Expressing Gratitude

Welcome back to this week’s blog installment! I hope everyone’s week has been going well.  Last week, I wrote about gratitude and some of its healing benefits.  And while I believe wholeheartedly in the power of gratitude, I do think it’s also important to acknowledge that letting gratitude in–and expressing it to yourself, your loved ones, or the wider world–isn’t always easy.  This week, I want to spend some time focusing on how to reconnect to gratitude when times are tough, and how to express it.

Being Thankful During Hard Times

Practicing daily gratitude can help you to develop a more positive mindset. This in turn helps you to identify solutions to any problems you might be facing. It’s easy to be thankful when things are going great. However, it becomes much more of a challenge when you are going through tough times. If you are struggling to feel thankful right now, there are some great tips you can follow:

  • Start a gratitude list. One of the best ways to build up a more grateful mindset is to start a gratitude list. Each day, write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. It could be something great that happened that day, or something you are looking forward to. If nothing good has happened, list the basics. It could be that you are grateful to have a roof over your head, or food on the table. You may need to dig deep some days to find something you are grateful for.
  • Utilize the pay it forward movement. Often, we feel a lot more grateful in life when we take the time to help others. The pay it forward movement is a great way to develop gratitude during difficult times. “Pay it forward means” to do something small for someone. They then do something small for other people, and the cycle continues. When we do something nice for someone, it automatically makes us feel happier. It also shows you that there are other people going through a tough time. By doing something nice for others, it will help you to feel more grateful about your own life.
  • Practice kindness. Practicing kindness is another way to be thankful during tough times. When we do nice things for others, it makes us feel better about ourselves. It also helps to show us that there are people worse off than we are. Look for local charities you could support or do something nice for a neighbor. The more kindness you practice, the more thankful and happier you’ll become.


Why Gratitude is So Hard

If you find it hard to show or feel gratitude, you certainly aren’t alone! While it may produce a ton of benefits, gratitude isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. There are several reasons why some people find gratitude harder than others. One of the things that can make gratitude feel hard is that it can take time to really internalize the benefits of gratitude. When you start practicing gratitude, you aren’t necessarily going to experience instant results. In fact, it can take a couple of weeks to start seeing the benefits of your daily gratitude practice. Many people simply give up due to failing to see results early on. So, you are going to need to push through and trust that results are coming.

Another potential obstacle to gratitude is time constraints. You may feel you don’t have the time to dedicate to being more thankful. However, did you know it can take as little as 10-15 minutes each day to build up a more grateful mindset? These are some of the main reasons why gratitude is so hard for some people. If you are struggling, it could be down to things that aren’t within your control. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work on building up your gratitude muscle. There are lots of ways you can become more grateful and incorporate gratitude into your life. 

How to Be More Grateful

You don’t need to have a natural affinity for gratitude. There are lots of ways you can develop a more grateful mindset if it doesn’t come naturally to you.  As we are all different, you’ll find what works for someone else may not work for you. To get you started on your gratitude journey, let’s look at some of the most effective tips you can follow…

  • Add gratitude to your daily routine. If you want to reap the benefits of gratitude, you are going to need to add it into your daily life. That means fitting it into your daily routine. Many people prefer to practice gratitude first thing in the morning. When you are enjoying your cup of coffee, grab your journal and write a list of the things you are grateful for. Alternatively, you can also do this last thing at night before you go to bed.  When you add gratitude into your daily routine, it soon becomes a habit just like brushing your teeth.
  • Embrace challenges and tough times. It is more difficult to practice gratitude when you are going through a tough time. However, pushing through and focusing on the things you are grateful for can help you to better deal with difficult situations. A good tip is to embrace the challenges and tough times. Look at what the situation is teaching you and any positive things you can take from it. In some situations, such as losing a loved one, showing gratitude is particularly tough. However, you can focus on how they would want you to feel. Would your lost loved one want you feeling constantly sad or would they want you to live life as best you can? Embracing challenges isn’t always easy. I lost my mother in 2014 and that was a particularly tough time for me to practice gratitude but as those moments of sadness come to the surface I remember to be grateful for the time that I did have with my mother, I remember to be grateful that I had a mother and that she was a positive influence in my life and that my daughters had their grandmother in their life. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has become one of the most important tools for gratitude. Whether you prefer meditation, journaling, yoga, prayer, or another type of reflection-oriented mental or physical practice, it can help you to develop a more grateful mindset. Nothing can beat the relaxing feeling you get from practicing mindfulness on a daily basis. When the mind is calm and relaxed, you will find it much easier to become a more thankful person.
  • Be thankful for the small things. You don’t have to wait for big events to be thankful. Practicing gratitude means being grateful for everything in your life, including the small things. So, when you are writing your gratitude list, don’t forget to include the small stuff such as you got out of bed in the morning, or you managed to smile during a difficult time.  When you start to focus on the small things you are grateful for, your brain will start to look for the positive in everything.
  • Express your gratitude to others. Gratitude isn’t just about you. To develop a more grateful mindset, you need to express your gratitude to others too. Remind the people you love why they are important to you. Write a letter to somebody who helped you and show appreciation when something is done for you. When you express gratitude to other people, it helps to make them feel appreciated, strengthening your relationships.  

How to Feel Gratitude Without Feeling Guilty

One of the main issues many people have with gratitude is the guilt that can come with it. You may find it hard to enjoy a sense of gratitude if you know somebody else is going through a tough time. Or perhaps you have lost somebody close to you and it feels wrong to feel grateful or happy. If you are struggling to feel gratitude without feeling guilty, here you’ll discover some good tips to follow… 

  • Remember that you are worthy.  If your guilt comes from feeling like you don’t deserve happiness, it may be helpful for you to work on your mindset. It is important to remember that like everyone else, you are worthy of happiness. When you feel guilty for being happy, it could point to low self-esteem. By working on how you feel about yourself, you will start to realize that gratitude isn’t selfish. It is a necessity for living a happy, healthy life. You are worthy, and you need to consistently remind yourself of that.
  • Accept you cannot change someone else’s situation.  If you know somebody going through a difficult time, counting your blessings may feel wrong. However, this just shows how much empathy you have. The truth is you cannot always change somebody else’s situation. The reason they are going through tough times is down to the decisions and circumstances of their own life. Just because somebody you know is going through a tough time, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be happy. In fact, by practicing gratitude, it can help you to be a better source of support. You will be able to identify opportunities and solutions easier than they can.
  • Giving gratitude isn’t just about you.  A common reason you may feel guilty about practicing gratitude is because you feel it’s selfish. Focusing on all of the things that you have can feel materialistic and even narcissistic in some cases. However, the truth is real gratitude isn’t about you. When you practice gratitude, it helps those around you too. You become a more positive, happier person to be around. You also express gratitude to others, helping them to feel more appreciated.  Adding daily gratitude to your life isn’t selfish. It is a great tool for strengthening relationships and making others feel good too.
  • Write a gratitude letter.  Following on from the last point, if gratitude feels selfish to you, focus it onto somebody else. Writing a gratitude letter can help you to feel more positive. You’ll feel good that you are making somebody else feel happier. Think about how you would feel if you received a gratitude letter from somebody. By showing others how thankful you are, you’ll feel much less guilty about adding gratitude to your daily life.

Gratitude and guilt do often go hand in hand. However, you’ll find over time that guilt will fade. This is especially true if you focus on the tips above.

As I was putting this blog post together, it really called to mind a time in my life when I struggled with gratitude, for many of the reasons that I wrote about above.  Back when my daughters were in middle school, I was working full-time (and traveling frequently for work), going to school, and trying to parent as a single mom to the best of my abilities.  It was often overwhelming and felt like a daily struggle–but prayer and keeping a gratitude journal (even if I wasn’t able to write in it every day) were so helpful to guiding me through those tough times. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t always easy and there were days when writing in my gratitude journal didn’t magically or instantly make me feel better.  But I kept at it, and overall, these practices improved my outlook and carried me through one of the more stressful periods of my life. What gratitude practices keep you going in difficult times? Feel free to share in the comments, and you just may inspire someone else who’s facing similar difficulties to find strength in gratitude!