Practicing gratitude with a gratitude journal during life's hard moments

Throughout our lives, everybody will experience times that test your optimism, motivation, and ability to be thankful. In the face of financial, emotional, physical, or spiritual challenges, your feelings of pessimism and apathy are completely valid and understandable.

But although it's important to know negative feelings in response to difficulties are normal and that you are entitled to them, try to maintain the journaling habits you established during easier times. Not only will this help to keep your spirits up, but it can also set the stage for better, brighter things to come.

Although we say all this, we also know how hard it can be to stay in a grateful mindset when there doesn't seem to be much to be thankful for. Here are two important tips to help.

1. Accept your feelings.

You won't get anywhere if you're constantly trying to reject your negative feelings, because all your energy will be spent on the one task of avoiding your emotions. Additionally, trying not to feel usually leads to extremely critical and hurtful self-talk. How often have you thought of your feelings as "dumb," or called yourself "stupid" or "weak" for experiencing them? This kind of talk can be very harmful, adding "low-self esteem" to the difficulty you're already experiencing.

Give yourself time to feel how you must. Scream or cry or write out your negative thoughts or listen to sad music until the feelings pass. Then you can begin to heal through gratitude.

Hold yourself accountable

You will be much more motivated to work towards your goals if you have some form of accountability for your actions. For some people, internal accountability is enough. Just tracking your goals every day in a journal can be enough motivation to make them happen. For others, external accountability is necessary for success. If this is you, try telling friends and family about your goals and asking them to check in with you. You'll feel more motivated if you know that other people have expectations of you. 

2. Review old entries in your gratitude journal.

If you're really struggling to find positive things in your life right now, page through old gratitude journal entries. You'll smile as you recall the fond memories you have and the fantastic moments you've been lucky enough to experience. And chances are, you'll find some common threads from one entry to the next - threads that you can see the influence of in the present moment.

After you've gained inspiration from the past, you can begin journaling for the present. Your entries may be small at first, but they will grow as you get back into the habit.

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