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Research is clear that people who experience higher levels of gratitude also tend to be happier. But gratitude can be tough, especially when you’re struggling with difficulties or problems in your life.

Look for the Blessing in Disguise

One thing that has been helpful for me when trying to be more grateful is to look for the blessing in disguise. By doing this, I shift my focus from the thing I am struggling with, and see if there might be something good for me in the midst of it. I believe that there can be opportunities in our obstacles, but we have to be intentional about looking for them.

Struggling with Being Sick

I’ll give you a quick example from my own life: Awhile back, I was feeling really sick. I had a headache, sore throat, cough, the whole nine yards. My initial response when I’m sick is to be angry and upset. “I don’t have time for this,” I say to myself. I feel frustrated about not being able to go out with my friends. I get annoyed because I’m tired and not sleeping well.

If I’m not careful, I can get stuck here in my difficulty. I keep focusing on how awful it is that I’m sick, and I ruin my whole week. If I continue to focus on how terrible everything is, I only make myself more and more unhappy.

What’s Good About Being Sick?

What’s the alternative? I can look for the blessing in disguise. But this can be tough to do. What blessing could there possibly be in a head cold?

That’s really the challenge, isn’t it? It’s easy to feel gratitude when things are going great. It’s hard to feel gratitude when the circumstances of your life aren’t what you would like them to be. But those times are when your gratitude habits have the most bang for your buck. This is when gratitude can really shine.

So let’s think about it. What is the blessing in disguise in me being sick? A couple of things popped into my mind. For example, I have a tendency to work a lot and fill my space. Sometimes I struggle to rest, even though I need it. Being sick forces me to slow down and rest, which is something I need to do anyways. At the time I got sick, I was also in recovery from a broken tailbone injury. Being sick forces me to continue to rest and recover from that injury.

These aren’t huge benefits. Being sick still has its struggles. I’m not lying to myself—I’d still rather be healthy than sick. But being sick was my reality. I can’t change it—the sickness will run its course, and that’s going to take a few days. In the meantime, I can either be upset and grumpy for those sick days, or I can try to find the blessing in disguise. By changing my focus to gratitude, my happiness will increase.

Discussion

What is one thing you are struggling with in your life right now? Can you think of one blessing in disguise? Even if it’s a small benefit, could you change your focus just a little bit toward gratitude?

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