Finding Gratitude in Hard Times

“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.” –Doris Day

Several years ago, I went to my friend’s parent’s home and I will never forget the experience. I knew they had struggled with unemployment and money issues for many years yet the feelings of love and warmth in that home overwhelmed me and have stuck with me since. On their fridge was a picture with some sentiments, like the one below:

It was so impactful to me. Here I stood in a house where electrical and water bills were struggling to be paid, yet they were aiming to be grateful for the things they DID have. 

How many times do you and I get bogged down with life and our personal struggles? I know I do. It is so easy to only see the difficult things…to only focus on what is going wrong in our lives and to feel sorry for ourselves. I believe that is human nature. It is not inherently wrong. 

This holiday season is a wonderful and magical time of year for many reasons, but I believe one of the first among this long list is that we are given the opportunity to see outside ourselves. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for what we have, to celebrate and honor whatever our bounty looks like. Christmas is a time to serve others and reach beyond ourselves as we may give of our time, money or other resources. It warms our hearts to be there for other people–even in small and simple ways. We have all likely experienced the boost or lift that comes from practicing gratitude or taking part in selfless acts. Getting outside of our life troubles puts them into perspective.

The bottom line is that focusing less on ourselves or on what is wrong in our lives, actually helps us more than ruminating about our situation. Which is why I want to do a little gratitude exercise with you. My hope is that the following will help us each be a little more grateful in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves:

  1. Grab something to write with (pen, paper, phone, computer, ipad etc).
  2. Look around your house or your office or your car or wherever you are. What is something that is WRONG or bothersome about your situation? (Example: My laundry room is overflowing with clothes–both dirty and clean.)
  3. Think about how you can spin that negative into a positive. My unattended and overflowing laundry room means I have clothes to wear! It means I have a washing machine and a dryer which are blessed modern inventions. It means I have electricity and running water! It means I have more than one outfit to choose from. It means I have clothes for different occasions/seasons. It means my clothes can smell good and not be stinky after I wash them. It means I have a room for clothes which means I have a house and a warm place to sleep and I am not homeless or stuck outside in the cold. It means I have space to live and possessions I value. 
  4. Write down how this makes you feel grateful. I am beyond grateful to take soiled clothes and simply place them inside a machine and not have to spend laborious amounts of time washing all my clothes, towels, and sheets by hand in a river or a bucket (not to mention hanging them to dry on a clothesline). Yes, laundry takes time, but it takes nowhere near the amount of time that it would have if the washing machine/dryer had not been invented!
  5. Repeat as many times as you would like. 🙂

What a simple, yet powerful exercise!

I find myself talking with friends, family members, and clients about this principle throughout the year–not just around the holidays. It is always applicable. We always have so much to be grateful for. Even when things are hard–and I know some of you are going through really difficult, life-altering hard circumstances right now–we can always find something to be grateful for. The following quote by Melodie Beattie rings so true to me: 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

My hope for us this holiday season and always is that we can find and honor the good in our life. Even if it comes from something bad or undesirable, we can learn to see it in a positive light. There is goodness all around us if we choose to see it. 

Happy Holiday Season, everyone!

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.