The number one question I get asked about gratitude is, “How can I be grateful when I’m going through a challenging time?”
People know that when they’re going through something challenging, that is when we need practices like gratitude the most. However, this can also be a really hard thing for us to do when we’re experiencing challenges. And I believe it’s not always the kindest thing for us to do during these times.
I know for me something that I lean on (even more) during challenging times is my gratitude practice. It’s something that anchors me and keeps me connected to what’s really important. And it’s a practice that I feel supports me during these times.
I know a lot of people are going through a challenging time at the moment and I want to make it clear right away that I don’t believe that gratitude is “the answer” for this or that this practice is going to be supportive for everyone right now.
However, I know for some people (like myself) this can be a supportive practice to focus on during challenging times. It’s something I’ve personally been leaning into even more during the challenges of this year and also while where I live (Victoria in Australia) is currently on stay at home restrictions.
I always encourage people who ask about gratitude and challenging times to consider if leaning into gratitude feels expansive and supportive for them right now, or not. And if it doesn’t, that’s completely okay.
If you are currently experiencing challenges in your life and you want to lean into gratitude to support you right now, here are some things to keep in mind to practice it in a way that is kind and supportive to you.
1. First and most importantly, know that you don’t have to be grateful all of the time.
I truly believe that when we are experiencing things that absolutely suck that we should turn straight to gratitude to avoid or deny what we are feeling. That is really harmful and unkind.
It’s important to let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling and give yourself permission NOT to be grateful. Because sometimes when you’re going through a super challenging time that is truly the kindest thing you can do for yourself.
Only when you’re ready and wanting to — that’s when turning back to gratitude can be useful. But only if you’re feeling called do that.
If you’re currently going through a challenging time and you’re feeling like the kindest thing for you to do right now is not to force yourself to be grateful, then that’s great. Gratitude is powerful, but self-kindness is ALWAYS more important!
However, if you believe that finding a way to be grateful will be supportive to you right now, these next tips will help you…
2. Remember to meet yourself where you’re at right now.
It’s important when you’re going through a challenging time, and you want to practice gratitude that you honour where you’re at, how you’re currently feeling and meet yourself at that place.
Yes, when you’re feeling good, you might be grateful for huge and important things. However, I think it’s especially important when you’re not feeling awesome to meet yourself where you’re at right now.
That means on some days you might be grateful for an amazing experience you had, an incredible person in your life or an awesome thing you have achieved… But then on other days, you might be grateful that you got out of bed today, or that you did something kind for yourself or your new favourite show on Netflix.
There’s no need to force yourself to find something “meaningful” to be grateful for, give yourself permission to be grateful for ANYTHING that you want, even if it feels small, tedious, insignificant, or not “meaningful” enough.
3. Use gratitude to focus on the good in your life.
My all-time favourite gratitude quote is by Alice Morse Earle, “Every day may not be good… but there’s something good in every day.” And I truly believe that practising gratitude, especially when you’re going through a challenging time, can help you to acknowledge and appreciate the good in your life — and doing that can be so powerful.
But gratitude can be harmful when we try to force ourselves to be grateful for something that’s challenging us while we’re experiencing it.
When we’re experiencing something negative, we can feel guilty for not trying to see the “silver lining” or the “good” that is going to come out of it. But I want to remind you that you don’t need to find a way to be grateful for the thing that is challenging you right now (or maybe ever!) and that’s completely okay.
When you’re going through a challenging time, it can feel like there is more bad than good in your life and whether that is true or now gratitude can help you to find and acknowledge the good things too.
I know for me I found so much comfort going to bed at night knowing that there was something good in my life. So focus on giving your gratitude to those good things and let those things hold you during this time.
We all go through challenging times in our lives, and sometimes it can be really hard to be grateful.
I hope that if you’re currently going through a challenging time this article has helped you to either give yourself permission not to be grateful for a while, if that’s what is best for you right now. Or I hope it’s given you some ideas on how you can approach practising gratitude in a way that’s kind and supportive to you right now.
PS. If you know that practising gratitude is something you want to be exploring right now (in a supportive and kind way) I’d love to invite you to join a special live community round of The 28 Day Gratitude Project starting September 1st!
When you sign up you get: Daily email content for 28 days (in written and audio format) with your daily gratitude action for the day and a digital gratitude guide & workbook to support you through the experiment (and beyond).
Plus you’ll also get access to a private Instagram account where I’ll be showing up each day and doing the experiment alongside you for extra support and guidance along the way!
There is also an optional upgrade if you want to access to 3 x Monthly Gratitude Sessions with me. These group calls will begin as the project comes to an end (on the first Tuesday in October, November and December) and will support you in bringing gratitude into your life in a deeper way.
You can check out all the info here and feel into if this project is right for you.
If you want to experiment with gratitude (in a way that’s kind and supportive), I would love to have you be a part of this special community round of the project.