Why Gratitude Is The Cure For Life’s Most Difficult Challenges – My Story


Here’s a little story for you guys.  In my adult life I have a recurring, highly stressful situation that has been persistent for almost twenty years.  While I know you are probably curious about the details of what it is and how it came about, trust me when I tell you that those details are not important to this story.  Suffice to say, it is something I have no control over and cannot change, and frankly it sucks. I have a feeling many of you can probably relate, because it seems we all have at least one challenge we deal with on a regular basis.right? (Please tell me I’m not alone on this…)

Because my situation was (and still is) stressful, it was at the forefront of my mind on most days and was often the topic of conversation with my friends and family.  I would habitually talk about it and focus on small things that I had absolutely no control over. I recycled the same stories again and again for whoever would listen or innocently asked how I was doing.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to change it or make it better and it took up not only a lot of energy, but a lot of space in my mind and heart.  

Sadly, that’s not the worst part.  What I recognize now is that during the years that I was highly focused on this situation, I was literally “missing days” with my husband and kids.  What I mean by this is, there were beautiful, joyous, funny things going on in my home and life but I was not fully present or able to experience them because my focus was often elsewhere. Ugh…that’s hard to admit.  The thing is…

Since I had no control over the underlying situation, it never occurred to me that I might have the ability to change my experience.

And then one day I heard someone talking about the idea that “What you focus on expands?”  This concept has been around in some form or another for decades and the basic premise is that whatever you spend the most time thinking about is what you ultimately experience in life.  

I know I’m not sharing some brilliant new revelation here, but the part of this concept that intrigued me was the possibility that we can proactively change our experience in life, simply by changing what we are focused on, regardless of the circumstances.  What if it was true?

So I decided to find a way to SHIFT MY FOCUS away from this ever-present negative situation.  And let me tell you, it was HARD. Like crazy hard.  I discovered that my mind had been so trained to automatically hone in on the negative circumstances that had been present for so long, that shifting my focus was like trying to flex a completely unused muscle for the first time.  In the beginning, it was often a moment by moment practice, but after a short time, I began to make progress.

Here’s how I did it.  I made a conscious decision to never talk about that stressful situation unless absolutely necessary.  I didn’t bring it up and when I was asked, most of the time I said “there’s nothing new”. That was HARD, but honestly it was amazing how powerful just that step was.

I don’t think we really recognize the impact of the spoken word on our lives, and the power we give to negative situations by talking about them constantly.

Simultaneously, I began actively searching for positive or joyful events to focus on.  Every time something heartwarming, funny or positive happened, I made a conscious choice to breathe THAT in.  I didn’t just let it pass as a brief moment of happiness or appreciation, I REALLY took it in…recognized it…appreciated it…INFLATED it.  I let that be what I focused on and therefore what expanded and grew in my heart and mind. 

The result of this conscious change in what I talked about and where I focused my attention was that I developed a newfound gratitude for even the seemingly routine moments in my day.  I looked for the joy and I found it…in the silly joke that was told at the dinner table, during the car ride to school or when I tucked my daughter into bed at the end of the day.  And before I fell asleep each night, I literally “counted my blessings”.  I reviewed my day, counted all of the amazing, wonderful moments and made sure that was what I focused on in the moments before drifting off. 

As time passed, I noticed that the balance began to shift and it was no longer an effort to notice the amazing things in my life.  I had flexed that muscle often enough that it became the dominant force.  I found myself filled with gratitude on a daily basis, rather than consumed by something that was negative and out of my control. 

Nothing in my life had substantially changed, other than where I placed my attention.

There are so many ways to accomplish this, whether with a gratitude journal, a post-it reminder on your bathroom mirror, or a subtle shift in how you view your day, the key is to move your focus from what is challenging and out of your control to what is joyous and beautiful, every day…in each moment.  

As I write this, I am still confronted with that difficult situation on an almost weekly basis and it still impacts my life.  It is often necessary  to devote some time and energy to dealing with it, but what has changed is how much energy I give it, or anything seemingly negative that happens in my life. When issues arise, I don’t avoid them or let them overtake my life. I  deal with what is absolutely necessary when I must, and not for longer than I have to and then I refocus.  

I return to noticing each joyful second, each peaceful moment and every beautiful day and I am filled with gratitude for the life I am living.  

Gratitude was the cure for the most difficult challenge in my life and has been the key to finding joy and fulfillment every day.

So if you are struggling with an issue that is challenging and feels out of your control, maybe it’s time to notice what you are focused on.  What do you talk about most often?  What do you spend your time thinking about?   Are the moments of joy and beauty that are happening each day being overshadowed by your focus on something you have no control over?  How could you shift your attention and possibly change your life?

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this…please feel free to comment below.

Have a wonderful week!

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    1. What a great article….. I am definitely going to incorporate more gratitude in my life. Like you, I also have a situation that is out of my control, which I tend to focus on constantly and like you this has been going on for years. I so appreciate all your advise you have given and believe it will truly help me.
      Thank you so much!

  1. I just read your “challenge story”. Please remember that God is always with you. You just need to call on Him for His strength. When we are weak, He is strong.
    God got me through a very difficult period in my life and I remember singing “Jesus Loves Me” so many times. 🙂 May He help you through your challenges.

    1. I don’t know how to post on here, but I loved this idea and needed to comment. Changing one’s focus is what I do when I meditate…that is, continually returning my thoughts to my breathing. The idea of using this principle in other situations is brilliant! I have health issues, which sometimes feel overwhelming. After reading this post, I’m determined to try to shift my focus from things that are wrong to things that are lovely, pretty, peaceful and right with my soul. Thank you for this wonderful idea!

  2. Just joined your blog. This is so TRUE! Shifting your attention! Wow! Thank you for sharing. As I write, I am looking at the one small 4ft Xmas tree I have in my home. It sparkles with little white lights, red sweater ribbon and accents of gold and red and white ornaments. Such joy it brings and fills my heart. This little tree is enough and I am enough. Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  3. THESE words are pouring life and purpose in my heart today…I have a very stressful life situation that like you, I cannot change but I try to analyze, think, plot and plan ways to change the situation. Which leads me to feel more frustration, pain and despair on a daily basis. I woke up this morning sobbing over this painful situation (as I do most days) and spent the morning lamenting how ‘bad’ my life feels to my husband. Rehearsing and Nursing this situation is a Habit that I desperately have to break – so thank you for sharing your journey. Reading your story and even finding your words is a miracle today that I so needed….thank you again for bringing me the hope that I can have a life of gratitude and joy despite this painful situation. I am so grateful today for your honesty in sharing your heart ~ thank you, RJ

    1. RJ! I apologize for not responding to your heartfelt message sooner! I cannot tell you how much joy it brings me o hear your words. I hope you are finding the small moments of joy and gratitude in each day and overcoming this situation in the best way you can! Sending you love!

  4. Loved your post. A great reminder that we should concentrate on acknowledging and showing gratitude. We all have struggles in our lives and your post was a reminder to concentrate on the positives in our lives. I think my word of the year will be “Gratitude”.. Thankyou
    Happy New Year

  5. Thank you Karen for a much needed boost! I need and use this practice in my life. But can easily lose my balance with one particular stressful area. I continually try to “let it go”, but I think focusing on gratitude maybe just what I needed.

    1. Hi Denise! I totally understand losing your balance in a particularly stressful situation. I’ve been there! I hope this practice helps to refocus your mind and brings you back to balance!

  6. Reading this within the other posts for January 2021 and wish I had read it sooner. I had an awful experience with a girl I managed. She felt one day that it was ok to physically attack me and verbally assault me. The owner thought it was acceptable as she felt passionate about her job. I walked out and never went back but the words I hate you are in my head everyday and I feel beaten down. I’ve not worked in 3 years due to this. Your writing this post will be my mantra from now on. I’ll just think about the good things in my life and let this go. I have many blessings and I care about others so that is my focus. I know I cannot change people that what they reap they will sow themselves in time. It’s not up to me to punish them or wish them harm. I will keep a positive happy spirit as it is contagious and I like to spread happiness and not my grieve. Thanks Karen..

    1. Oh Lori! I am so sorry for the pain that you experienced because of that incident. I cannot imagine how that must have felt. I hope you are able to focus your mind on the beautiful and joyful things in your life and create a brighter year. Sending love your way!

  7. Karen,

    Thank you for this post and for being so transparent. I have struggled with staying focused on difficult and uncomfortable situations as well. You do miss a lot of life’s blessings when you allow negatives to bombard your thinking & your heart. A friend told me about how to re-train my brain. Choosing joy & gratitude every day is so much better. I believe that God places blessings “God winks” in our path and we miss them if our hearts & minds aren’t focusing on the good things in life. 2021 is a great opportunity to start with a clean slate and choose to be grateful & love our family’s. Again, thank you for this post. I love all of your creative ideas! ~ Holly

    1. Holly, I am so happy that you found something positive in what I shared. I agree that 2021 is the perfect time to start a new habit and focus on gratitude!

  8. Thank you so much Karen!
    You inspired me to focus more on all the great things in life. Thank you for sharing 🌸
    Best wishes,


    1. Thank you so much for your kind note, Allison! I appreciate your perspective and agree that focusing on gratitude changes everyting!

  10. I copied and paste this to my desktop to remind myself that I am in charge of my own thoughts and having gratitude in my heart fills it up so things sort of flow in one ear and out the other.
    Change is a word I transformed into challenge for myself….it works for me.
    Thank you for this lovely reminder…

  11. Karen,

    This was such a wonderful read and very timely. We have been dealing with a difficult situation for over 20 years and have tried several different approaches to combat it. It still continues today. I have a wonderful life with my husband and family and grandchildren and I keep reminding myself that’s all that matters. I am hopeful, however, that this situation is going to be resolved sooner than later, in the meantime I will reread your story. Thanks.

  12. I love the lesson in give energy to the people and places that give you energy and good vibes in return.
    I started to read at night and not on social media. And, before I go to sleep I am full of gratitude for my children who are away at school. It really has helped me to fall asleep. Funny such a simple act (and a weighted blanket(. Ha! Happy February! laura

    PS thank you for the Mailchimp help last fall. As with so many things I overthought the entire thing and when I stopped paying for others to fix it I figured out a “good enough” email campaign.

    1. Thanks so much Laura! I am a true believer in the power of gratitude! Glad the MailChimp tips helped!😊

  13. Thanks Laura for sharing this. I too have experienced a long term issue and I have focused way too much and way too long on this circumstance. I am going to try to apply some of your tips to move away from letting this keep me from enjoying life to its fullest!

  14. I’ve been practicing 21 days of gratitude and you are so right. It shifts your mind to the positive. I’ve started to feel more centered and happy because of thinking positive each day. Your story hit me as I too am dealing with a long negative family issue and I’ve chosen to let go and move on. It’s very liberating. Thank you. I get a lot of joy from your blog.

    1. Thank you so very much for this JoAnn! I so appreciate your kind words! It is incredibly liberating to let go of the negative thought patterns and focus on what is good each day!

  15. Hi Karen,
    Your message is so perfect for me today! I noticed it was written a while back but I received it in an email from you this morning and it was perfect timing. I, too, have a situation that I focus on WAY too much and it has become a topic of most my conversations. All it seems to do is make people feel sorry for me and that is not fun. I printed your message and will put in my gratitude journal that I try to look at frequently, but will be next to my bed starting today. Remembering to be grateful should be number one each and every day.
    Thanks for the perfect timing as well as a heartfelt message.

    1. Hi Molly- It makes me so happy to know that my words were helpful to you. I can relate to where you are and I know that a gratitude practice will help you through. Sending you peace and joy!

  16. I almost didn’t read this post but feel like the Lord directed me to do so. Thank you for sharing something so difficult to express and understand! My husband and I are going through something debilitating for him, and I talk about it with anyone who will listen. I now accept my comments are out of fear and are robbing me of wonderful moments.

    1. Thank you Judy. I am so sorry about your difficulties and am happy this post gave you a new perspective. Wishing you and your husband the best in the future!

  17. Karen,
    SO true…..life is flawed, and can be filled with angst if we allow it to. Like you, our family has ongoing issues that could make life anxious, and unhappy IF we allow it to. God’s given us all one life to live…things to do, and people to share it with. No life is perfect no matter how it may appear on the outside….as humans, we all have problems. There’s a saying ” it’s not the journey, but the sand in your shoes.” Dwelling on the past, and wishing we could change it won’t! We can all choose to let go of the angst that steals our days. God is sovereign, and if he allows things in our lives that aren’t pleasant, there’s a good reason for it. Life is not about us….but about glorifying him through the life he’s given us. Our attitude is what counts. Count your blessings. It helps to keep a “thankfulness” journal to write down each day the little “hidden blessings” he brings. Trust me…it works! 😊

  18. I am just now reading this post and it is definitely a “Keeper”. I do find myself dwelling on difficult situations too much and a little embarrassed that my conversations with friends and family may reflect that. I have many blessings and will definitely try and focus more on those so they will Expand my life. This post was such a wonderful reminder of gratitude and blessings. Thank you for that!

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