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2020 was it a curse or a blessing?

How I learned to cope with difficult times by practicing gratitude

By: Soledad Rodas

At first glance it made no sense to me. How can we practice gratitude in difficult times? How do we find the good moments when we feel most helpless?

A few years ago, I heard a phrase from a good friend that has stayed in my head, and I hope to keep it in mind always: "happy and grateful". He shared the phrase telling us how he started daily acknowledgments of his blessings, paying attention to what he was thankful for that day. This simple routine is a great tool to remain positive and hopeful when life gets tough.

His words resonated with me. I thought it would be a good life hack since I knew that what you think becomes what you feel (and, consequently, how you act). I had nothing to lose and gave it a go.

I started by making a list of what I was grateful for; 2019 was a good year, it was easy to come up with things to be grateful for. Things seemed to be in place; I had a job, good health, and loving relationships. Having moments to be thankful for made it easier to create a gratitude habit. I persevered so that at the end of each day, I would think of what happened that day that made me grateful.

Months later, after a routine visit to the doctor, I got news that there were abnormal cells growing in me and needed to run more tests (it was not an emergency but something to follow up in months to come). Since I got the news at the end of the year, I decided to continue with the check-ups after the holidays.

Little did I know what 2020 would bring and how much I needed that simple routine of acknowledging what I was grateful for. In just twelve months, I endured five painful biopsies and surgeries during an unexpected COVID pandemic, and the death of my dad. The pandemic alone left us in confinement, filled with uncertainty about what would happen for months. I got sick with COVID twice. Yes, believe it or not, I got COVID-19 two times that same year. Being sick and in quarantine caused me to spend all the relevant family holidays and celebrations in isolation. My birthday, my husband's birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s! It was a tough year, with many obstacles, but also a year of much inner growth. I remember when it would get difficult, repeating over and over in my head "happy and grateful". A simple phrase that allowed me to push away any negative thoughts that would only increase my anxiety. Instead, I would make a mental list answering "what am I grateful for today?"

I remember feeling claustrophobic while inside an MRI machine, as anxiety was brewing inside me, I focused on counting my blessings. I remember how my body started to relax as I remembered the evening waves of laughter at home. Don’t get me wrong, it's alright to feel sadness and to be afraid. We need to give those feelings their space or they will just fester inside us. However, there is an inertia towards the negative and this is where it is vital to be proactive and fill our minds with positive thoughts.

What we consider our blessings gives us hope and it becomes the engine that keeps us going. It gives us the strength to keep fighting and enables us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After a grueling year, I can say that I am grateful to be alive. I am blessed to be healthy and be close to each member of my family. We grew in many ways; my teenage daughters are more resilient and mature. A few months ago we were remembering and discussing what 2020 was like for us. Surprisingly, one of my daughters mentioned that despite all the difficulties, she has beautiful memories of that year; things that seemed simple but meant the world to her and she would never forget. I realized how right she was, it is after difficult times that we learn to appreciate the small pleasures in life. We learn that our happiness is made of those little things that we so often take for granted. Being close to death makes us realize how privileged we are to have each other. The hugs and closeness that being in a lockdown brought are great blessings. I was able to see that by practicing gratitude, I was able to pass it to my children. My positive attitude during all these adversities made a domino effect and a lesson for how to live through tough times.

So I want to invite you today to start counting your blessings. Even when you are going through difficulties, take a few minutes and make a mental list of what you have, instead of what you need. Ask yourself, what blessings do I have today? If you make this a habit, you will start discovering how your mind is transformed little by little into a fuller life where you feel complete. Try it, even when you cannot find anything good right now… What's the worst that can happen? Perhaps you will waste a few minutes if this does not work out for you. If you succeed, however, you will gain a habit that will be a great gift for you and your family.

There are times when you have no energy. Times when you cannot see the positive aspects of your life. Times when you are numb to all good and bad things. Many reasons and life experiences may have led you to feel this way. We want you to know that you do not have to do this alone; we can help you.

Esperantza has a program called TIAS that is there to listen to you and to help you find the help you need to start living life at its fullest. Make a free appointment at:

If you want more information about ways we can help you, please visit us at:


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