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Gratitude in Adversity

I once had a neighbor who was very fragile in her age. When I’d ask her how she was doing, she would always respond, “I am counting my blessings. That’s what counts. Things don’t have to be one way all the time. Changes happen and I go with them and laugh instead of growl.” I loved her attitude, even though she was ill and up in years. She was accepting changes with a positive and grateful perspective.

“The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.” – Henri Nouwen

When we struggle with mental, emotional, physical or relationship challenges, it is difficult to feel thankful and show gratitude. This can easily happen when we buy into unhelpful thoughts such as: If I didn’t experience this illness, I would be happier. I could’ve been more successful, if it weren’t for anxiety. I should’ve been more competent, so I could enjoy my job better. My depression got in the way of my relationships. These types of thoughts can only pull us down into a self-rejection trap causing more anxiety, depression, hopelessness, regret and despair.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

It has been said that we need to focus on the donut and not the hole in the middle because what matters most is the delicious stuff around it. Are you able to see what you possess despite the missing piece? 

Some of us may say, “I got a donut without a hole. I just don’t like it!” We may wish we could exchange our donuts with someone else’s. But the second we start comparing, the suffering is often magnified. 

Some people are brave enough to share their troubles. Later we may breathe a sigh of relief saying, “I think I’ll keep my donut. I wouldn’t want their donut!” Life will grant us certain trials and what matters most is how we respond to them. We know that one sure way to help us during adversity is the ability to choose gratitude. Here are just a few ideas to help you develop a grateful attitude.

Find gratitude in everyday activities:

  1. Go on a walk and notice your amazing body. Your legs and feet make it possible for you to walk and go about living your life. Your senses can help you appreciate the beauty all around you. They also enable you to notice the unpleasant and dangerous parts of the world. If it weren’t for your body and mind, you would not be able keep out of situations that may threaten you.
  2. Sit quietly for two minutes and notice what your mind says. Indeed, it is a wonderful gift providing you with advice all day long. It’s a problem-solving genius, but at times it overworks and provides unhelpful guidance. When you buy into the mind’s rules and evaluations it can lead you to get entangled into all kinds of emotional traps. Be grateful for your active mind. Some day in the future, it will go silent, and thoughts won’t matter anymore.
  3. When you are hungry in the middle of the night, you can just turn the light on, open your refrigerator and grab a snack. This activity is something most of us forget is a comfort that more than one billion people in the world don’t enjoy.*
  4. When you grab that snack before taking your first bite, consider all the events that took place so you could eat it. Who and what made it possible for you to savor and be nourished by it today?
  5. When you’re sleeping and a storm wakes you up, notice the roof over your head and be grateful for it.
  6. That miniature computer you carry with you everywhere, even into sleepless nights was created by amazing human minds. It influences how you study, work, socialize, exercise, parent, entertain, and communicate with the world. How mindful are you of your smartphone’s power in your life?
  7. No one is immune to emotional winters, but when the fog begins to dissipate do you remember to appreciate the clearing and perhaps the lessons you’ve learned?
  8. Take a moment every night to notice who and what may have lightened your day. Keep a record of it. It will help you recognize the blessings all around.
  9. Are you doing what matters most despite the pain you’re experiencing now?
  10. What actions will you take to develop a mindset of gratitude today?

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” -David O. McKay

*Lindeman, T. (2015, November 6). 1.3 Billion are Living in the Dark. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/world-without-power/.

Gratitude in Adversity


Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S

Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S is the owner and clinical director at Mindset Family Therapy. Her practice specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults coping with anxiety and family challenges. Her expertise is working with obsessive-compulsive disorder and (OCD) related disorders. Annabella is the author of two children’s books, “Emma’s Worry Clouds” and  “Nico the Worried Caterpillar.” She is also the co-author of “The Masterpiece Mindset: Empowering your Kids to be Confident, Kind, and Resilient.” She enjoys writing for various online magazines and her business blog. You can reach her at http://mindsetfamilytherapy.com/.


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APA Reference
Hagen, A. (2019). Gratitude in Adversity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/gratitude-in-adversity/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 4 Dec 2019 (Originally: 5 Dec 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 4 Dec 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.