Cultivating gratitude when life gets tough

Have you ever had one of those days, when something goes wrong and invariably it seems like everything else goes wrong and it ends up just being a ‘bad day’? There may have still been good things in there, but they seem to be overshadowed by all that is wrong. Well, I feel like I’m having one of those years! Maybe you can relate?

Shortly before Christmas my family were hit with the news that my brother-in-law, very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away after two short months married to my sister. A month and a half later my Nan passed away. While we knew we didn’t have long with her it magnified the grief and loss we were already feeling. A few short weeks later the city I live in experienced the worst flood in its recorded history. While we came through ourselves mostly unscathed, many around us lost so very much. 

There have certainly been times I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel, curl up in my bed and say ‘see you next year’. Despite that, like those bad days, there is still good in there, I just need to look for it! 

Gratitude sometimes seems easier when things are going well, but there are still things we can be grateful for when life is hard, we may just need to dig a little deeper. Sometimes it’s actually through loss that we grow in gratitude, noticing the good and being thankful for the things we still have. There has been a lot of research into the science behind gratitude in recent years and they have found a relationship between joy and gratitude. If you are a joyful person it may make sense that you are more grateful, but in fact practising gratitude contributes to your joy. True joy is not determined by circumstances, but a recognition of the good in life, sometimes in spite of the difficult. 

Aside from making us more joyful, other benefits they’ve found from practising gratitude include better and longer sleep (we’d all like that!), enhanced ability to cope with stress, and less cases of burnout. It makes sense doesn’t it? When you choose to consider the good things in life, rather than dwell on the bad, your perspective on life shifts. It does a world of good for your wellbeing and mental health!

The last six months have been challenging, but I am grateful that I have come through with God’s help. I’m grateful for what I have learnt and how I’ve grown. I’m grateful for my family and how they have loved and supported one another through these trials. 

Gratitude has a place in our lives, no matter our circumstances. We can come to the end of a day, a week, a month or a year, and even if we’ve made up our mind that it was a bad one, it doesn’t have to be a write off. There’s always something to be grateful for. 

So I want to invite you to take on a gratitude challenge. Every day, at the end of the day, think of three things you are grateful for. You may like to write them down in a journal or if you need more accountability, pick a good friend and message her your three things. Perhaps you may like to consider doing it with your family, around the dinner table or before bed. However you choose to do it, give it a go. Who knows, it may just change your day…or year!

Jessica Clelland
Coordinator, Northreach MOPS

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