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10 Easy Ways to Be Grateful When Life is Hard

We think so much, feel so much and do so much that, when asked what we’re grateful for, all the things still missing from our lives spring to mind. We tend to focus on the things we don’t have and provide them as proof that we couldn’t possibly feel grateful when our lives aren’t yet perfect.

But I’m here to tell you that your life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to feel grateful for it. And in fact, if you choose to acknowledge and appreciate the things you already have despite what’s going on around you, it will bring more of what you want into your life. Are you interested to learn how?

If you’ve already watched my video, where I explain just how many ways an attitude of gratitude can make you happier and healthier, read on to discover 10 scientifically proven ways to do this for yourself, quickly and easily. Otherwise, here’s the video. Feel free to watch it in your own time.

Before you do anything else, get out a pen and paper. My 10 Tips for Practising an Attitude of Gratitude will guide you through creating your own Gratitude List. Each strategy ends with a task to come up with 3 things you're grateful for. Add them onto this paper. By the end of the article, you’ll be surprised to see how long your list actually is!

  1. Visualize Losing the Things You Have

Studies have shown that we tend to take for granted the good things already in our lives. “You don’t miss water till the well runs dry”, an old adage claims. Take electricity for example. I bet you don’t spend much time feeling grateful for it, but when the power goes out, you suddenly realize just how reliant you really are on it.

One gratitude exercise I particularly recommend involves imagining you lost some of the things that currently give you comfort. What if you woke up tomorrow and your fingers no longer functioned properly? What if you lost your home? What if you went blind? It doesn’t have to be major things like that though. Imagine your toilet simply stopped flushing. How inconvenient would that be? Or that your internet speed suddenly reverted back to what it was in 1999. I know that would make me super grateful for my current connection!

Then imagine getting each of these things back, and consider how grateful you would be for them when they returned. If you would definitely notice their absence, I invite you to add them to your list of things you have to be grateful for.

  1. Appreciate Life’s Small Pleasures

This practice builds on the one above and guides you to find even simpler things to be grateful for. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that we should only feel grateful for big achievements or when we narrowly avoid a major crisis. But why? Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation for things that make us happy. Is saving up a huge nest egg the only thing that makes you happy? How about getting a hug from someone who loves you? Doesn’t that make you happy? What about enjoying your favorite food when you haven’t had it in a while?

  1. Identify Your Blessings in Disguise

If I asked you to recall a time when something you had initially considered a bad thing actually turned out to benefit you in some way, how many of those situations do you think you could come up with? Personally, I could think of dozens!

Really look into your past and try to remember a time when you went ballistic over something that hadn’t gone your way, but then days or even years later you realized that it had led to something wonderful. A quick Google search reveals a host of people who were late for some reason or another and missed their flight to New York on September 11th 2001. I bet they were furious at their “bad luck” and spent hours worrying about the consequences of their mistake. But can you imagine how grateful they were when they found out their tardiness had saved their lives?

Yes, sometimes horrible things happen to us, and I’m not trying to diminish your pain. But you never know when something will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In fact, if you think hard enough, you can always find at least one good thing that came out of every not so good thing.

  1. How Can You Benefit From This?

A variation of the previous exercise is to ask yourself “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, or “How can I benefit from this?” every time something happens that is inconvenient or annoying. These questions put you in the right mindset to start imagining possible blessings in disguise that could happen in the future. It opens your mind to the opportunities you have today to make tomorrow happier.

  1. Put Things in Perspective

Make a list of some of the things you think really suck about your life. Then think about all the good things that means you have. For example, I regularly complain about having to pay my bills. But having bills to pay means many things are going well for me.

Having car insurance means I have a car to go anywhere I please at a moment’s notice. Having a water bill means I have running water that I can access to drink or bathe whenever I feel like it. Having a heating bill means I have a home that keeps me warm when it’s cold outside. I’m sure you get the picture. It really puts things in perspective. Especially when I think of all the people who don’t have the things I complain about. Now you give it a go.

  1. Say Thank You to Others, and Mean it

We teach our children to always say “thank you” when someone gives us something. But do we practice what we preach? When was the last time you thanked the lady at the supermarket check-out? Or the mail man for bringing you your bills on time? Not only would those people get a huge boost of confidence from receiving your appreciation, but you would be surprised how quickly it will bring a smile to your face after you’ve shared that sentiment.

We get used to saying “thank you” for certain services, but most of the time it’s automatic and we don’t really realize what those words mean. “Thank you” can and should mean “What you did is meaningful and adds value to my life. I appreciate the effort you’ve put in and acknowledge that my life would be slightly less awesome if you hadn’t been here to do this for me.” But all that is way too long-winded and we simply don’t have the time to say it all every time it comes up. So we condense it down to two simple words.

But we need to be aware of just how much those words encompass and how we say them can convey a totally different message. A speedy “thanks” when you snatch your latte out of the server’s hand doesn’t quite express your gratitude for their services. But what if you were serving someone and they took a moment to look you in the eyes, smile from ear to ear and take a couple extra seconds to say “Thank you! Enjoy your day”? How different would that feel for you? It may not seem like much, but it can make a huge difference to someone’s day and their experience of that interaction with you.

  1. Establish a Morning Gratitude Session

If you followed my instructions, by now you should have ended up with a list of at least 18 things you’re grateful for. Now it’s time to put this list to good use.

Precisely because our fast-paced lives make it easy to lose sight of the things we’re grateful for, it’s important to take some time to remind ourselves on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be on every day, but you’ll certainly see more benefits, if you make gratitude a daily habit. 

Take 1-5 minutes in the morning or at night to reflect upon the things on your list and really experience the grateful feeling inside of you. When you close your eyes and think about losing and then regaining those things, how does that make you feel? Is there a specific part of your body where you experience that feeling? Try to focus on it for a few seconds and try to spread it to the rest of your body.

If you’d like to make it a daily habit, I definitely recommend starting a gratitude diary. I have one of my own. Every morning I write the date and then I write one thing that I feel particularly grateful for at that time. It can be the same as another day or completely different. It’s certainly interesting to look back on the things I felt thankful for in the past. It really helps cheer me up when I’m feeling down about something. Physically seeing how many pages I can fill up with the things I have to be grateful for in life is enough to lift my spirits and convince me I can handle whatever life throws my way! 

Give it a go! 

  1. Go on a Negativity Diet

What’s the longest time you’ve ever gone without complaining about something? Have you ever actually made note of how often you criticize or gossip? I was definitely surprised when I started writing it down every time I got taken over by a negative thought. Knowing how negative thoughts and behaviors can impact our health (not just our mental health, but also our physical health!) gave me pause. As a result, I decided to go on a diet. For the next 30 days I wasn’t going to allow myself to indulge in negativity.

That doesn’t mean that I would punish myself every time a negative thought popped into my head. I simply allowed myself a window of 2 minutes to notice I was experiencing negativity and then focus on something more positive, by using one of the first 6 tips in this list. If I focused on something negative for longer than 2 minutes, I would have to start the 30 days all over again, until I reached 30 consecutive days of successfully pointing myself back to positive thoughts.

Give it a go! It takes 30 days to change a habit. Well, technically they say 21 days, but add that extra 9 for good measure. If you manage to go a few days without negativity, it will give you the momentum you need to push on. Once you’ve seen how it feels to banish negativity from your life, your 30-day experiment will end up being a life-long habit.

  1. Use a Reminder Item

There are so many things going on in our day to day lives that sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge to get us back on the right track when we start to lose our way. What’s your favorite method to use when you try to remember things? Do you set a reminder on your phone? Do you leave post-in notes on your computer monitor? Everyone is different, so I won’t presume to tell you what the optimal method is. I’ll trust you to discover and implement the way that works best for you.

I have a friend who made herself a Gratitude Bracelet and each charm represents one of the major things she’s grateful for. Every time she looks at it (which is very often, since she wears it every day) she’s reminded that there is no reason to complain or be sad, because she already has it pretty good. I personally use a Gratitude Rock. It’s a rock I found that’s shaped like a heart and I’ve written a capital G on it with permanent marker. I leave it on my desk, because that’s where I spend a lot of my time. Every time I look at it I take a moment to remember all the things I’m grateful for. What about you? 

  1. Meditate or Pray

This one’s controversial, which is why I added it last. It’s also the one I personally consider the most important and impactful, so hear me out. I know a lot of people who think meditation is a meaningless waste of time, that it’s something only gurus and hippies do and that it’s difficult to do right without investing decades of practice. If you agree with the above statements, I’d like you to give me a chance to change your mind.

Most of the people who find meditation hard to do have misunderstood what it really is. They think meditation is all about forcing your mind to stop thinking until it’s nothing but an empty black abyss. Wrong. It’s actually about focusing on the present moment without judging it. It’s about really noticing where you are and what you’re doing in the here and the now.

“What’s the point to that?” you might ask. The point is, that when you’re really truly focusing on what’s going on right now, you’re not thinking about the past and you’re not thinking about the future. Feeling guilt or shame by definition only happens when we think about the things that happened in the past. Feeling anxiety or worry only happens when we think about the future. But when you’re here, now, you can’t feel any of those things. This is what you may have heard described as “being at peace”.

If you have trouble appreciating the present moment, just ask yourself: “What in this moment is lacking?” For example, while I’m washing the dishes, I’m usually cranky, because I don’t like doing it. I consider it a waste of time and I wish I was doing something more worthwhile. That indicates that I’m thinking about all the things I want to get done in the near future. It also indicates that I’m thinking about all the times when I was late doing something else, because washing the dishes delayed another task.

But when I truly notice the task of washing the dishes, I realize that it feels good to experience the sensation of warm water cascading down my hand. And the very fact that I have dishes to wash means I have just enjoyed a nutritious home-cooked meal (usually) and my kitchen will soon be clean and hygienic. Again it points to having running water, a roof over my head, a meal in my belly, and so on and so forth. What in this moment, right this second as I’m washing the dishes, is lacking? Is there anything painful happening right now that is causing me pain? No (not unless I’ve accidentally set the water too hot). Any pain I’m experiencing only happens when I’m dwelling on the past or imagining the future. All I have to do is simply stop and notice all the wonderful things that are going on right now. That’s meditation.

It’s simple to do, anyone can do it at any time, because it’s irrespective of what’s going on around you. In fact, the more things that are going on, the better. Because that’s when you can benefit from meditation the most. Thinking about all the things you’re grateful for in this very moment is meditation and it has been proven to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system as well as offer a host of other health benefits. Isn’t that worth spending a few seconds on?

And for those of you who think meditation is only for Hindus and Buddhists, think again! Prayer can be a form of meditation, if done in the spirit of focusing on the current moment and thanking a higher power for your blessings. Why not give it a go? It can offer you so much for such a small effort.

Just do it!

If you pick and implement just one of those methods, and I mean actually DO it, I promise you it WILL change your life! The steps are simple, but still require time and effort. If you give it a go, and stick with it for long enough, I guarantee it WILL make you happier!

Gratitude has so much to offer, not just you, but also everyone you come into contact with throughout your life. If everyone in the world practised a gratitude a little more often, we would live in an immensely different world. So recognize what every event in your life has done for you. They shaped who you are as a person and got you where you are today. Thank your “imperfections” for making you unique and also for making you want to develop yourself further. Be thankful for your challenges, count your blessings, notice simple pleasures, and never take anything that you receive for granted.

Learn to live your life as if everything were a miracle, because it is. Remember that gratitude is something you can choose to have. You don’t have to wait for something to be super awesome to feel grateful for it.

Try out these tips and if you’re still having trouble, you can use my contact form to ask questions, or book a complimentary breakthrough session to see how I can personally help you out.

If you haven’t watched the video that comes with this article, scroll above. Want more videos with free happiness tips? Visit my YouTube channel and subscribe! Every week I upload a video about a new Happiness Strategy and each one comes with an article just like this one to help you put the tip into practice.

If you’re looking for more detailed ways to help yourself create a happier life, click the self-help resources tab in the menu. There are three books there I particularly recommend. The second one is my favorite and it personally transformed my life!

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See you next week!

Remember: Happiness doesn't require energy. It requires Strategy.

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