“If you’re always grateful for the little things, it’s hard to avoid momentary happiness. It’s a lack of gratitude that often keeps us feeling down.”
There’s a little ritual Angel and I practice every single day, that can turn hard days into easier ones, and extremely difficult life situations into far better ones—and it won’t surprise you either. It’s the ritual of gratitude.
Of course, this is such a fundamental ritual, and yet it’s one we often forget to practice. But when we do practice diligently, it can quickly transform both our minds and our lives.
Let me give you a quick example. Just over a decade ago, I remember one specific night I was struggling with grief, and also feeling very stressed about being broke, without work, and unhappy with the direction of my life. I was depressed, and very lost.
But that night I pushed myself hard to put things into perspective. I wrote out a list of everything I was truly grateful for, even as everything in my life seemed to be going wrong. It ended up being a pretty long list, and I still have the list hanging on my home office bulletin board today. Some of the key things on it include:
- I am married to a loving, encouraging, beautiful woman named Angel.
- I am alive.
- I have a relatively healthy body.
- I have a roof over my head.
- I have loving parents and other extended family members, who I love.
- I have a few close friends.
- I have the ability to learn new things and grow.
- I can read.
- I can hear music.
- I can see the sun rise and set.
- I can run at the beach (at the time we lived in San Diego, walking distance to the ocean).
- I can taste delicious home-cooked food (Angel is a pretty darn good cook).
The list keeps going and going, of course, but you get the gist. The little yet marvelous things I was taking for granted every day were now in black and white right in front of me. The hard times I was struggling to cope with didn’t suddenly vanish, but things were put into better perspective. I was no longer focusing solely on the hard times with tunnel vision, but instead broadening my focus into the periphery of my life where a whole list of amazing things existed that could nurture my inner spirit.
Yes, there are incredibly painful parts of my life, and it’s OK to feel the pain they bring. But it’s also important that I remember the rest of my life too, and to also remember that even the painful experiences make life as intricate and remarkable as it is. Life would be impossible without challenges. There is no happiness without some sadness—one requires the other.
The makeover of my mindset and how I felt about my life in that moment, on that really hard night, was extraordinary. And it all stemmed from going back to the fundamentals—I found some gratitude.
I’ve used this same process dozens of times since that night, and it continues to make a world of difference:
- When someone upsets me, I try to find one thing about them I’m grateful for.
- When I catch myself procrastinating on a task, I look at why I’m grateful for a opportunity to complete the task.
- When I get sick or injure my body, I focus on how grateful I am to be alive and able to heal.
- When I lose someone I love, I grieve, but I am also grateful for the time and experiences I shared with them.
- When something negative happens with the work I do, I remember to be grateful for the ability to work and serve others, and that these challenges allow me to grow wiser.
- When someone doesn’t like me, or judges me unfairly, I do my best to be grateful that they care enough to even pay me some attention. Attention is time, and time is a gift.
The bottom line is that the art of being grateful on really hard days starts with you. And make no mistake about it: the secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. If you forget, begin again.
A few minutes per day spent journaling a gratitude list, or just reflecting on what you’re grateful for at the moment, can change your life. Do it every morning or evening, by setting a reminder alarm if you must, and see how it affects you.
Don’t rush through it either—don’t do it carelessly. Really try to feel genuine gratitude in your heart and mind for everything you list. Focus on the little miracles in your life. And appreciate all your progress too. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot through the ups and downs. Give yourself credit and gratitude for your resilience, and how far you’ve come.
If you’d like some additional support with this ritual, or just a bit more perspective, I invite you to listen to a recent podcast episode Angel and I recorded for you, entitled…
How to Find Gratitude When Everything Goes Wrong:
Also, you can subscribe for FREE to our whole podcast, THINK BETTER, LIVE BETTER (yes, it shares the title of our annual live event), and you can then listen to the first and second seasons (40+ episodes and counting) on your favorite podcast player right now (M&A on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts).
Now, it’s your turn…
Please let us know…
Which point mentioned above or in the podcast episode resonates with you the most today, and why?
Anything else to share?
We would love to hear from YOU in the comments sections below.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Diana Belland says
Our 28 year old daughter, the youngest of three, died by suicide in November, 2018. Four months later, I was diagnosed with ALS, a motor neuron disease which has no cure.
I have found it extremely challenging to live with both my grief and loss and my rapidly weakening body. Yet, as I read your gratitude list, I realized that there is still much that I can be grateful for and that I must focus on those things for the sake of my husband and two daughters who want me to survive as long as I can.
Thank you for acknowledging that life can throw extraordinarily painful challenges at us but that there are ways to cope and perhaps by doing so, indirectly help others in similar situations.
Perla milner says
Prayers for you to heal and so sorry for your loss.
Javaid Abbasi says
You are a gifted and mentally a very strong woman to have that kind of an attitude. I am truly impressed and proud of you. May God bless you and your entire family including the daughter you have lost and make you and your family even stronger both mentally and physically! I couldn’t have done it, not many people could have either! I lost my loving, my beautiful wife – my other half, my best friend and my soulmate – to breast cancer a little over a year and a half ago and I am still struggling very badly.
Ali Dorey says
Diana, I think you are amazing and definitely an inspiration. I have now resolved to do this practice each day! Sending you much love & many blessings for your life.
I lost a job a little over five years ago. They told me my position was being eliminated which ended up not being true. I had been bullied on this job and probably should have left it years before. Even though I was let go, I had to stay there for three months in order to get my severance package. It was an odd situation and very stressful at times.
Though I had worked on dealing with those who bullied me and especially with my boss who was the architect of the bullying, I chose to find a way to be grateful. I was grateful that I learned so much from this person through my work experience and through dealing with her treatment of me which was often unfair and mean-spirited. I was thankful that I learned how to better stand up for myself; I was grateful for the job I had had for 10 years making a great salary. And grateful that it would now be on my resume. I was also grateful for the people I had met while I was there.
Though it was a challenge to find gratitude, once I did I realize how helpful it was in my dealing with everything that was transpiring. Since then I have tried to incorporate that more into my life so I needed this reminder to do it more often and maybe make a longer list. So thank you for that and all you do to remind us how to live a better life.
WOW! You are an inspiration. I am grateful to have the chance to see this content!
Caroline Driver says
I’ve been reading this ‘gratitude makes you feel better’ thing on the internet for a few years now. It has always seemed trite, shallow, ‘New Agey’ in the worst kind of way, and, has to be said, as a Brit, rather a twee American idea. But recently I have found that, as long as I believe what I am being grateful for, not just trying to bluff my self, fake it till I make it, and as long as there are no underlying ripples of anxiety, I can find gratitudes that make me feel better. For example, I’m grateful for this beautiful sunrise, it’s transitoryness makes it more precious, will give me an uplifting feeling. Saying I’m grateful for this roof over my head, comes with strings of ‘but I don’t really like this busy main road right outside that kills our cats, and it needs too much work doing to it if we ever want to sell it’. Do you see? It has to be real, it has to be true, not just bluff, for me, to work.
Judith Morrell says
As a fellow Brit I agree and understand where you are coming from.
Dagmar Landsmann says
I have been reading your blog for a long time now… years, I believe. This is my first time commenting. The topic of gratitude is timely for me, as I have recently employed the practice, as well. I’m an entrepreneur, and about a year ago, someone started harassing me and sabotaging my business. This individual was posting libelous comments and lies on all social media. He hacked my web domain and toll free numbers (all of which had 2-factor authentication, but he provided bogus documents to the organizations that held these things…it’s frightening and disheartening how easily he was able to do all of it). Once he controlled my web domain he of course took down my business site and put up the most horrendous, bogus “site”, filled with lies about me. I filed a lawsuit, and 1 year later I finally have my web domain and toll free numbers back, plus an injunction forbidding this individual from contacting me or interfering with my business . He is getting around that by setting up fake profiles and writing bad reviews… I don’t know when or if his harassment is going to stop. Last week I was so blue, and I really wanted to snap out of it. I realized that it would help, if I focused on the positives of my life, the things I am grateful for. I decided to take it a step further, and on my business Facebook page, I am writing a Thankful Thursday post, where I write about a business, a product, or an aspect of my job, team or clients that I am thankful for. It may be “new agey”, as someone commented above, but it truly does lift your spirits and prioritizes what’s important in your life. Also, when I express gratitude for a team member, a client, or a product, I am making someone else feel good, too!
Thank you so much for reminding us all a very crucial & probably long forgotten regular practice.
These days, since the world is still facing the pandemic, it might be hard for some to figure out individual gratitude list. Though I have drawn a general one. Review & tell me if it doesn’t resonate.
1) In the battle of Personal Immunity, we can now eat & try to cook healthy balanced meals. Unlike the ones we used to pick or warm up from eat-out zones, throughout 5 working days. Then keep on worrying all the time about deteriorating health & gaining pounds.
2) We can practice personal & environmental hygiene more than ever, which we used to put away for some other free time. Plus, we have more time at hand to come up with ideas related to Go Green or turn Trash(which we fill into isolated lands) into Fuel.
3) We all around the world, at this time, can be a marvelous extended source of spreading more hopeful, loving & caring words whenever possible. Initiate among your family through small gestures & words, then pollinate. Even countries in the midst of war will surely feel it.
4) Learn to be with the ones you may not agree with more often, rather than bearing them. Leave them & yourself with joyful recall worthy memories.
Keep up the good work & take care a lot.
Ann C says
My parents were both from large families so I grew up with lots of cousins. My parents enjoyed family time with their siblings on a regular basis. Unlike one of my father’s siblings who didn’t approve of any of the rest of the family except ours, and raised their children to feel hostile toward them. I found myself getting aggravated about their attitudes and then quickly realized I can’t control any one else’s feelings or behavior. I started concentrating on my gratefulness for my parents and their attitudes and teachings. I slept well that nite. Thank you for reminding us all how important gratitude is in a happy and peaceful life.
It is true that life does get very hard at times. Specially, when you lose someone very dear to you.
However, writing down the things one is grateful for does help in seeing the brighter side as well, and when we write, we reinforce the fact that sadness comes as a wave and it shall pass like one.
Oh this post is so incredibly sweet. I read a book last year that told me to keep a gratitude journal, and I did for a while, and it felt good… but then I stopped. I don’t know. It felt a little like I was putting too much pressure on the things I’d suddenly deemed I was grateful for in writing. But I guess caring about things is a part of life, and you’re right, feeling grateful about things in dark times really puts a new, positive perspective on life.
When i lost my baby at only 6 weeks of pregnancy, i did not resent the Lord but rather the experience brought me closer to Him. Thanking Him for giving me the opportunity to feel a mother’s love to her child even just for a few weeks. It has been an insanely painful journey at times, but i have grown.
I spent most of my life being a pessimist and decided one day, that it wasn’t serving me well. For several years now, I’ve said a gratitude prayer every night when I first get into bed. It has made a real difference in my life. I worry less and am more patient. And honestly, some days it hard to be grateful but I always find someone or something worth my gratitude.
Jordan Justice says
I really understand that feeling. I live with grief and It over powers me daily. I have turned to God and I also started a blog myself. I really enjoyed your blog and I look forward to reading more.
I’m grateful to read this kind of content, specially today, that some of people including me experiencing overthinking, anxiety and depression due to the ongoing pandemic, wherein people like me needs motivation in these hard times situations without much outside access to it. This blog and podcast reminds me to be grateful and present.
I recently shared your books and blog with a friend needing help. She is in the same place I was years ago when I found your work. So thankful that you continue to do what you do!
Gratitude is simple, but not easy when times are tough. Thank you for these reminders. They are helping me today.
Naveen Bommakanti says
I do not have any words to express my feelings to the inspiration you have given with your positive rays of hope and the righteous mindset which can heal even the cursed soul. Every insight you have mentioned resonated with my past and the present of my life. I am so thankful and grateful to find you to share the common pain and inspiration thank you so much sir. God bless you 🙂
Alex Tucker says
Gratitude is my shield, in a world full of swinging swords. That’s why I reinforce it every morning and every night! Thanks for this beautiful piece.
Wow, Alex, I love that. Very poetic. I’ve included it in my quote book.
I view the world as a beautiful place and our brief time here a privilege. Experiencing the difficult times is a part of that beautiful, complicated package.
I lost my sister to cancer, and ultimately chose gratitude for our relationship and years together over bitterness over her loss, which would have focused on her death instead of her wonderful life. Death and loss are the sword, love, shared experience and gratitude the shield. Thank you for the metaphor.
Thank you for this wonderful hopeful guidance and insights it is truly great. Kindest Regards K
Ali Dorey says
Wow! Such a simple practice, really, yet another one that I’ve habitually put aside to ‘do later’. I think I deserve a gold medal for procrastination!! So, thank you Marc (& Angel) for this & thank you everyone above who has shared their insights. I’m definitely going to practice this each & every morn & night from now on, my ‘shield in a world full of swinging swords’. Genius.
Thank you from another brit over the pond, waving to you from the North Cornish coast!!
Steve L Smith says
Us fellow humans are hard-wired to bitch and complain about things we do not have, things we want, how other people treat us, and so forth.
All of us are richly blessed, regardless of our circumstances. For instance, I’m 68 and married once, now divorced. I would love to have the right woman in my life, yet I don’t. However, I am grateful and thankful that I’m not stuck in a miserable relationship like so many people.
When I was 48, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After I hung up the phone from the urologist, I literally got down on bended knee and thanked God I didn’t have brain cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, Parkinson’s and dozens of other much worse conditions. I also was grateful that I caught the cancer in plenty of time.
When I get down at this stage of my life, I look around me and I see all the “special angels” that God has sent to me with the message, “Hey, what do you have to bitch about? You could be like them.”
Although I don’t have everything I want, I am grateful and thankful that I have everything I need.
Perla milner says
My thanking you, and G d in my response goes with many exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
Mary Ann says
My odessy began over two years ago when my husband became sick with cancer. I cleared my calendar and took care of him for six months. Our children were involved as well, giving us incredible support. He died on Jan. 25, 2020. When I was ready to get out again, I was with friends and family, going out to eat and getting lots of support. This lasted two weeks, Covid hit and I did my brutally hard grieving in self-isolation. Very, very hard. We were together for 55 years. I had some grieving groups on Zoom. As time went on my children and I realized I was so isolated where I lived, so we sold the condo and I moved into a Retirement Community. I am now coming out all over again and I feel almost overwhelmed by it. I do have some things here for me that I’m interested but also feel sometimes that the people here are so much older than I am. My adjustment at this point is to figure out how to get myself out there with more socialization. Everything just seems a little overwhelming and not knowing what to do first. I have a neuropathy so am limited in my ability to get to some places. Because of the neuropathy, my husband did so much for me in the past. Now I have to keep up the slack. I’m also so lonely, never have lived alone before and don’t like it, miss him so much. Want to move on and make a new life for myself but it’s a little harder than I thought it would be.
This was a really great read. I think alongside practicing gratitude, you should also get into the habit of repeating positive affirmations. Words have great power whether it is written down or spoken.
Another tip could be to start replacing negative speech with positive speech. For example, if you and your friends have a bad habit of gossiping, when you are together speak to each other about what you are grateful for and who you are grateful of. Replace negative words with good ones.