How To Feel Grateful When Life Gets Hard

Updated on July 13, 2021

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A reader sent me a letter and I thought that my answer was worth sharing here on the blog too. She asked me:

“Hi Amber,

I have been unemployed since May and am running out of unemployment and I am depressed about it. How can I train myself to do gratitude daily and mean it? J.”

So yes, gratitude can be tricky when things aren’t so great… Yet we should be grateful for even a single breath we take. When you think well, we’re actually privileged to have a life, no matter how hard it is. A lot of people didn’t have this chance because they either were gone so young or were not born at all.

I have a little controversial technique for radical gratitude, but this works for me every single time and I think it could help you too.

 

How To Feel Grateful When Life Gets Hard

 

Step 1: “Shock therapy”

 

This may sound indeed like a shocking approach, but if you really want to be grateful and mean it, one of the most effective things to do is… compare yourself to others. Now, I’m not talking about comparing to people who are happier or more successful – I’m talking about comparing to those whose situation is worse. Let me explain.

If you want to make your gratitude emerge with force, open your eyes to see the true pain that exists on this planet. Watch a documentary about poor countries and see how these people live, what they eat and what kind of work they have to do.

I recently watched one about an Asian city where people work for a dollar per day burning bodies of their dead. They push the ashes to the river, where children come to sift waters with magnets. Why? They try to find any golden teeth to sell because they’re so hungry. Their father can’t provide because he suddenly got blind and can’t afford the treatment.

Another girl in Africa sleeps in an old cemetery, wakes up every day just to go and sell her body to random strangers so she can buy a single bowl of plain, cooked rice. If she doesn’t get any clients, she doesn’t eat. Sometimes – for days. And she is just a girl like you and me – she is young, she is beautiful, she speaks English, she wants to be happy, yet life has been very cruel to her.

A young teenage boy has cancer but can’t get treatment because he is a migrant who ran away from Syria and is now stuck on a Serbian border. He can’t go back, and he can’t go any further, because he’s afraid of getting caught. He tried crossing the border 200 times. How? By hiding under huge industrial trucks – he holds on to the pipes while they’re driving.

… So yeah, this is kind of shock therapy, but looking real pain straight in the eye usually works for most people who struggle to feel grateful.

 

Step 2: Making Gratitude a Habit

 

After having this little shock therapy, it’s time to make gratitude a daily habit.

To do that, you can set the time to be grateful every day. This is plain and simple – set an alarm on a preferred hour and say thanks for everything that you appreciate that day. If nothing comes to mind, just be grateful that you exist. They say it’s pretty much a miracle that life on Earth exists… There’s something to be happy about, ain’t it?

You can also use my Gratitude Journal to spend more time on various gratitude exercises and track your daily practice:

 

I know sometimes it feels like everything is going down… But please remember that bad things pass. Problems and situations usually sort out, unless you’re not doing anything about them. And if that’s the case, you should read this: How To Stop Avoiding Things You Need To Do and start taking action.

Good luck!

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