Very rarely are our greatest teachers found in our happiest moments (though there’s value in those, too!). Instead, we’re often stretched and challenged and taught the most when life is hard and we face it anyway. When you continue to show up—and continue to be grateful for all that life has to give you (including those all-important life lessons!)—you’ll find how much more you have to be grateful for during and on the other side of the challenge. Life may be hard right now, but you are evolving through this time—look for and learn the lessons, and be grateful for how much easier life will be in the future for having learned them.
3. Help Those Who Have Less
Often, we don’t know what we have until we see others who don’t have it. There are always those who are less fortunate than us—and always an opportunity to serve and lift them up from where we are. If finances are feeling tight, donate $5 to a charity or a Kickstarter that you feel drawn to. If work feels overwhelming, offer career advice to a job seeker on an Internet forum. If there’s tension in your relationship, send love, patience, and resilience to the person who’s still waiting to meet their mate. And in these moments, take a second to consider what you do have; that 5 bucks or job or relationship that many other people around the world would love to have, too.
4. Do Something You Love
Do you love curling up with a good book or baking cookies or going for long walks? Keep a list of things you love that you can practice at a moment’s notice and simply pick one to do when you need a pick-me-up. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, that’s five minutes to immerse yourself in an activity that brings you joy. And that alone time is something to be grateful for! Even better than searching for a few spare minutes? Plan these moments of joy into your day! Pull out your planner and block off moments of time every day (or every week) to do something you love. And make sure to schedule a little time afterward to feel grateful for these moments of happiness—however small—too.
5. Make It a Practice
Again, our default state when times are tough is to focus on exactly that: what’s hard, bad, or wrong in our lives. But it you’ve already worked to make gratitude a practice, you’ll have a natural antidote to any negative tendencies! And the beauty is that making gratitude a practice means you do it every day, no matter what—it becomes a habit that you turn to and that supports you in good times and bad. If you want more tips on making gratitude a daily practice, we shared our favorites earlier this month on the blog!
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In life’s hardest moments, it’s easy—and normal—to feel stuck; to lose sight of your growth and your blessings. And of course, there are some circumstances in life that are harder than others, making it that much harder to practice gratitude and find joy. But we promise that it’s possible in every situation. And practicing gratitude even during the tough times (using the tips shared above!) will make any situation feel a little less dire—and will eventually return you to a regular state of joy.
How do you practice gratitude when life is hard? Share your tips for being grateful no matter the circumstances in the comments below!
Design your days to live a well-designed life with a 2018 daily planner today! Our signature daily planning page allows space for you to record your daily gratitude every day. Download a copy to see how it works for you!