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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
It would be difficult to deny that a lot of folks are going through hard times right now. One survey said that 77% of Americans are feeling anxious about their finances and another, even more alarming study said that 40% of Americans have experienced serious financial problems since the last few months of 2021.
When it seems like everyone is struggling, how can you keep your head high and keep pushing through? That’s a question I hear a lot when people read my story of my own personal economic disaster, and there’s one very simple answer.
Gratitude? I can almost hear some folks rolling their eyes and wondering if I’m crazy.
Even in the midst of incredibly difficult times, finding things for which you can be grateful can be life-changing and mood-altering. And when things are truly that bad, I call that sense of optimism radical gratitude.
The Science of Gratitude
Neuroscientists have found that true gratitude can actually rewire your brain.
Psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami published a study in 2015 that looked at the physical outcomes of practicing gratitude. One-third of the subjects in the study were asked to keep a daily journal of things that happened during the week for which they were grateful. Another third was asked to write down daily irritations or events that had displeased them. The last third of the group was asked to write down daily situations and events with no emphasis on either positive or negative emotional attachment. At the end of the 10-week study, each group was asked to record how they felt physically and generally about life.
The gratitude group reported feeling more optimistic and positive about their lives than the other groups. In addition, the gratitude group was more physically active and reported fewer visits to a doctor than those who wrote only about their negative experiences. (Source)
This is not new to Frugalites. Colette wrote about the power of gratitude in a recent post that you really need to read. It is so incredibly powerful that it can change everything, including your success at pulling yourself out of the hole.
How to practice radical gratitude when things are really bad
Of course, that’s all well and good during ordinary rough spots, but what about when things are really, truly bad like they are for many of us right now? How do you feel genuine thankfulness when you’re down to your last can of green peas and you really, really hate green peas?
Trust me – I know how difficult it is.
But your brain is your most powerful organ. And you need to tap into that power to light your way out of the dark place in which you find yourself. No matter how difficult it is, you must find something for which you can be thankful. Whether it’s the bright blue sky, the fact you still have internet, or a bill you paid in advance that means you still have some other privilege, the least little thing can turn your day around if you focus on it. And if you’ve turned your day around, then you can take some positive steps to make things better.
Alternatively, if you are in a surly, hopeless mood, it’s difficult to muster up the energy to try and improve things.
Finding the bright side of dark things
So, perhaps things have gone really sideways in your life. Maybe your car is about to get repossessed. Perhaps you are right on the edge of eviction. What if you can’t pay your electric bill? How can you possibly find a bright side in any of these things?
It really does get a lot harder when things are this bad. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Now it’s time for radical gratitude.
If your car gets repossessed by the bank, sure, that is rough. But you don’t have to fill the tank with high-priced fuel, you’ll be less tempted to shop frivolously if you rarely go to the store, and you will no longer have to make that car payment and insurance payment. Sure, it is far from ideal, but it does free up a few hundred bucks a month that you can put toward other things, essentials like food and power.
If you are going to get evicted, you can put some rent money back to pay for your move to a less expensive place. Perhaps it’s the push you need to reduce your living expenses. Nobody WANTS to get kicked out of their home, but if you do it on your own terms, you may be able to get yourself into a better position in the future. (See this article for more information on what to do if you can’t pay your bills.)
Things may be dark, but those things may help you find the light again.
It helps your loved ones.
If things are really, truly terrible, but you can find some places for radical gratitude, you are setting an incredible example for the people you love, especially your children. You are teaching them mental resilience by example. You are showing them that they, too, can conquer difficulty. You’re giving them the gift of gratitude and optimism in the face of trouble.
Has radical gratitude ever helped you through difficult times? Can you share some examples of finding the bright spot in something truly tough? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.