How to be grateful when everything sucks

Ever had someone tell you to cheer up, it’s not that bad? Or tell you so many other people have it worse, you should be happy/grateful?

We all have trials, whether they are big or small, the obstacles in our life can seem impossible and being told to cheer up or someone has it worse doesn’t help.

I have faced numerous obstacles in my life including domestic violence, homelessness as a single mother, parenting special needs kids, robbery of everything including my underwear, rape, Borderline Personality disorder, paralysis, a cancer scare and multiple surgeries, all within a few years (2012 to 2015). Yet, I have also turned those obstacles into opportunities and founded a company, became an international keynote speaker, won multiple awards including 3 Plutus awards and was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year. My obstacles turned my life around and one of the main reasons I was able to do that is gratitude. It’s on of the 10 tips and resources I used to go from homeless to CEO. You can download a free eBook with all 10 here.

Disclaimer: before we get into it, I have had mental health issues in my life and take mental health seriously. If you are depressed, have anxiety or feel you need help with your mental health, an attitude of gratitude is great BUT please see a doctor, speak to someone, use support lines if you need such as LifeLine on 13 11 14. I had a psychologist treat me for Borderline Personality disorder and there is no shame in getting help if you need it. Gratitude was one of the things that helped me a lot. 

How can you be grateful when everything is falling apart?

Learning to be grateful in dire situations takes practice. Back in 2012, after leaving my abusive husband I was robbed of everything including my underwear. I was devastated. I felt violated, alone and scared. That night, before the police arrived I sat down and wrote why I could be grateful and looked for opportunities in the situation. You can find what I wrote on that night here.

I included things like we weren’t home, I have insurance, it was just stuff that was taken and I was grateful to have a clean slate as everything I owned which was stolen had connections to my marriage. Now I had nothing.

It didn’t change the situation but it changed how I felt.

If you are facing a bad situation, ask yourself:
– What are the positives that can come from this?
– What lesson do I need to learn from this?
– How can I turn this into an opportunity? 

It didn’t change the fact I had been robbed. It did change how I felt about the situation. By choosing to be grateful and look for positives I was taking control of the situation and owning my experience instead of letting it control me.

How do you get into the habit of practising gratitude?

Being grateful, looking for opportunities and lessons in whatever situation you are facing is not going to be an automatic reaction overnight, it takes practice.

1.) Keep a gratitude diary
Make a daily habit of writing down at least 3 things you are grateful for every day. I had a gratitude diary I used for this purpose, but you could start each night with writing in your journal 3 things you are grateful for then documenting anything else you want.

2.) Ask yourself questions
Put the questions above (what are the positives that can come from this? What lesson do I need to learn from this? How can I turn this into an opportunity), in a note on your phone to refer to when needed. When something is happening and you need help, look at it, ask yourself those questions and write down your answers.

3.) Have positive discussions
When you talk with other people, instead of listing out all your problems or complaining about everything, discuss the good things in your life or if you do need to talk to someone about your problems, look for solutions as you do it. We all need someone to talk to and I am not saying don’t ask for help. Talk with whoever you need, look for solutions or ask them to help you look for solutions then take action. Don’t dwell on the negative.

Studies have shown the positive effects gratitude has on our health, career, relationships and life overall. In my life, when I have been consciously practising an attitude of gratitude, I have found it easier to find solutions to my problems, my personal life improves, I secure higher paying clients and get better work opportunities and more. My brain actively seeks out the solutions I want to the problems I face instead of focusing on the problem. As a result, my life improves.

When I am not focused on gratitude and I allow negative thoughts to consume me, I spiral down, things in my life don’t go the way I want/need and I find it difficult to dig myself out of the dark hole I end up in.

Do you practice an attitude of gratitude? What are you grateful for today?

*An attitude of gratitude should not be used to replace medication, your GP or specialist. If you feel the need to talk to someone or get further help make sure you reach out to places such as LifeLine (13 11 14) or BeyondBlue (1300 224 636) or make an appointment to see your doctor and get whatever help you need.