How to Be Grateful When Life Is Hard

How to Practice the Daily 5 & 5

January 12, 2023 |

Grateful woman

It’s easy to find things to worry about and dread. Being grateful is much harder, yet ironically, our gratitude usually is significantly more grounded in reality than our anxieties. So many things in life are outside our control, but one thing you can directly influence is your perspective.

You can focus on what’s going wrong or you can develop the discipline of seeing what’s going RIGHT. You can see the potential in yourself and others, or you can pay more attention to the problems in your life and the lives of those around you. The choice is yours!

Each morning, I list 5 things from the day before for which I’m truly grateful. Next, I write down 5 things that I’m excited about and looking forward to during the day ahead. I call this my daily 5 & 5. It takes me about 10 minutes and nearly always has a positive impact on my attitude. 

7 Reasons You Should Practice the Daily 5 & 5

1. Makes You a Critical Thinker (About Good Stuff)

You CAN train your mind to start seeing the potential much more than the problem. Even if yesterday was horrible, you can find 5 things that went well. Gratitude is found in the seemingly insignificant aspects of life. Be grateful for things like “I got to know a co-worker better” or “my daughter practiced piano on her own”.

2. You’ll Be More Fun to Be Around

Nobody really wants to be around a negative person who can get caught up in what’s wrong. I know at times I can be negative and don’t blame people for avoiding me when I’m stuck in a funk. Being an optimist makes you attractive to the right people ALWAYS. 

3. Helps You Find Ways to Encourage Others

As you list your 5 & 5, you will reflect upon what you appreciate, admire, and are thankful for about the people in your life. You will start to see the best in people and opportunities to naturally encourage others you care about will come to mind. Try it out and you’ll see what I mean. 

4. Keeps Fear From Taking Over

Knowing I have to do something unpleasant later in the day can steal my joy. Overpower the dread with excitement. There are interesting people, things to learn, and activities to enjoy that you’re taking for granted. The daily 5 & 5 will overpower your fears and worries. 

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” – Benjamin Disraeli (Former British Prime Minister)

5. Your Entries Can Encourage You For Years

I’ve been journaling consistently since I was 19 years old. I have over 25 years’ worth of journals. I sometimes look at my 5 & 5’s from years ago and they encourage me. They remind me of the many good things in my life and the fun adventures yet to come.

6. Overall Stress Level Will Decrease

Stress is a major contributing factor to the majority of mental and physical health issues. The main cause of stress is an unhelpful and negative perspective. Change your perspective and you’ll decrease the overall stress level in your life. 

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” ~ John Wooden

7. Increased Creativity

Being anxious and worried robs you of energy that can be utilized in more productive ways. Fear and negativity create narrow-mindedness, not the creative focus needed to solve problems and find useful solutions in everyday life. Focusing on the good things in your life broadens your perspective. 

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I challenge nearly all my clients to do the Daily 5 & 5 for a week. Many resist at first, but those that stick with it see the impact. Here’s a worksheet that can help guide you.

5 Keys to Success With The Daily 5 & 5

1. Be Specific & List the Details

Don’t be vague! Challenge your brain to be detail-oriented. List enough information so that you can remember what happened weeks or months ago for which you’re grateful.

2. List More Than 5 If You Like, Never Less

Don’t allow excuses, like “I can’t come up with 5 positives from yesterday”. Challenge yourself! You CAN be a “positive critical thinker”.

3. Cheat if Needed

You can have the same positive and exciting things each day, as long as they happened that day. If your boss encourages you on multiple days each week, you can use that on multiple days. If you’re struggling with things to look forward to, schedule something fun.

4. Write (or Type) It Out

It’s essential to write it down in written or typed form. Something powerful happens when you visually see the words describing your appreciation.

5. Be Grateful First Thing In The Day

Write down your 5 & 5 first thing in the morning. Get your mind focusing on the right things from the start and then you can reflect on these items throughout the day.

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.” ~ Seth Godin (One of my favorite authors)

Daily 5 & 5 Example

5 Positives Things From Yesterday

  1. Went to the gym and had a 1-hour workout and sat in the sauna for 10 minutes
  2. Helped my son with his spelling and math
  3. Had a positive conversation with my mom
  4. Got to bed by 10 pm and got 8 hours of sleep last night
  5. Encouraged two co-workers, Todd and Morgan

5 Exciting Things For Tomorrow

  1. Making tacos for dinner and having our new neighbors over to eat
  2. Having lunch with my coworker Brandon 
  3. Taking my daughter swimming this evening
  4. Making some work phone calls I’ve been putting off
  5. Going to get some ice cream tonight with Emerson

If you like my style, and found this helpful, SUBSCRIBE TO TUNE UP FOR LIFE. Learn about healthy thinking skills, self concept, life balance, core values, life purpose, goal setting, transformational habits, and more.

Related Content

How to Be Grateful When Life Is Hard (post) by Adam Gragg
25 Gratitude Building Questions (post) by Adam Gragg
30 Happiness Building Actions (post) by Adam Gragg
Decide Your Legacy Podcast #18: How to be Grateful When Life is Hard on Apple on Spotify
Decide Your Legacy Podcast #19: Improving Your Self-Worth on Apple on Spotify