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How to Cultivate Gratitude Even When Things Aren’t Going Great | Guideposts
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How to Cultivate Gratitude Even When Things Aren’t Going Great

Gratitude isn’t just for sunny days—it’s an unending well of calming, grounding support you can access no matter what’s happening in your life.

Loving the smell of coffee
Credit: Getty Images

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow,” says the self-help author Melody Beattie. To me, these words are a road map for how to cultivate gratitude when daily life is a challenge—in subtle or major ways.

Gratitude is a well-documented positive practice, with stress-reducing, health-improving benefits. Whether whispered as a daily prayer, written in a journal or discussed at the dinner table, gratitude is a muscle to exercise daily.

When blessings aren’t raining upon us, it can feel overwhelming to dig for things to be grateful for. Thankfulness for the love of friends and family, meaningful work or a comfortable home is low-hanging gratitude fruit. But what if the job is in danger, we’ve suffered a loss or face financial challenges? What then?

Beattie’s words are a helpful guide.

We can search the past for seeds of gratitude. If we are mourning the death of a loved one, maybe a precious memory can bolster our spirit and allow us a moment of gratitude for the time we got to spend with them. Or during a setback, we might also recall a lesson that was hard-won but powerful in our life journey. We can draw from that insight.

Surely, there are things to be grateful for right this moment. Even if you are having—like the famous children’s book title says —a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day,” something, anything, has to have gone right for you. You can get very micro here, thanking your coffee maker for filling your kitchen with an eye-opening aroma. Or you can be philosophical, expressing simple gratitude for the sky, the ground and your place in the world. Today, you can be grateful.

Beattie also encourages us to gaze toward the future. Hard times can be course-correctors, guiding us to re-set and re-imagine what tomorrow might bring. Your gratitude might take the form of being thankful for a new direction or aspiration. A fresh take. Maybe you can even be grateful for positive things you know are in the future, like the return of spring after cold winter months.

How do you continue to cultivate gratitude when things are hard?

Join Us for a Thanksgiving Day of Prayer: Grateful in Any Circumstance

Need a Lift? Try Our Gratitude Challenge

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