Finding Gratitude – How to be Thankful in Difficult Times

by Aileen

Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.

– William Arthur Ward

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S and it can be a wonderful time of celebrating with family and friends. It can also be a lonely and depressed time, which can intensify when it looks like everyone else, has so much to be thankful for.

For those who are in a time of personal struggle, it can feel ridiculous to think that gratitude or joy is a choice, but it is.

The truth is, no matter what your situation, you always have a choice in how you choose to perceive your reality.

Dig deep within your heart and soul, you’ll find your inner champion who wants to fiercely kick into gear! That inner champion is the part of you that doesn’t want to feel bad; it wants you to win at life.

On any given day, you can make the decision to let your inner champion win, or you can allow defeat to be a reality.

It doesn’t matter what your age is. It doesn’t matter what you decided in the past. On any day, even today, you can make a choice to wake up your inner champion and kick defeat.

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself….”
– John Wooden

The Real Life Value of Gratitude

When a person connects with a deep feeling of gratitude, things change. I have experienced this and experimented with it countless times enough to know how profoundly it works.

Connecting to gratitude can transform relationships, it can give you energy and strength, it can give you the creative ideas that you need to change your situation, it can relieve stress and pressure, it can actually change your life.

There are deliberate actions you can take to fuel your inner champion and awaken a real sense of gratitude regardless of what you’re experiencing

How to Trigger Gratitude

1. Physical activity – It’s incredible how much physical activity frees our thoughts and emotions. We can get mentally unstuck. Typically we feel better when we move our bodies so take a walk, swim, get on a bike, jump rope, dance around – just get your body into motion

2. Breathe deeply – Take a long slow inhale as much as you can and breathe in the words “so grateful” and on a long slow exhale breathe out the words “peace.” The more resistant you are to this (meaning you’re really stressed out or deeply hurting), the longer you’ll need to do it before it works. If this feels wildly far away from reality, then do this for 10 minutes (it’s a long time I know)! If you’re feeling just a little ungrateful you may only need 3 minutes.

3. Watch your words! – When we feel stuck and frustrated or down, we tend to use strong words that reinforce our negative emotions. These strong words also reinforce how we perceive our reality. It’s imperative that you rephrase your words. Example: “ I hate Thanksgiving, I have nothing and no one” Rephrase your words, “Maybe I’ll see if there’s a place or food shelter, I can volunteer this Thanksgiving. I’d like to make this year’s Holiday special” Don’t use phrases such as “I never had…” “I’ll never have…” Words are powerful, they affect how we feel, and how we feel affects how we see reality, that affects whether or not we’ll have inspired creative solution ideas, and that affects whether or not our lives will change.

4. Watch your emotions –  When we’re anything other than happy, joyous or peaceful, we’re more likely to be in a negative emotion of fear, stress, and emotional pain. New empowering ideas typically come out of a positive emotion. If you can’t get happy, at least fight for reaching neutral.

5. Write – Write down everything that you can feel grateful for, take a close look around you and give some deep quality attention, really take it in.

6. Contemplate – Think of any and all of your past successes, think of things you’ve done well, think of things you can be proud of – feel the gratitude

7. Choose – Make the deliberate choice to feel grateful


Take a different look at your challenges

Because of difficult times – you have the opportunity to use your strength, your courage, your mind to explore solutions and experience your potential

Because of your mistakes – you’ve learned valuable lessons, and you may now be even closer to success

Because of your challenges – you can grow and evolve into more than you were. This deepens your life experience and awakens that champion within you. If you knew you were born for more, then now you get to create it for yourself.

If your fears got the best of you in the past – you now have the opportunity to be courageous and brave. Your window of opportunity may feel like fear, but each time you get a chance to win

If you’re disappointed in how life seems to have turned out – it’s not over until you’re dead. You’ve got the gift of time. You’ve got the gift of mind and intelligence. You’ve got more gifts than you realize, and they will show themselves as you push yourself forward.

If your heart is broken by a lover, a friend, life in general – you can grieve the loss, but don’t take too long before you take a fresh new look. There are opportunities even if you can’t see them yet, they are there. You’ve been released. It will feel good to pick yourself up and travel on a new road.

If you’re exhausted – it means you dug in deep, found your grit and made real effort. You left no stone unturned. You didn’t fail to fight. You make your inner champion proud.

If you’re financially hurting – pay your bills with love. I know this may sound crazy but it works. “I am so, so grateful I have enough money to pay this bill, and write this check. I love and bless this check; I send it with love and gratitude.”

If you can’t see joy or find gratitude look a little deeper

Mind – Ideas start in the mind before we can take action and implement them. Your mind can create new opportunities, and it can be used to empower you to new heights.

Time – Although it often feels there’s never enough, time is a blessing. We get 24 hours each and every day.

Sky – Reminds us of the infinite, life is so much bigger than us.

Sun – Gives such beautiful light to our day

Sunrise – Hold the promise of a new day, a new chance to begin again

Sunset – Gives us an invitation to reflect on the day, and reshape our actions and attitude

Moon – Glistens in the sky, reminding us that world has incredible beauty, and life is cyclical.

If you have a job, there’s much to be grateful for!

If you have a home, a place to live, there’s much to be grateful for!

If you have family and friends who love you, there’s much to be grateful for!

To be alive, means you have the chance to experience wonderment. All things are possible, and your open heart, open mind, and your gratitude will guide you.

Regardless of your situation, there are always ways to tap into gratitude. Being thankful, feeling a deep appreciation can create miracles. It can open doors, create new thoughts, and guide us to amazing life experience.

Adversity can make us incredibly compassionate people; it can transform us, so we may be of real help to others.

Please share, what are you grateful for? What do you do when you wan to feel grateful?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Ajen November 23, 2011

I am grateful to be the first commenter… YAY! This is a such an uplifting post to share with friends and family. To experience gratitude in difficult times is one of the unique spiritual characteristics for us human beings to express. Within this characteristic, there are many virtues that are being developed and exercised. I can call to mind:

“humility” in experiencing the situation;
“accountability” of the self in relation to the situation;
and the feeling of “peace” of mind while being “detachment” from the situation.

I truly appreciate you adding the simple experiences of life that causes us to be grounded. So many times when I feel completely overwhelmed, I say to myself, “have a mind of a child… and look at the tree as if it were the first one you have ever seen.” When I do this and notice the leaves, the bark, the fruits, the insects and bugs puttering about the tree, I instantly become present… out of my head …and into my senses. Because of these kinds of awaking situations (as I call them) I totally feel alive… and I am ever so grateful for the gift of wonderment.

Happy Thanksgiving Aileen!
Ajen´s last [type] ..I dare you to look closely.


Aileen November 23, 2011

“To experience gratitude in difficult times is one of the unique spiritual characteristics for us human beings to express. Within this characteristic, there are many virtues that are being developed and exercised” So very true!!! So much beauty, growth and greatness comes from being able to go beyond ones’ pain and enter into a state of gratitude.

I love that idea of looking at something with the mind of a child. It really opens up the sense of awe. It’s lets us be mystified and helps us pay careful attention – which is where the magic happens.

I wish you a most beautiful and magical Thanksgiving Ajen!


Lance November 23, 2011

Your message today…is so, so good.

We have just heard about a friend of ours – in perfect health – who died unexpectedly last evening – leaving behind her husband and two school aged children. We see them often, and just never really think that “this will be the last time”.

So, today – in challenging times (especially for friends of ours who lost a mother, a wife, a daughter) – I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the relationships I have and the family who loves and supports me. It’s so, so easy to take this all for granted – to think that “tomorrow will always come”.

Aileen – I’m grateful for you, and for the heart and soul you put into this space you have created, and for your wonderful support and friendship.

Wishing you much joy and peace this Thanksgiving…and always…
Lance´s last [type] ..What’s On Your Plate?


Aileen November 23, 2011

Lance, I’m so sorry for your loss! Loosing a friend is such an intense experience and when it’s unexpected like that, it’s like an inner earthquake.

I am grateful for you Lance! You share such magic, wonderment and meaning with the world around you. You truly make the world a better place.

i wish you and your family a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving day! I will keep your friend’s family in my prayers.


David Stevens November 23, 2011

This is very meaningful Aileen, you have left no stone unturned…..gratitudes to you and enjoy Thanksgiving in your part of the world.
be good to yourself
David Stevens´s last [type] ..Living Life Today – Excuses don’t cut it


Aileen November 28, 2011

Thank you David :)


Paige November 24, 2011

I love how you’ve gone way beyond the usual “what are you grateful for” message. Being grateful in difficult times can be a challenge. I have a daily practice of writing at least 10 things I’m grateful for. Some days I have a hard time stopping at 10 and other days it’s a challenge to think of more than five. When I’m feeling down, stressed, angry or some other negative emotion, the process of having to think of things I’m grateful for totally changes my outlook. At the same time I make myself smile a big smile (whether I feel like it or not) and hold it for at least 30 seconds. It’s hard to feel bad when your whole face says “happy.” And, as you mentioned, breathing deeply is amazing.
I totally agree with Ajen’s beginner’s mind philosophy. I have 3 young children who constantly remind me to take this view. The questions they ask about the most basic of things make me stop, think and wonder about the beauty that’s always all around us.
Thank you for all of your beautiful contributions!
Paige´s last [type] ..Implementing Gratitude: Everyday Thanksgiving


Aileen November 28, 2011

Hi Paige. Your tools for getting out of the negative emotions of being down, stressed, angry – are great! It takes action to move a person out of a negative state into gratitude and joy. The easy path is to just follow the emotional state, rather than go against the current. Having a daily habit of writing 10 things to be grateful for, choosing to smile big and hold it for 30 seconds – those are great! Like you said, it’s easier to do when we feeling “up” but oh so necessary to make a daily habit for the times we’re just not feeling the magic of life.

Thank you for sharing your insights :)


John Sherry November 27, 2011

Beautiful message Aileen, and one I’m wholeheartedly with. What saddens me is that at Thanksgiving and Xmas and Easter we all think and feel like this and then, boom, within a few days we’re back to me, me, me and the race for more. I was shocked to see people in the States on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) fighting, shoving, and cursing others scrambling in stores to save a few bucks in the sales. What on earth? This world will only change when people can have gratitude for life and other people and the world we live in more than the non-important things they buy and assets they covert. People value a 50′ TV more than a beautiful sunset or succeeding after a series of challenges. But, as they say, it begins with me……
John Sherry´s last [type] ..How To Get To The Top


Aileen November 28, 2011

Oh the Black Friday madness, I agree. I avoid the shopping frenzy, but many people see it as the perk of the Holiday. You are right on when you say, ” it begins with me” we have a choice in allowing ourselves to be the person we want to be, and to grow deeper in how we live aligned with our convictions – or to follow the general masses.


Ken Wert November 27, 2011

I’m so glad I found you here, Aileen!

I love the way you broke down gratitude and included feeling gratefuly for everyday things like paying bills, being released from a broken relationship, the sky and moon!

I agree that gratitude changes us deep inside, like turning on a bright light inside our souls. We see life differently, joyfully. We stop taking life and others, things and circumstances for granted. The mundane ceases really to be all that mundane. We appreciate the little and the big things. And we’re happier because of it.

Thanks for a wonderful post, Aileen. I look forward to stopping by again.
Ken Wert´s last [type] ..48 Unconventional Things I’m Grateful for … that I bet are not on your list!


Aileen November 28, 2011

“The mundane ceases really to be all that mundane. ” :) Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is it incredible how that happens? Just by giving attention to something, and seeing it’s uniqueness – we can tap into gratitude which shines a bright beautiful light – making everything more magical and radiant …”and mundane ceases really to be all that mundane.”
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your wisdom :)


Evelyn Lim November 28, 2011

I am grateful to be well today. The message of wellness is particularly strong for me this morning because my two girls are down with high fever. While they being ill present some inconvenience (need to reschedule all events for the day), I am mindful that I am well to take care of them and that this illness is just temporary.

I enjoyed your message about watching what we say. I have often found that this is being overlooked, even by some of those in the personal development field. The words that we use can carry an emotional charge to them. Words like “hate” or “loathe” have a negative vibe to them.
Evelyn Lim´s last [type] ..Law of Attraction Quotes – Thanksgiving Tribute


Galen Pearl November 30, 2011

What a beautiful post. I was surprised to see physical activity at the top of the list. I had not made that connection before. On the other hand, I am very aware that I feel less stress and more joy when I’m physically active, so once your pointed it out, the connection seemed obvious! Thanks so much.
Galen Pearl´s last [type] ..Spiritual Simplicity


Tess The Bold Life December 1, 2011

Hi Aileen,
Hubs and I do gratitude when we walk together. It really changes our brain chemistry. I swear. I also have 7 years of gratitude journals…then I quit for a year. I started again. Thanks for the reminder. There really is nothing to not be grateful for is there?
Tess The Bold Life´s last [type] ..Spend Less, Love More and Have a Happy Holiday!


Neseret December 8, 2011

Hi Aileen,

What a beautiful message about gratitude. You touched on so many things about gratitude that are so true to life. I can relate to the idea that difficult times and challenges will give you the opportunity to find strength.

In my own life going through hardship has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. I’m truly grateful to be living in a free country. I have the opportunity to persue my dreams and goals. Everyday I feel so thankful to have clean water, food and shelter.

When I tell people I lived in a war-torn country and in a refugee camp they always say “That must have been awful.” Although it wasn’t a walk in the park, looking back it has taught me many important things. Gratitude is at the top of the list.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful message. Wishing you many blessings and peace,

Neseret´s last [type] ..The Secret to Happiness


Carlos Ramirez January 17, 2012

This was a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing Aileen!


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