I need to start this post with a disclaimer: I am keenly aware that I live a charmed life. I have an amazing husband and six beautiful, healthy children, plus a job and home I love, and we’re surrounded by supportive family. Life is full and busy and chaotic and beautiful, but good for the most part.

Our family has walked through some tough things as well—tough times in our marriage, mild postpartum depression, miscarriagesscary illnesses (more than once), and our plans falling apart—but I still find myself hesitant to write about celebrating in the hard times because some of you are walking through really hard times right now and I don’t want you to think that I’m at all minimizing that.

However, as I said at the beginning of this month, I do think that choosing to celebrate the good during those times is an important part of not just surviving life but actually thriving, and that’s my hope for each of you as you walk through this course.

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So whether the hard in your life is simply being exhausted by the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn or intense grief over the death of someone you love, here are a few strategies for celebrating in the midst of your pain:

Make a decision to keep trying.

The most important part of choosing joy and gratitude and celebration is simply deciding that it’s worth the effort. No, you can’t make the decision once and change your life forever. Yes, you will probably end up giving in to stress and overwhelm and discontent more than once along the way. But deciding that it’s worth getting back up and trying again will keep you moving forward and choosing celebration more and more often.

Identify your pain points.

When I start to get frustrated with everything and everyone around me, I try to look for the pain points that are contributing to my feelings (I say try because it sometimes takes me awhile to realize that am the common denominator in those situations). For me, it can be something as simple as being hot or cold, needing to brush my teeth, or trying to communicate with my family over background noise or across the house. Taking a minute to identify and correct these makes a huge difference in my ability to cope and choose joy.

Change the scenery.

No, I don’t mean you should pick up and move to Costa Rica when things get tough! But stepping outside, taking a walk, or even getting out to run a few errands is a great way to “reset” your attitude and regain perspective.

Compare your situation to others.

I’ve heard several people say that you should be allowed to feel your pain without comparing it to someone else’s. To some degree, I do agree with that in principle, but I also find that recognizing the hardships and griefs that other people are experiencing helps me celebrate the good things in my own life rather than focusing on the bad. Because I want to live a life that is characterized by celebrating the good, that’s a helpful exercise for me.

ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS

1. Make a list of the “pain points” that often lead to stress, overwhelm and discontent in your life. Pay attention this week and add more to the list. And then practice recognizing—and correcting—them in the moment as well.

2. Create a prayer list of people who are walking through really hard times. Commit to praying for them regularly whenever you become overwhelmed by the hard things in your own life.

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