3 Strategies for Gratitude When Life is Tough!

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These days I often introduce the idea of a Gratitude Journal by telling the story of  Gabi MacEwan. An inspirational lady who decided to start practising gratitude after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. As she says:

“I don’t live in a constant state of bliss. Sometimes I’m frustrated, disillusioned and sad, but I heartily recommend the cumulative effect of noticing and noting the moments of delight, relief or humour each day.”

So with that recommendation I want to give you some strategies for keeping the gratitude alive when life sucks, because being told to keep a Gratitude Journal when you feel your life is going down the pan, things look bleak and your feeling low can be a big ‘ask’. It’s times like this that doing a gratitude journal can be really tough. I’ve had clients say there was just nothing in their day that they felt grateful for, some have said they were writing the same old things and grew tired of the ‘chore’. Ironically of course when life is unfairly hard is exactly when you benefit from the practice the most.

I often express my gratitude for the people in my life, but I am also truly grateful for the nature I see around me and for my camera that allows me the creative expression I value in life.
I often express my gratitude for the people in my life, but I am also truly grateful for the nature I see around me and for my camera that allows me to record some of what I see.

What is this About?

I recently posted on the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, but as with many good habits you may find yourself too busy to do it when you are feeling good, and too tough when your not. So if you are like some of my original clients, you will keep a journal for a few days and then the practice of being grateful will begin to slide.

The answer is to make it habit and for that happen you need to commit to doing the practice until it becomes a subconscious reaction to think of things you are grateful for. Some people say it takes 21 days to make a habit stick, others 66, whoever is right, you will probably benefit from a strategy and support to really embed this new behaviour and way of thinking.

So having some strategies and support will help you make this positive activity a habit and today I want to focus on one of those strategies that makes keeping a gratefulness journal easy.

Why is this Important?

Because lets face it, there are times when life sucks! Whatever the reason for the ‘suckyness’, the simple act of writing down (or saying out-loud) the things for which we’re grateful gives benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike. Brilliant medicine when life feels like it is going down the pan and things looks bleak.

How do I Use This?

Personally I find that buying a nice journal helped me to keep me committed to the task and you may want to do the same thing. Make a conscious choice now and commit to experiencing more gratitude in your life. Then try these strategies:

  1. Set aside some time so you can allow yourself the opportunity to really notice the depth of your gratitude. Take time to relish and savour the feelings.
  2. Pick one person you know and just take time to allow all of the good reasons for having them in your life surface into your consciousness. Whenever possible focus on people and dogs in your life. Apparently whether we think of our pet dogs or children the same area of our brains are activated. So being grateful for your dog is ok!
  3. Go into depth – Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.

If you can think of these things in terms of gifts so much the better, according to Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude. His advice is:

“Be aware of your feelings and how you “relish” and “savor” this gift in your imagination. Take the time to be especially aware of the depth of your gratitude.”

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” ― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

I wonder if you maybe surprised at what you have been grateful for today?

Resources
The power of gratitude

Gabi MacEwan Blog: Losing the Will To Die

10 Reasons Why Gratitude is Good for You

It Takes 66 days to make a Habbit

Kids, dogs touch same soft spots in the brain: study

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