11 Habits for Cultivating Gratitude (Even in Hard Times) - a little dose of happy - aldohappy.com Blog

11 Habits for Cultivating Gratitude (Even in Hard Times)

Gratitude is a beautiful thing. It’s the silver lining in every cloud and the light that guides us out of the darkness.

a growing flower with the sun shining through it

When times are tough, it can be difficult to feel grateful. But practicing gratitude is one of the most important things we can do for our mental and emotional well-being.

This article will discuss 11 habits for cultivating gratitude, even in the most challenging times.

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude, or gratefulness, is the quality of being thankful and appreciative. It is an acknowledgment of the good things in our lives, even when everything else seems to be going wrong.

Gratitude has long been recognized as a powerful emotion that helps us cope with life’s challenges. In recent years, researchers have begun studying its benefits in clinical settings, finding that practicing gratitude helps relieve stress and improves physical health, mental health, and happiness.

How a Deep Sense of Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times

Fostering gratitude helps us find meaning and hope.

Expressing gratitude allows us to focus on the good in our lives. It helps us live in the present and develop a positive outlook on the future.

Expressing gratitude also helps us savor good experiences and build positive emotions that can buffer us against the harmful effects of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Those who express gratitude are more likely to see the glass as half full and find the positive during difficult times. Grateful people are more resilient and adaptable and recover from setbacks more quickly.

And grateful people are more likely to always choose kindness, help others and give back to their communities. In turn, they benefit from the social support, connectedness, and sense of belonging that comes from these actions—critical things during hard times.

Habits to Help You Cultivate Gratitude

So, how can you cultivate gratitude?

The answer is simple: by practicing gratitude regularly!

Like any habit, it takes time and effort to develop gratitude. The good news is there are many things you can do.

Here are 11 habits for cultivating gratitude:

1. Count Your Blessings

woman smelling flowers she's holding in her hands

Counting your blessings is a wonderful and easy way to cultivate gratitude.

Start each day by taking a few minutes to think about what you are grateful for. You can be grateful for anything from your health to your family and friends or simple things like having a roof over your head and food on the table.

You’ll be surprised by how many things you feel thankful for in your everyday life when you start looking for them!

If you struggle to find things to be grateful for, try thinking about the things in your life that you are lucky to have – people and items, tangible and intangible, whose absence would make your life much harder.

Then, create a gratitude list as a convenient reminder of what makes you smile. Review this list regularly, adding to it as you think of new things.

2. Celebrate Small Wins

man jumping for joy

It’s easy to take the small, everyday wins for granted. But taking a moment to celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how big or small, can help you feel grateful for your progress and motivated to keep going.

Start by noticing the positive things you achieve each day, no matter how small. Include things like making your bed in the morning, nailing a presentation at work, or cooking a delicious meal.

Then, take a moment to savor each accomplishment. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath and smiling or patting yourself on the back.

Celebrating small wins makes you feel good in the moment and helps you develop a positive mindset that carries over into other areas of your life.

3. Surround Yourself With Positive People

female friends laughing together while standing in a field of sunflowers

One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to surround yourself with positive people. When you’re surrounded by people who make you feel good, it’s easy to be grateful.

Look for friends, family members, and colleagues who make you feel happy, supported, and appreciated. These positive feelings will rub off on you, and you’ll feel even more grateful for all the good things in your life.

Conversely, try to avoid toxic people who drain your energy and make you feel bad about yourself. These relationships can chip away at your positive attitude and make it harder to feel grateful.

Reflect on the people in your life and determine who you’re grateful for. These people brighten your day, make you laugh, and support you through thick and thin. Cultivating relationships with these positive people should be a top priority.

4. Start a Gratitude Journal

woman writing in a journal

Gratitude journaling is a simple yet powerful way to cultivate gratitude. Writing down what you’re grateful for forces you to notice the good things in your life.

Every day, take a few minutes to write down things you’re grateful for in your journal. This can be anything from your morning cup of coffee to a friend’s kind words.

Over time, you’ll develop a habit of looking for the positive things in your life, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you have to be grateful for! This daily gratitude habit will help you see the silver lining on even the most difficult days.

By writing things down, you’ll create a written record of all the great things you have and all the great experiences you’ve had. You can reflect on your journal entries when you’re feeling down and be reminded of all the good in your life.

Get started today by picking up a physical journal or downloading the Do Happy App, which is tailored specifically for gratitude journaling and curating photos of happy moments from every day.

5. Write a Gratitude Letter

man sitting outside writing in a journal

Writing a letter of gratitude is a powerful way to cultivate gratitude.

Think of someone who has positively impacted your life – a family member, friend, mentor, teacher, or even a stranger. No matter who you choose, take some time to think about what they’ve done that has made a difference in your life.

Once you’ve decided who to write your letter to, sit down and start writing! Express how grateful you are for their positive impact on your life and how they’ve helped you become the person you are today.

Be specific, sincere, and honest in your letter. Write from the heart and tell them how much their kindness and support mean to you.

Consider delivering the letter in person via a gratitude visit so you can be with them when they read it. It’ll be a heartfelt moment you’ll both treasure for years to come.

6. Celebrate Thankful Thursdays

Make gratitude a weekly habit by setting aside one day each week to celebrate everything you’re thankful for. Thankful Thursday is a catchy day to choose, but any day of the week will work, and you should choose the day that works best for you!

Set aside time each week to reflect on your blessings. This is the perfect time to review your gratitude list and add any new items. It is also the perfect opportunity to check in with loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you.

Here’s a suggestion: each week on Thankful Thursday, perform an act of kindness. You can help someone you’re grateful for or do something nice for a stranger so they have a reason to be thankful too!

7. Perform Random Acts of Kindness

a mural of diverse hands raised with hearts and the words "Love and kindness are never wasted"

A great way to cultivate gratitude is to perform random acts of kindness. These acts can be big or small, but they should be completely unexpected and out of the ordinary.

You can do something as simple as holding the door open for someone or complimenting a stranger. Or you can go above and beyond, like buying someone’s coffee or donating to a local food bank. (Need more ideas? Check out some of our favorite random acts of kindness ideas!)

When you do something nice for someone else, it results in both you and them feeling good!

And, when you make kindness a habit, it becomes easier to bring more gratitude into your everyday life.

8. Be Positive on Social Media

person at a coffee shop leaving a positive review online

In today’s world, it’s easy to spread negativity. To counter this, make an effort to post positive, uplifting content on your social media channels.

You can share things you’re grateful for, kind words about others, or inspirational quotes that make you feel good. Whatever you do, just be sure to spread positivity!

You’ll create a happy space for yourself and others by filling your feeds with positivity. And who knows? You might inspire someone else to begin a gratitude practice of their own!

9. Reframe Bad Situations

smiling woman looking up, thinking positively

Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. We all have tough times, and it’s easy to dwell on the negative when things go wrong. But did you know that you can use difficult situations as an opportunity to practice gratitude?

When you reframe bad situations with a grateful perspective, you’ll start to see the good in them.

For example, if you get stuck in traffic, instead of getting frustrated, be thankful for the extra time to listen to your favorite podcast. Or if you spill coffee on your shirt right before a meeting, be grateful for the chance to show off your sense of humor!

Of course, we’re not saying every cloud has a silver lining. But if you’re in a bad situation, there is no better time than in the present moment to try to find reasons to be grateful!

By looking for the good in tough situations, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one. By changing your perspective, you’ll find it easier to deal with what you’re going through.

10. Adjust Your Expectations

When you have unrealistic expectations, it’s easy to get disappointed and focus on what you don’t have. But when you adjust your expectations, finding gratitude is much easier.

While it’s good to have high expectations, especially for yourself, setting expectations too high may unnecessarily set you up for failure.

So instead of expecting perfection, aim for progress. Focus on the things within your control, and take pride in the little successes.

Instead of comparing yourself to others and what you don’t have, focus on yourself, your own journey, and what you do have.

When setting expectations for others, try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. If you expect too much from them, you’re bound to be disappointed.

So, adjust your expectations to what someone can realistically offer – you’ll be much more likely to appreciate them for who they are and what they do!

When you let go of unrealistic expectations, you’ll find it easier to feel grateful.

11. Forgive Yourself and Others

two smiling friends in an embrace

Forgiving others and yourself is important if you want to feel truly grateful.

Holding onto anger and resentment will only make you feel bitter and take you down a path of negativity. Let go of any negative emotions you’re holding onto and make room for gratitude. You need to do this for both yourself and your loved ones.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Rather than dwelling on your mistakes, it’s much more productive to acknowledge that a mistake was made, learn from it, and move forward with life.

Focus on the progress you’ve made and the life lessons you’ve learned. Be proud of your achievements, no matter how big or small.

Forgiving others is equally as important. Remember that most people, especially those who care about you, won’t wrong you out of spite. Maybe they had a bad day or are going through a difficult time – we frequently aren’t aware of someone else’s circumstances.

Instead of anger, use this as an opportunity for gratitude meditation. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. Remember, a good friend always has your best interests in mind and truly cares about your well-being. Express gratitude for that and forgive them for any mistakes they may have made.

There’s a lot in life we can’t control. But what we can control, and what people will remember, is how we act during difficult times. Showing compassion, understanding, and forgiveness will always be remembered and appreciated.

So, forgive yourself, forgive others, and feel gratitude for the love and support that surrounds you and the opportunity to learn and grow from every experience.

Final Thoughts

Gratitude is a state of mind, and it’s always possible to find something to be thankful for, no matter what life throws your way. By taking the time to appreciate the good things in your life, you’ll feel more positive, hopeful, and optimistic.

smiling man in a red sweater and red glasses looking up

Life will inevitably have its ups and downs. How you react to both the good and bad moments is what counts.

So harness the power of positive psychology and look for the silver linings in even the most difficult of times. You’ll find that gratitude is the best attitude 🙂


For more happiness inspiration, check out these a little dose of happy resources:

Sharing is caring!