Healthy Mom Series Healthy Soul Series

7 Gratitude Practices for Hard Seasons

“Tell me three good things!”

I was in college, upset about an audition gone wrong or an unrequited crush, I’m sure. My mom listened and then pointed me back to praise. Always.

It was her standard sign-off at the end of our conversations, especially on my hard days. I was glad she couldn’t see my eye roll through the phone.

She started saying it when I was in middle school. When I laid on her lap with snotty tissues in my hands and puffy eyes from crying about unkind girls at school, she would listen. And then at the end of my crying and her listening, when my heart was a little calmer, she would ask me to tell her three things that were good in my life.

When I was younger, I answered with the three same things each time– the basics of family, shelter, my faith. During the wildest of storms and darkest of days, I sometimes struggled to think of even one good thing to list, but she didn’t let me walk away from the conversation until I listed three. Sometimes she challenged me to list more.

Through the years, my mom and I always come back to this practice. It is now a buoy in the storms–through the waves of depression and anxiety. Through debt and financial strain as a single mom. Through heartbreak. Through difficult decisions. Through times of waiting. And even through the good and happy times. Always, we come back to gratitude.

What was once a clunky habit, reserved for days of cathartic crying and my darkest thoughts, has now become a regular heartbeat of my everyday. In the morning, gratitude.

Lord, thank you for my warm bed, the smell of the French pressed coffee, my son, the purple in the sky while I drive to work, a steady job.

When I hit a bump in the road during the day, I pause to pray or take a short walk and make a list.

Lord, thank You that You are constant. You are with me, even in this. Lord, thank You that You are my protector and provider.

As the day winds down and I tuck Emmett into bed, we go back and forth in acknowledgment of our greatest blessings.

“What are you thankful for today, buddy?”

“God, thank You for roofs. Thank You for macaroni. Thank You for Puppy Joe,” (his favorite stuffed animal this week). “I’m thankful for eyes to see. I’m thankful for Jesus.”

There is a grounding that happens when I anchor my life around gratitude. As I practice daily thankfulness, it trains my eyes to seek out the good around me. It steadies our hearts and keeps our gaze on God. It keeps our minds balanced and shifts our focus beyond the daily grind towards an eternal perspective.

When our circumstances are chaotic, uncertain, or less than desirable, we can still praise God for His constant presence. When we are struggling with darkness, we can thank Jesus for being our light. We can find three little things or three huge things, but we can always find good.

Even has a busy parent or tired human, and even in the middle of a hard season, there are simple ways to keep up a gratitude practice.

  1. Pick a time of the day to make your list. I like to do it at the end of the day, with a full day’s worth of memories and blessings to reflect upon. Making the list at the same time each day helps it become a habit.
  2. Find somewhere to write the list down. It’s possible to create an easy mental list on the go, but there is rich blessing in looking back at the past week, month, or year of gratitude lists. A few ideas: a running note in your phone, a small journal in your purse, or a bedside notebook on your nightstand.
  3. Start with just writing three things from that day — three good things. Even writing the same three things for a while is okay! It’s a great start.
  4. Use all five senses – what smelled or tasted good today? What did you see or hear that was beautiful? Did you feel a warm hug from your child, or touch a super soft quilt that reminded you of your sweet grandmother? Write it down.
  5. Think of the people in your life. Even in our loneliest or hardest times, it is so important to remember others in our lives. Thank God for one person each day who reminds you of His love, shows kindness, makes you laugh, or who makes a difference in your life.
  6. Consider the praise-worthy attributes of God and list those in your gratitude list. The Psalms are a great place to look for attributes of God.
  7. Share your three good things with someone you love. Whether it’s your mom, your spouse, your kids, an accountability partner, or your best friend, gratitude is a beautiful and positive thing to share with others. I’ve found that sharing my lists and asking others what they’re grateful for is a wonderful way to connect a little more deeply, and a sweet way to end conversations. I think I get that from my mama.

Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography

Heather Lobe is a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who believes passionately in helping women find their identity and self-worth in the Lord. She is a mother to a creative and compassionate 6-year old little boy, a writer, worship leader, and encourager. She delights in gratitude lists and finding the goodness, mercy, and beauty of the Lord around her. And she loves the mountains of Roanoke, Virginia where she and her son Emmett live. Heather writes weekly at her blog and is a proud Hope*Writer. You can also find Heather on Instagram.

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