Finding Gratitude on the Tough Days

It’s easy to feel grateful on days when everything is going well. You can notice the birds singing, the sunshine bursts, or the gentle rain and feel blessed for all that you have. Even on irritating days, it’s fairly easy for most people to express gratitude for the important things. But what about the days when everything seems to be going wrong? Finding gratitude becomes especially important on the days that feel the hardest. I was recently reminded of this when traveling right after the death of one of our cats in November.

I didn’t think my day could feel any worse, and in truth it didn’t. But in my state of raw pain and grief, every little annoyance felt way more intense than it normally would. After riding in a Lyft car reeking of smoke, discovering my pants were torn and being stuck behind a stinky person on the airplane for 2 hours, I realized I needed to focus on gratitude. I needed to stop fixating on everything negative and find at least one positive thing in the day, and here is what I found:

I was grateful for the wonderful vet who helped us with an incredibly difficult decision

I was grateful for the compassionate process of euthanasia

I was grateful for being in a loving relationship and being able to support each other in this time of mourning.

I was grateful for all of our friends and family who provided support and sympathy

I was grateful for our friend who watched over our 2 living cats

I was grateful for safe plane travel and all the things that went smooth in our trip

I was grateful for spending quality time with my partner’s family

I was grateful for my full skill-set of self-care methods

Even on the crappiest day I’ve had since my last cat died more than 2 years ago, I came up with so many things to be grateful for in that moment. And it’s continuing to help me as I grieve. When I feel the absence of my fur buddy, I express gratitude to him for being in my life and it helps me to stay present in my day.

Whether you’re going through a tough time now, or everything is feeling right in your world, starting a gratitude practice can be helpful now and in the future. I highly suggest writing down what you are grateful for each day. If you encounter a day where you struggle too much to find anything to be grateful for, you can refer back to earlier journal entries and find something from the past that applies to the present moment.

This can be done on your laptop or in an app, but a handwritten journal is a great way to take a break from screen time and focus solely on gratitude without other distractions. Select a nice notebook or journal and a favorite pen or pencil to make it even more enjoyable!

Each day, try to find 3 minutes to write down 1-3 things for which you are grateful that day. Try to be specific and come up with new items as often as possible. If you find yourself already in bed without having written anything for the day, still take a few moments to think of 1-2 things that you are grateful in your day. You can still write them down in the morning. :-)

For example:

Receiving a nice message from a loved one.

Having comfortable furniture to sit on, perhaps including how you acquired it.

Waking up in a warm, safe and cozy home.

It can also be helpful to acknowledge all of the things that we take for granted on a daily basis and expect to work for us, such as:

Lights turn on when you flip a switch.

You live in a place with clean fresh air.

When you turn on the tap, clean running water comes out as you expected.

Yours shoes protected your feet.

Noticing each little thing that goes right in a day helps us to recognize just how much of our day is actually successful and positive. This recognition provides an important balance when the rest of life feels really heavy and negative.