How to feel gratitude when you’re hurting, or anxious, or suffering or grieving?  Almost all of us need ways to cultivate gratitude, but more about that later. Why we need gratitude is the first question. Those who have the gratitude habit do better, and here’s why. Gratitude is a central human emotion that enhances your quality of life. It soothes you and makes you live longer and better and kinder. But feeling gratitude in the face of adversity is a real challenge millions of people face every day. How can you be grateful when a flood has devastated your crops or your town, or you aren’t working, or loved ones have been lost to Covid?

How can you feel gratitude when addiction is in your family is another challenge

In families where there is substance or alcohol use disorder, there is constant conflict and chaos. Children are bound to be scared and hurting. What can we do to help our children? Adults are suffering in dysfunctional families, too. Maybe you’re trying to overcome grief for a loved one you have lost to addiction. So many people of all ages are stuck in a grieving place and can’t find peace. Here’s how gratitude can help, but first, what is it?

Gratitude definition

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It includes your readiness to show appreciation for many things and people and your ability to return kindness with kindness. 

Here are some synonyms for gratitude

  • acknowledgment;
  • appreciativeness;
  • grace;
  • gracefulness;
  • gratefulness;
  • praise;
  • recognition;
  • requital;
  • responsiveness;
  • thankfulness.

These words of gratitude and thankfulness are an essential component to most religions, but how to get there.

What are the benefits of gratitude

Here’s the science of feeling grateful no matter how difficult or painful your situation.

  1. You’ll sleep better. One study showed that after just two weeks of keeping a gratitude diary two or three times a week, increased optimism and positivity helped people sleep easier.
  2. You are certain to have better relationships. Yes, our loved ones and partners are often annoying, but when we actively feel grateful for the wonderful things they bring to us, you are more likely to chat about chat about your day and enjoy each other.
  3. A spouse who unexpectedly completes a task needs a pat on the back. That’s gratitude in action.

How to feel grateful when you’re crazed

Are you impatient when you have to wait? Here’s where feeling grateful about the little things can calm your frustration and give a little lift to your power over yourself. How to feel it?

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Look around you. What do you see? A pretty sky, a roadside sign that makes you smile? A duck crossing the road? A stranger smiling at a child?
  3. Are you hearing a song on the radio that you love?
  4. Feel grateful for the radio.
  5. You want better self control? When you can feel gratitude for what you have, waiting doesn’t seem so terrible.
  6. If you can imagine a resolution or solution or better future, you can feel grateful for your own positivity.

Here’s the biggest benefit of all: Gratitude makes you happy

“Gratitude is a powerful way to boost well-being,” says Amie Gordon, PhD, a research scientist at the University of California, San Francisco. A growing body of research links regular doses of gratitude to better sleep, greater happiness, and possibly even lower blood pressure. “And the times when it feels hardest to practice gratitude? That may be when you get the most out of it.

But how to feel gratitude when your habit is to count your irritations

Humans adapt to their situations, and this is a good thing when things are falling apart in your life. It is natural to have a litany of woes, but our monkey brains tend to hold onto those challenges and annoyances far more than turning negative feelings around to feeling good for the good things. It can become a habit to list life’s horrors, as well a life’s annoyances and relationship conflicts. Feeling the opposite of gratitude, like resentment, impatience, annoyance, pain, gets in the way of being happy and making happiness for others. Collecting gratitude quotes can be a great reminder.

Robert Emmons, PhD, a leading expert on the science of gratitude, defines it as an awareness and appreciation for the goodness in our lives. It happens when we recognize the source of good as outside ourselves—say, Aunt Jean, who made you the cozy socks, or Mother Nature, who provided the dazzling night sky. Because it is “other-focused,” gratitude can also act as “emotional spackle” in relationships. When you acknowledge your spouse for that emergency dry-cleaning run, your exchange may bring you closer.

Being grateful is a habit you can cultivate 

Here’s how. “Think of yourself as a curator of your own moments of joy,” says writer A.J. Jacobs, whose book on gratitude, Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, is out this month. “Your goal is to collect the good stuff.”

Here are some ways to collect the good stuff. Appreciate your blessings. Thank the people who help you, whether it’s the postman, or storekeeper. Whoever is kind or helpful needs a thanks, and you will have the benefit of feeling grateful. Use new words to say thank you. Make a list (that gratitude list) of things that went well or things you love. If you don’t feel the love for people, you can feel the love for your morning coffee or your pet. Use all your senses. What smells good? Does something make you laugh? Have you gotten a hug recently? How does that make you feel? Read more about feeling gratitude at Health.com:

Every tiny bit of positivity that you add to your imagination and life can bring you closer to feelings of gratitude. Get started and keep going. You can raise your self awareness with self help books. You can start your own gratitude journal.


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation. Leslie is a proud member of Rotary International.

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