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Finding Peace When Bad Things Happen

Can you remember your last bad day?

The inspiration for this blog post…read to the end to find out why.

Mine happened exactly two weeks ago. Driving home, I watched as a fire truck took a right turn toward my neighborhood.

Always an unsettling feeling.

When I arrived, I saw the truck had joined other emergency vehicles, just down the street from my house. Though everyone was physically okay, the event challenged people’s security in their safest of places.

When bad stuff like this happens, it triggers waves of fear-based emotions. And these waves form circles around those involved, extending to their loved ones, their friends, their neighbors, their town, and maybe farther.

So my bad day was a bad day for a lot of people.

And a big challenge for presence and gratitude. In fact, when people and bad things collide, presence and gratitude face a couple strong arguments:

1)      Why would we want to be present during tough stuff?

When we’re in a fear state, presence lets us check in with our bodies.

We can ask “Where am I feeling the fear?” The answer might be tightness in the belly or shortness of breath in the chest.

Why this works:

Instead of feeling like this overwhelming negative thing has swallowed us whole, we can pinpoint its location. So we’re not really in the belly of this monster, we’re still here with our feet touching earth.

And we’re still us, one part of us just needs some loving attention.

2)      How can we be grateful for bad things?

If you’re like me and not a fan of the “It could have been worse” approach, try something like this:

“I’m grateful that, even though I don’t see it now, I’ll discover this pain’s purpose down the road.”

Or maybe start here:

“I’m grateful that in this moment I’m alive and able to love.”

Either of these is enough.

Why this works:

Because when we allow in a bit of gratitude, it’s enough to tip the scale toward the positive. Gratitude, regardless of the situation in which you express it, is the shortest path to a higher level of living.

See, our brains keep us alive by pointing us toward pleasure and away from pain. Unfortunately, that pain we avoid revisits us until we deal with it. Presence and gratitude, however, work by looking pain in the eyes and finding something about the situation to appreciate.

Moments are kind of like people, they just want to be seen and valued. When we can do that, what happens next is pretty magical. We’re able to rise above the bad thing and get to that higher, peaceful level.

Because remember, together, presence and gratitude bring peace.

So…how did I handle my bad day? With these two statements:

I feel a churning in my belly BUT I’m grateful that…


2)      …experiencing this anxiety will help me better serve adults and kids struggling with it, too.

I’ll leave you with this box-of-chocolates simile:

Presence and gratitude is like the jar of autumn trail mix in the photo.

We don’t have to love the nuts (tough situations) as much as the candy corn (awesome moments), we just have to see the nuts for what they are (fuel for a stronger self) and be grateful for their role in growing us into our purposes.

After all, without the nuts all we have is sweet stuff…and that’s not good for our bodies or our lives.

How do you plan to use presence and gratitude to handle your next bad day? Would love to hear your comments below! 

And if you liked this topic and want to know more, please check out this previous blog “A Compassionate, Three-Step Way to Handle Tragedy”


  1. Terry says:

    Love the simile! I have found very often how everything eventually works out or found the reason for needing to deal with something, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to go through the tough times. It does make me stop and wonder though how this or that difficulty or challenge will become an asset or strength down the road. I suppose that is being present in a way. Thanks!

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