Micro-gratitude in Difficult Times

Last updated: November 2022

I struggled with my health during the holidays last year and that theme looks set to continue again this year. It might seem strange that I’m writing an article on gratitude when I'm feeling so demoralized. Yet when my symptoms are flaring and I’m constantly frustrated by my health is exactly the time I find it most important to think about gratitude.

Most of the articles you see around Thanksgiving are about broad themes of gratitude — the pleasures of spending time with family, the life-affirming support of friends, the joys of travel and getting outside one's comfort zone, career highs, and the like. That level of gratitude makes my heart ache, and my eyes leak right now.

What has migraine taken from me?

I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at home last year, mostly alone. The same is likely to happen again this year. I still haven’t listened to the cooking podcasts I saved from this time last year because they remind me of my aloneness and make me too sad. I’ve barely been in touch with my friends. Traveling to the front curb to take my trash out isn’t possible most weeks, and I can go weeks without getting in a car. My career feels stilted, and I regularly feel like I let down my coworkers. It’s hard to find gratitude in the big things right now.

What is micro-gratitude?

I focus my gratitude on the small things. Call it micro-gratitude, if you will. Narrowing my focus helps me see the good in everyday life and also redirects my focus from the big things I’m missing out on.

What am I grateful for?

Here are some of the things that have made my gratitude list recently:

  • My new Brita pitcher: I was annoyed when the last one started leaking, and I had to replace it. But the new one has the best design of any Brita pitcher I’ve used over the last 20 years. The lever to open the lid works, and the lid doesn’t fall off! I use the pitcher multiple times a day, so having it work well regularly makes me happy.
  • Discovering authors I like: I love to read and there’s a special pleasure in finding a new-to-me author and discovering they have published many books. Working through their previous work can bring weeks of pleasure.
  • Super-soft pajamas: Old Navy’s Sunday Sleep and Target’s Stars Above rayon sleep collections have been bringing me joy since I invested in new sleepwear workwear during the COVID lockdown. Sleep pants and shorts with pockets! Loose sleep tops without annoying tags! Soft fabric! This sleepwear trifecta is even better when I'm working from home and wearing at least one piece of sleepwear almost all the time.
  • Tasty frozen food: I usually cook simply from scratch. That’s been nearly impossible the last year, and I’ve been pleased to find a number of companies that make frozen meals from real food without additives. Knowing I can buy food for the freezer that’s not bad for my health and tastes good makes me feel better about not being able to cook the food I prefer.

My micro-gratitude gets as small as momentarily feeling grateful for the coziness of my favorite fleece or the pleasure of the first sip of coffee. These small moments of connection with the beauty of life keep me going through difficult times.

Where do you find gratitude when times are tough? Do you connect with it throughout the day or do you have a deliberate gratitude practice to focus your attention?

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