How to stay grateful in adversity

Posted on 04 September 2012

You might remember our post on practicing gratitude... but wonder to yourself, ‘how do I stay feeling grateful when bad things are happening?’

Well, honestly, in the past I haven’t been that good at seeing positives during times of stress. My emotions tend to overtake me and then much later, when all has calmed down I try to reflect on how I could have handled things better. However, last night I realised that I’ve come a long way in the past few years.

Let me explain… I took this photo at around 530am this morning as the sun was coming up and the moon was disappearing. I couldn’t sleep because my body was still pumping with adrenalin.

At 330am I was woken by our downstairs neighbour because the pipe under our sink had burst, flooded our flat (the water was above my ankles!) and was coming through her ceiling.

I went into shock and I was shaking but we both sprung into action, doing what had to be done. I’m so grateful for her help and then the hard work from my landlord and his daughter (my friend) who came over at this strange hour to help me (Jean is currently in Canada).

After 2 hours all of the water was out of our flat and I had time to myself – I couldn’t sleep but I felt strangely happy! I could hear the birds singing, I could see the sun rising and the moon disappearing – that’s when I took this photo. I felt grateful for such amazing, kind people who I have only met in the 3 months since I arrived in La Paz. I also felt grateful that Jean and I don’t have that much stuff actually, and very little of it on the floor. Also, I’m often overwhelmed by the generosity of people everywhere. These experiences with amazing people help counterbalance all the negative things we hear about in the world. 🙂

So, it was an eventful night, with some stress of course (especially when I was worried about being electrocuted!) but the world brought me perspective, grounded me, gave me balance, taught me gratitude just by showing me the beginning of the new day and I was reminded that it’s how we deal with things that matters most….

Below is another photo I took this morning, when I was sitting with our strawberries, drinking coffee in the sun and feeling the comfort of simply ‘being’ with our plants. Something about nature, plants and life is very soothing and stabilising for me.

So, how do you stay grateful in adversity? Perhaps by practicing it daily! I think that by practicing gratitude daily I am slowly reprogramming my brain and it’s a wonderful feeling. Of course, I still have moments like everyone else but I’m getting the rewards of a mind-altering practice. 🙂 Before you scoff at the idea of changing your brain, check out this picture:

Now, consider this – we have an average of 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts every day but things get interesting when we realise that we have the SAME 60,000 thoughts every single day. So what are you spending the majority of your thought processes thinking about and dwelling on? Are you using up this brain capacity worrying about your weight or complaining and gossiping? Focusing on these sorts of things never add up to much. Changing our thought patterns are possible. Teaching ourselves to focus on the more meaningful things in life is possible. We can all focus on loving our partner, children and friends… doing work that we love… thinking positive thoughts about ourselves and our bodies… and more!

Changing our thought processes are possible but it requires being aware of old thought patterns and creating new ones. You can become aware of old ones through meditation (see our post on meditation here) and form new ones through gratitude. Change is possible but you need to be willing to look at current patterns, which can be challenging, painful and diminishing to the ego. However, with self-love, compassion, kindness, non-judgment and patience we can all achieve this!



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