Why Gratitude Is Essential When Facing Tough Times at Any Age
I know it sounds completely counter-intuitive, even paradoxical. Giving gratitude during tough times. How nonsensical, not to mention challenging, is that?
Many of us in the Sixty and Me community are practicing (or at least attempting to practice) gratitude on a regular basis.
We’re keeping gratitude journals, we are trying to express gratitude to our significant others and to those with whom we come into daily contact, and we are trying hard to focus on all things positive in our lives – from the simple to the sublime. It’s so easy to do when things are going well.
But what happens when hard times come; really hard times? That dreaded call from the doctor’s office. A financial crisis that cleans out our savings. The death of a loved one. How in the world do we muster up the energy to give thanks and express gratitude during those times?
In All Things
I remember a sermon preached by my favourite pastor many years ago. He taught the importance of ‘giving thanks in all things’. He emphasized that Scripture did not advocate giving thanks FOR all things, but rather IN all things.
Why, then, is it essential to express gratitude and thanks at all times and especially during the tough times? I believe it is because the power of gratitude is transformative. Not that it will necessarily transform our situations (although it has the power to do that), but because gratitude transforms us.
American author Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
I’ve recently come through a really difficult month. Unanticipated and costly home repairs, getting scammed by an appliance service technician, some major and minor health issues, and a savings account that has been completely depleted as a result.
Every time my thoughts went to that scammer technician, I would start to hyperventilate, which exacerbated my levels of anxiety. As a result, I’ve been distraught and disturbed, a.k.a. a nervous wreck!
When I opened my gratitude journal the other day, I became aware that I hadn’t recorded anything all month. Of course not, why would I?
However, reading through my previous journal entries reminded me that I still have much to be grateful for, despite my current situation. I still have a lovely home and I have some wonderful and supportive friends who have been there for me during this tough time.
I have many meaningful and enjoyable activities and hobbies in my life which sustain me and propel me forward. I am still able to work part-time.
The very challenging scenarios which I experienced in the past decade have made me a more empathetic and compassionate person, sensitive to the needs of others who may be hurting.
It’s so important to see these reminders in writing. When I focus on the blessings in my life, even my breathing slows down and I am able to feel calm again. So much of our happiness has to do with our focus and what we are thinking about. It’s impossible to feel thankful and negative at the same time.
Gratitude changes our perspective and our outlook on life. It breathes hope into our thoughts, our moods, and our days. It enables us to move beyond the disappointments and losses in life.
While it takes time to heal from grief and loss, without the hope which gratitude infuses, we may not ever be able to move forward.
The next time I am facing tough times, I won’t wait so long to open my gratitude journal.
How do you practice gratitude during tough times? How has this habit helped you? What kind of things remind you to practice gratitude even when things aren’t going well? Please share your experiences with our community!