Gratitude in Difficult Times

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
~Meister Eckhart

You may be without a job, have an illness or facing a difficult situation of some kind this Thanksgiving. When going through difficult times, it’s harder to see the good that exists amidst our troubles. But by being more grateful for what we do have, we can increase our happiness by 25% according to University of California Psychology Professor Dr. Robert Emmons and author of the book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. In his book, Dr. Emmons outlines strategies for cultivating thankfulness and talks about his research on gratitude’s effects: “We have discovered that a person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress, may show increased resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress, and may recover more quickly from illness and benefit from greater physical health.” He says that gratitude is one of the few things that can change people’s lives in a measurable way.

Here are some ways to practice gratitude, especially helpful during difficult times:

Look for a Hidden Opportunity

In bad times, look for an opportunity that may exist, yet may not be so obvious. For example, a job loss can present all kinds of fears but perhaps it’s time to change life’s direction and look for work that is more suited to your talents and passions. Life changes, even the bad ones, can lead to good things and perhaps be the blessing of a lifetime.

Create a Gratitude List

Are there 10, 20, 30, 50 things you can be grateful for? Try 100! This may be easy for some people, but for other’s a little more difficult. Start to think about things that you might be taking for granted like your warm bed, a hot cup of coffee, the unconditional love of a child or your health. Blessings exist everywhere. Author and Educator William Arthur Ward said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” You can refer to your gratitude list when you are feeling down.

Stop Complaining for 21 Days

Complaining feels good, right? But when complaining becomes a habit, this creates negativity that attracts even more negativity. Pastor Will Bowen, from the Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, wrote the book, A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted. His book developed from an experiment where he asked his congregation to form a habit of gratitude by not complaining for 21 consecutive days, the amount it takes to form a new habit according to psychologists. Over 6 million people in more than 80 countries have participated in the Pastor’s Complaint Free challenge! Taking this challenge may help you to live life from a more grateful perspective.

Express Your Gratitude

Expressing gratitude to our loved ones and to strangers every day can be uplifting for both the giver and receiver. We are often so consumed with our daily routines and obligations that we may take people for granted and if we stopped to say thanks, we can make someone’s day.

People who might be in need of some thankfulness are teachers, bus drivers, postmen, bankers, restaurant workers, a friend or family member who always provides encouragement and love, and even a co-worker who is constantly lending a hand.

Make Gratitude a Habit

Retraining our brain to think about all there is to be grateful for, in good times or bad, can be life-changing. One of the ways to do this is to create gratitude affirmations. Bestselling author Louise Hay believes in the power of affirmations to change your life. She says we must become aware of what it is that we believe and recommends that we make a list of the negative messages that come to mind. We can then go through this list and begin to understand why we don’t have what we want in life. Creating gratitude affirmations and placing them where they can be read regularly helps to live from a more grateful perspective.

Meditate in Gratitude

You can set aside a time each day to think thoughts of gratitude and even create a gratitude prayer. This works well to not only deepen gratefulness, but to also put the practice of meditation into your daily routine. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce stress, increase health, improve memory, and more. Meditating in gratitude is a sure way to bring about more peace and happiness.

Each Day is a Gift

Before the day begins is an excellent time to reflect on all there is to be grateful for. This starts the day with feelings of hope, peace and happiness. You can simply say thank you for the day as soon as you wake up. This puts us right first thing in the morning and starts our day on a good note instead of starting the day out with negative thoughts.

A beautiful video called, “A Good Day” with Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about the day as a gift to us and as Brother David says, “the only appropriate response to this gift is gratefulness.”

The practice of gratitude can help us during our low points in life, turning our thoughts of despair into thoughts of goodness. We can view our worst situations with a grateful eye and know that being grateful makes us stronger, more resilent, healthier, and happier people.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of full disclosure, the above book links are affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commission if you decide to purchase anything from Amazon. I only recommend books that I would read, so I know you’ll be in good hands.

What are some things that you are grateful for this Thanksgiving? 


  1. I am grateful for each and every day. I’m grateful that I am healthy. I am grateful that my caring spirit enables me to help the neighbors. I care for my 93 year old mom and in between, I have been taking my 70 year old neighbor to therapy three days a week as she is healing from a hip replacement operation. I pick up her groceries also when I shop. I have also helped my neighbor next door who is going through some terrible times. I did a blogtalk radio show (my hobby while caring for mom) on how I judged my neighbor by her costume…I did not think we had a whole lot in common…but boy was I wrong….she taught me so much….I have so much to be grateful for……

    • Donna – Thank you for your gratitude list, and I applaud you for your extraordinary kindness and generosity in helping your Mom and neighbors. It’s clear that you enjoy helping people, and I am sure your giving nature takes you far in life.