How To Stay Grateful When You’re In A Dark Place

We recently wrote a post called “All You Need To Know About Gratitude.”  But several of you reached out and were wondering how to maintain a grateful attitude when you are in a dark place. When circumstances are troublesome, or your mind seems to be erratic and unsettled, gratitude is anything but easy.


Some people believe a dark place is something you feel. But feelings are directly tied to your thoughts. And your thoughts can create most of the stress in your life. Also, your environment can lead you to a dark place too, but, unfortunately, you can't always control your surroundings.

However, you are in control of more than you think. Your thoughts and feelings can run away from you, but you do have the power to monitor and change them. 

So, as you can see, if you want to change your negative feelings, you have to start with your thoughts! Even though we are the only ones who have a front row seat to our thoughts, they often happen so rapidly; there's no way you have the time to capture, identify, or understand them.

To gain a new perspective on your thoughts and feelings, let's imagine removing your brain and digging through it for each thought. With tweezers in hand, you start to remove each one and place them onto a blank page. Now, read each of your thoughts without judgment. Remember, you can't shame yourself for negative thinking, or you will never break the cycle.

Now think: Are these thoughts true? Do they move you forward or hold you back? If you can remove all thoughts that are false and hold you back, how would it make you feel?

I guarantee you would feel a sense of relief. You would no longer be a slave to negative thinking.

Think about it…

When you are in a bad place, it's almost as if blinders have been put over your eyes and you see the world as one big disappointment. You become more critical of the people around you because you are critical of yourself. Gratitude is stripped from you because your thoughts are consumed by fears or bitterness toward the world. So you must hold every thought captive. Create for yourself a filter that only let's what is true and uplifting inside. You won't be perfect, but you must take the time to develop a new habit — one that lets the light in.

So, instead of spending all of your time trying to create a grateful heart this season without sorting through your thoughts and your feelings, try getting to the root of your heart. Once your thoughts and feelings are addressed, you will find that gratitude starts to overflow much more easily.

Remember to be gentle with yourself on your journey to find gratitude. It takes time to reprogram your mind to think outside of your dark place. Gratitude doesn't always come naturally. It's a process that needs practice every day.

We are rooting for you!

How have you been able to develop an attitude of gratitude while you are in a dark place? Tell us in the comments!

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14 Responses

  1. Hard to say to answer your question!
    I’m trying to have positive thinking and attitude, but it’s not too easy given my current circumstances! I was a young businessman and now I’m a tired invalid… I do thank god for keeping me alive but my nervous system and attitude towards life are different!

  2. I remind myself that in truth, I am not a “free agent.” Sitting here unconnected can only be just that: “thinking” and “replying” on a computer. Yes, this may help me decipher my “stinking thinking” from “truth”, but it still leaves me divorced from real life human interactions or civic engagement. But…. right now, I am jobless, stressed, regretting some of the decisions I’ve made that have ended me here etc.. it helps to read nice articles and to write out my opinion, and to know others care; but that’s the easy part! The REAL WORLD DESPERATELY NEEDS ME!! It’s up to me to free myself from ZOMBIE SPACE (and self loathing). I NEED to FORCE myself out the door and say HELLO to the real world where I can practice actually talking to others and maybe even helping someone!
    No matter how horrid I feel inside and how much I HATE showing my face when I’m feeling sick, mad, upset etc.. I wash my face, brush my teeth and remember the power of the media culture does NOT need to be an all-consuming disposable present! If I don’t get out the door and face the world, I’m going to be stuck in stultifying sameness and waste my life – oh and.. ruin more than just my life! My/our country needs me to get off my sorry butt and work to do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE to fight (and hopefully defeat) the retrograde forces that have invaded our society! Love on another yes! Combat hate! Yes! There comes a time when I- and you- can not longer sit back in ZOMBIE LAND we need to rise up and SPEAK UP!

  3. I was watching a symposium on TV a couple of years ago, and the panel included Iyanla Vanzant. The previous year she had lost a lot—she and her husband divorced, her daughter died, and her business was in a downward spiral. But after she rose above the negativity, she said she realized how grateful she was to have gone through that because there was light on the other side. So, right then and there, when people started asking her how she was, she starting saying, “I’m grateful.”

    I relive that revelation whenever I don’t feel like rising from the fray. I keep pushing forward, and I, too, realize that I am still here and Thank God, I still have all of my faculties. So when times are rough, once I start stressing, I have to remind myself that I am grateful. Yes, I am.

  4. Sometimes I get really disappointed with myself, because I practice positive thinking(at least I try) and pray every night, thank how amazing it is to be alive, eventhought I don’t really mean it every single time. But then nothing gets better, it’s like I’m moving forward but something stops me, makes me feel bad and anxiety attacks+fear of everything. Then I keep going and hoping for the best, until this best doesn’t come I force myself to try to be gentle, but I must say it is very difficult to still believe

  5. I have been trying to dig myself out of my “dark place” since June 14, 2015. What started out as a beautiful sunny day turned into darkness and sadness I didn’t know existed. None of the dark places I had experienced before in my life would touch this one. Nothing could prepare me for the dark place I was about to enter. My worst nightmare….I found my son, passed away. I still can’t believe this is true. I can’t believe this has happened to me even as I am typing this now. I keep thinking surely I am gonna wake up and realize this is a nightmare. Dark place doesn’t describe where you go in a situation like this. No words describe how a parent feels when losing a child. I couldn’t breathe let alone, write his obituary or pick out his casket. I experienced a sadness that I had no idea existed. How was I going to live without my son, my friend? I didn’t want to. Looking back now and believe me,
    I didn’t realize it then, but I found gratitude in this dark place immediately. Is this something our mind does automatically when we are put in such a dark place I wonder now? How could I be grateful?…We had just lost our son. But…. I was grateful…. for my husband, my other son, my strong family and friends who were there to show love and support. I was thankful for the 1,000 plus people who waited in line for over 4-5 hours to tell us a story about my son or just say “I’m sorry for your loss” during his viewing. I am grateful for the 26 years I had with my beautiful, creative and loving son. Yes, I am still trying everyday to dig out of this dark place and I am not sure that I will ever be totally out of it. But, I am grateful, more grateful than ever for my family, friends, the warm sunshine, my grandson, the fun times I had with my son and most of all the promise from God that I will see my son again. Thank you for allowing me to share this and for that….I am grateful!

    1. So so sorry for your loss. Pains my heart to hear about anyone losing a child. Thank you for sharing with us your story of finding gratitude through that terrible situation!

  6. I use to find it really hard to be grateful when I was experiencing dark days and discovered that there is another technique to help you when gratitude just seems impossible.
    Instead of thinking about what you are grateful for, try thinking about what you are proud of yourself for. It could be things from your past or present and could be either big or small, something as simple as ‘I made my bed today’ or ‘I hung out the washing’ may be all you can think of at first, or all you’ll allow yourself to be proud of, but your ability to find things to be proud of will grow as you practice it. Then eventually change it to being grateful and you will find that your gratitude is even stronger.

  7. I know dark places are in your mind but once you venture into that, especially if it happens to you for reasons out of your control, it seems you get sticky and you attract more dark places and thoughts like a magnet and if you stay there long enough you think it’s normal and your brain prolly starts to reword and rewire itself. Even if you are positive, people then think you need more darkness because you are too happy and I believe social media prolly adds to this 2D comparison of sorts. I think gratitude is a good technique but there is something else when the snowball effect begins and I haven’t quite discovered it yet. I used to think it was love in its many forms and I think that is a piece yet there is something else. Vices numb, Medications (some)atrophy the brain, sex and chocolate do give you the seritonin and endorphins and in excess will make you really soft. Sleep is a key and a challenge. Feelings can’t really be trusted as a guide although they might aid the body in rewriting the story of abandoned synapses and lighting those babies up. exercise helps, but difficult to accomplish when “wondering” in the dark. As you can see I’ve spent some time working on this. Imagination helps…I feel the brain is the most amazing complex thing that we have ever tried to comparmentalize, manipulate, and understand in the history of time. All this said and yes I did ramble a bit:). I think gratitude is a marvelous place to start, I am so grateful for this article. Thank you for your words and your tackling of a challenging topic.

  8. I keep a journal and start with the everyday things; sunshine, waking up early, coffee, food. All of these things we take for granted and so that is always a great place to start! Also, there are a few things you can do to increase gratitude, especially in a dark place. The thing I did for Thanksgiving this year was I wrote reasons why I am thankful for certain people in my life. It not only made their day brighter, but mine as well! Also, writing a letter to someone you have never properly thanked is an awesome way to increase gratitude. Read it aloud to that person and see not only how it affects them, but affects you! Even in the darkest of places, we have so many things to be thankful for. Hope this is helpful!

    1. Great advice, Leslie! One thing I want to do next year is to write a letter of gratitude to someone each month and maybe even each week! Appreciate that idea!

  9. Thank you so much for this. I’ve had some heavy anxiety off and on for a few months, but I find I am slowly moving up from it.
    I am almost 30, but am feeling like I just am now realizing that life is not a fairytale, but that it’s still beautiful. It does take some fight, faith, and love to handle. I realize that it can get mundane, but that when you realize it’s that way for us all at some point, you aren’t so alone. In fact, it warms you because sharing your feelings with others and realizing it mirrors their own means that you will be ok again before you know it. God never lets you fall too far. You can always go back up.

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