How to Practice Gratitude When Life is Hard

by | Aug 30, 2020

It’s easy to practice gratitude when you’re happy with the way your life is going.

But what about when times are tough?

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to be grateful when it feels like so much is wrong in my life.

When life is hard it’s easy to focus on the negative and it becomes a vicious cycle.

When you think negative thoughts, it breeds more negativity and before you know it, you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of wishing for a different life.

Knowing how to practice gratitude is the antidote to this. 


Right now, life is difficult (or downright brutal) for most of us. This COVID-19 issue has many of us at our lowest point in life.

Some of us are sick, have sick and dying loved ones, lost a job, and/or are broke.  How can we possibly be grateful during a time like this?!

As hard as it is to feel grateful when you feel like s***, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

I promise.

You might have to dig deep but I assure you there is plenty!


We take a lot of things for granted and forget to be grateful for small blessings.

Being grateful for the small things is just as important as the big ones.

Take a good look around you. I guarantee you will find lots of things you can be grateful for RIGHT NOW!


What is Gratitude


Google Dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”

I like this definition because it points out that gratitude can be practiced by returning kindness. It’s not a one-way street.

It’s win-win because everyone feels good!


Benefits of Gratitude


Gratitude improves all aspects of our lives and there are many scientifically-proven benefits of practicing gratitude.

Having an awareness of the positive impacts of gratitude will increase the likelihood of you trying to practice gratitude when life is hard.

3 key areas of our lives are improved when we practice gratitude:

  • Social
  • Physical
  • Emotional


Social Benefits of Gratitude

  • Improved relationships
  • A decrease in social comparison
  • Increase in social support
  • Improved likeability
  • Improved ability to forgive


Physical Benefits of Gratitude

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased desire for physical activity
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower stress levels


Emotional Benefits of Gratitude


Now that you are aware of the benefits, let’s get talking about how to practice gratitude.


Here are 8 ways to practice gratitude when life is hard…


1. Develop Perspective


Looking at the lives of others can put things into perspective and boost gratitude.

When you see the hardships of another, it can serve as a reminder of all that is going well in your life.

You can practice empathy, have compassion, and be helpful to those struggling while simultaneously feeling grateful you’re not in their position.

For example, during this brutal pandemic, my family still has a steady source of income coming in. This is not everyone’s experience and it reminds me of how fortunate we are.

Being financially secure during this crisis is something I frequently write on my gratitude list.

Another thing you can be grateful for during this terrible time is your health (provided you are healthy!).

When you look at those struggling with their health it can be a reminder to be grateful that you are well.





2. Start a Gratitude Jar


This is such a simple, fun, cool way to practice gratitude!

Take a jar and decorate it however you like (you can also buy a ready-to-go gratitude jar). Each day jot down a few things you’re grateful for on a small scrap of paper and toss it in the jar.

Over time, the jar will fill up and it will be a helpful reminder that there are lots of things in your life to be grateful for.

It’s also nice to read the notes from time to time, especially when you’re feeling down. It will give you an instant boost of gratitude and happiness!


3. Find a Gratitude Rock


This suggestion is simple (and might sound a bit silly) but effective!

To begin, find a rock you like – you might like the color, texture, or select it because the location you found it is meaningful to you.

Keep the rock somewhere you will notice it throughout the day and practice gratitude whenever you see it.

You can also keep it in your pocket and touch it throughout the day. Each time you reach in your pocket think of a blessing in your life.

This gratitude strategy works like charm to snap you into an abundance mindset!


4. Use Gratitude Quotes


I love quotes because they are a quick pick-me-up!

When you’re in a slump you might feel as if nothing is good in your life.

Using gratitude quotes when you’re feeling down is a perfect way to remember the positive things in your life.

Print out a list of your favorite gratitude quotes to have on hand when you need a reminder of your blessings.

Check out these 15 awesome gratitude quotes. My favorite is #3!


5. Start a Gratitude Journal


Most of you have probably heard about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.

I started keeping a gratitude journal a couple of months ago and I can honestly say it works!

Each morning I write down 5 things I am grateful for and take the time to elaborate on them.

I began this habit because of a course I’m taking. I am currently enrolled in a course offered by Yale University called The Science of Well-Being and one of the weekly assignments was to start a gratitude journal.

I liked the practice so much that I kept it up!

I find that it starts the day on a positive note and reminds me that there is plenty to be grateful even during hard times.

What you write down doesn’t have to be some big thing. There are lots of little things you can be grateful for, such as your morning cup of coffee, nice weather, or a good book (to name a few!)


6. Use Gratitude Journal Prompts


Using prompts is a great way to start using a gratitude journal. 

The prompts are helpful because they help you realize things to be grateful for that you might otherwise not have thought of.

If you’re looking for gratitude prompts I have a post to help you! Check out my post 31 Gratitude Journal Prompts to Boost Appreciation 


7. Try Gratitude Meditations


The benefits of meditating on gratitude are MIGHTY! Not only will you get all the benefits of regular mediation practice, but you’ll also feel more grateful (as the name suggests!).

Meditating on gratitude doesn’t need to be complicated. You can do this silently or with guided meditations.

I prefer to use guided meditations because they help me stay more focused.

You can find a TON of gratitude meditations for free on YouTube.

Here are two guided meditations you might find helpful:

Tony Robins 5-minute gratitude mediation

Gratitude Meditation (I love this one – it’s 11 minutes of ultimate relaxation!)


8. Play the Appreciation Game


This game is fun and is guaranteed to snap you out of any funk!

Gabby Bernstein (if you haven’t heard of her, she’s a spiritual teacher/speaker/author) created the game and recommends using it when you’re feeling negativity.

It’s simple – if you notice you’re thoughts are focused on the negative, start naming as many things as possible you’re appreciative of.

Name anything and everything that comes to mind – clean water, a cup of coffee, a roof over your head, health, technology (to name a few).

Negativity and gratitude can’t exist at the same time.

Play this game for as long as it takes (typically a couple of minutes is enough) and your mindset WILL shift to a more grateful, positive state.


I hope this post was helpful in showing you how to practice gratitude during hard times.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

101 Simple Things to Be Grateful For


What gratitude practice do you find most helpful? Leave a comment!


Until next time friends!

Jen x


  1. Thank you. This gratitude list helped me today. I shared your post on Twitter and Pinterest.

    • Thank you so much Jing! Very kind of you <3 I'm so happy to hear you found it helpful today :) Stay safe x

  2. very useful tips you have shared, this is really gonna help in actual life

    • I so happy you found it useful Sam! It’s tough to feel grateful when life is hard. This post was inspired by what is going on in the world these days. It was therapeutic for me to write it and I’m so happy others are finding it helpful too!


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Jen Ryan