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How to make a gratitude list

November 27, 2022

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Dear friend,

It’s the end of November and what is definitely the unofficial official month of gratitude. The trendy activity of which is to create gratitude lists.

And that’s generally pretty simple to do. I mean, you just write out all the things you’re thankful for:

  • Hot coffee
  • Warm blankets
  • Sunshine
  • Etc.

^definitely the list I wrote this morning…

But what about when gratitude is hard? When you’re in a season of life where gratitude feels impossible? Or when there doesn’t seem to be anything besides the basics (which by the way is never to be taken for granted)?

How can we make a gratitude list for the less tangible things? For and during the hard seasons?

Here’s a few questions I ask myself to help me choose gratitude in the hard seasons.

Address why it’s hard

Before we can even jump into writing a list of gratitude, let’s first reflect on why gratitude is hard.

I know this is probably the last thing anyone who’s struggling with gratitude wants to do, or at least it is for me. However, it’s kind of like the elephant in the room situation. If you ignore the elephant in the room, it’ll just make the doing of being in the room difficult. It’ll cloud your time in the room and feel inauthentic if you try to move around it.

The same goes for gratitude lists. If we ignore the reasons underlying why gratitude is hard, it’ll make the trying to choose gratitude difficult. It’ll feel like we’re brushing past deeper issues and ignoring circumstances that are asking for a little attention. It also can lead to inauthentic feelings of gratitude by making up things we’re grateful for but aren’t necessarily accurate to our situations.

I’m not saying we need to dwell on these harder issues or circumstances, but a quick addressing of their existence helps give context for where we can even begin when we write our lists. It helps us develop self awareness and live into the balance of “both and” (more on that below).

Ask These Questions

What are some simple things of life I can be grateful for today?

Is there something about my situation or circumstance that I am hopeful to be grateful about one day?

Is there something I am learning about myself or others I wouldn’t have learned without what is going on?

Not a lot of questions, but a few that are helpful to both acknowledge the hard and challenge us to move towards gratitude.

“Both And”

I talk about this a lot (on our blog, social, and in life), but there’s some thought process that exists that we two opposite emotions or circumstances cannot coexist. But that’s wrong. I can be both sad by the events of a worldwide tragedy and encouraged by the heroism displayed amidst the tragedy. I can be both angry at someone’s hurt towards a friend and grateful the friend is doing better and growing despite the hurt. It’s this tension and balance of “both and.”

In circumstances where gratitude is hard, we can choose a “both and” approach. We can be both in a hard situation and also choose gratitude. We may not always feel the gratitude, but we can still choose it.

Choosing gratitude doesn’t always mean we have to feel it in that moment.

If you’re needing help living in the tension of “both and” this upcoming year, our planners (2023 or undated versions available) are the perfect everyday companion to living out the balance of our human being with life’s doing.

In this holiday season, whether you’re facing it with joy in your heart or with anxiety and dread, I’m encouraging each of us to pursue a balance of “Both and” and to choose gratitude as you’re able.

Save this post via the image below for when gratitude is hard.

With joy & gratitude,


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