Gratitude for Everything That Is Going More Than All Right

May 5, 2020

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you,’ that would suffice.”
—Meister Eckhart

Coping with loss and change is challenging at any time. When we’re experiencing daily losses and changes, as we are during this pandemic—the loss of many pleasurable activities; of deeply nourishing, face-to-face, skin-to-skin connections with loved ones; losses of people whose lives we have treasured—coping can be especially hard. Really, really hard.

The truly good advice, anchored in all our spiritual traditions, to still be thankful for whatever blessings we do have, can feel flimsy or clichéd in the face of disruption and malaise.

Yet the most reliable research from modern neuroscience and  behavioral sciences validates that ancient wisdom, irrefutably. Practicing gratitude has the power to shift our view of what we’re experiencing out of negativity, contraction, and reactivity and toward more receptivity, openness to learning, and optimism. The direct, measurable, cause-and-effect outcome of practicing gratitude is resilience.

There’s much wisdom in being truly grateful for everything that is going more than all right when we’re plowing through days when things are going terribly wrong.

Or even mildly wrong.

Or even just wearying.

Here are four ways to cultivate and deepen a gratitude practice. Even three minutes of practice a day can shift the way you approach and cope with anything difficult or challenging—anything at all.

1. Saying Yes to the Good

You can write your “thank yous” in a daily gratitude journal or text or email a gratitude buddy every evening, listing three things you are grateful for that day. The smile of a friend. Playing with a puppy. A warm cup of coffee. The smell of dinner cooking. Remembering and journaling nudge us to notice those good things as they are happening throughout the day. And the more we train our brains to notice, the more we will see. 

Every moment of the day, you can notice something good to appreciate. That you are alive and breathing. That you walked from one room to another with minimal effort. That the car started this morning and the computer booted up. That the warm cup of coffee tasted delicious and that you have plenty of coffee in the house. We begin to live in an abiding awareness of benevolence, moment by moment by moment.

2.  Being Grateful for the Bad Things That Didn’t Happen

The list of what didn’t go wrong can get pretty long pretty quickly when we’re paying attention. You didn’t slam your finger in the car door when a gust of wind suddenly blew it shut. You almost tossed an envelope with a check in it into the recycling but noticed in time. A precious cup, a gift from your brother, didn’t smash as it fell off the counter onto the kitchen floor. 

We learn to turn toward yes in every moment, and that deepens our awareness of abiding in benevolence.

Read Part 1 of this series:

3.  Finding the Silver Lining

Noticing “what’s right with this wrong” begins to build the muscles we need to cope when bad things happen. Such as: A moment of panic when the wallet was nowhere to be found sent you looking under the bed, where you discovered your son’s teddy bear, which had been missing for the last two weeks. 

Finding any “gift in the mistake,” finding the silver lining in a dark storm cloud, helps us weather tempests and downturns.

4. Expanding Gratitude to the Larger Web of Life

Extend your gratitude practice beyond the most immediate blessings—family and friends, health, good weather—to the larger web of life, to the many, many people who keep your life going, even if you have never met them: The people staffing your local hospital or pharmacy or veterinarian’s office, and the grocery stores, fire stations, gas stations, banks. The people growing your food and transporting it. The people risking their health to deliver the mail and recycle your garbage,

Accessing gratitude for being held in a sacred web of life, in a safety net of people who keep our lives going, shifts our sense of being and well-being back out to the bigger picture again. We can once again focus on the larger reality: There are many things that are going more than all right. 

Deepening our gratitude practice, along with cultivating other positive emotions, like kindness, compassion, joy, awe, and delight, is one of the most powerful tools we have for strengthening our capacity to cope with loss and recover our resilience and well-being. 

Many more practices (130+) are available in my book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. Many more tools are available as audio recordings at

Linda Graham, MFT, is a psychotherapist, mindful self-compassion teacher, and author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being.

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