How to feel gratitude when your world is falling apart

How to feel gratitude when your world is falling apart

I spent most of my early life being challenged with the idea of gratitude. As a daughter of a sociopath and a narcissist, I struggled with self-preservation in the midst of cruelty and craziness. I couldn’t trust the very people who were supposed to keep me safe, and my struggles with depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and loneliness made gratitude feel completely beyond my reach. And a big part of the problem was how I perceived my peers. Every one of them seemed to “normal healthy parents” who treated them well. At least, so I thought.

I had what I now call, “gratitude deficit syndrome”.

But the ability to feel gratitude is vital for well-being. Being grateful increases our capacity for joy, optimism and happiness. Gratitude decreases our susceptibility to pain, strengthens our motivation, our immune systems and our social connections.

In short, our lives can suck if we can’t appreciate or be grateful for what we have.  

With all the healing work I have done over the last decade I’ve come a very long way with my mental health.  And while my life is far from perfect, I do have a lot to be grateful for.  Ironically as I’m doing better, it seems the rest of the world is struggling. And in a way that I’ve never seen before.  


My experiences of feeling “screwed” by life, vs. feeling privileged, have underscored the notion that is our sense of gratitude is determined in a large part by our surroundings.   If I spend too much time on social media, seeing pictures of others in fascinating places, I might feel deprived if I can’t afford to go on one myself.  But if I think of all the people who are becoming homeless, or struggling to pay their bills, then I feel very privileged.

There is always somebody worse off than us!  Even if I were losing my home, but I had a couch or a car to sleep in, I would struggle at the injustice of it all. If I had just moved into a car or on someone’s couch from being homeless and on the streets, I would be grateful!   

Knowing how important gratitude is for our well-being, here are 5 tips to make it easier, even when it’s hard:

1. Start small

For example, if you are struggling financially, be grateful for the items you have, or the things that you are able to do with the money you have.  Maybe you can’t afford a good car, but at least you can afford one.  Maybe you can’t afford a car, but you can afford to take the bus.  Even if you can walk without serious pain or discomfort, that is a privilege that many don’t have.


If you are struggling with a relationship, try to regularly ask yourself, what can I appreciate about this person’s behaviour? Then express gratitude and appreciation!

2. Volunteer, meet and learn about those with less.

It fosters empathy and a recognition of what you can be grateful for.

3. Question what you value

Studies show that money contributes positively to happiness only up to a certain point.  That magic number can vary according to where you live, but it’s enough to meet your basic needs.   In the US it ranges between 63-75K.   After that, money does not make you happier.  Similarly, if someone is unkind to you or neglects you, question how much you want to let them shape your self-perception.

4. Stop comparing yourself to those who appear to have more

People tend to post best parts of their lives on social media. It sets us up for an endless cycle of comparing ourselves to the Joneses. We have to constantly remind ourselves that what they post is only the part of their lives that they want us to see. It might not look so appealing if we dug a little deeper!    

5. Practice makes perfect

Like any skill, gratitude gets easier with practice.  What can you do to set up a daily gratitude practice?

If you need an idea, try this: If you are alone, before every meal, think of 3 things you are grateful for.  If you have a family, in lieu of grace, you might consider asking each family member to state one thing they are grateful for.

Want to know about other blocks to gratitude?  Check out my article “When challenged by gratitude”.

Do you find yourself feeling negative about your life or your options?  Chances are likely that you have trauma and/or epigenetic trauma that needs to be released.   Releasing the emotions and beliefs that are formed by negative experiences helps us move on from the past. It also allows us to more objectively focus on our present life and our future.  It helps us let go of the cloud of pessimism, and have the hope and motivation we need to be persistent in our efforts towards reaching our goals.  If you feel I can be of service to you, contact me here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow by Email