Two Contrarian Choices for When You’re Not Feeling Grateful

It’s November. Thanksgiving is around the corner. It even hits “early”—in the third week of the month instead of the last. Are you ready? November. It’s here. The month of gratitude, thanksgiving, abundance.

Gratitude is a great feeling. It’s the gateway drug to all sorts of good stuff—more happiness, less depression, more empathy, less aggression, better health, longer life, and more.

But what happens when gratitude is not there? What happens when you just don’t feel it? Instead, you feel discouraged or tired or just plain blah.

If you can’t muster it, here are 2 contrarian quick tips for jump-starting gratitude.

TIP #1: DON’T BE GRATEFUL (for a bit)!

Compassionately acknowledge where you are. Rather than force yourself into feeling gratitude, try out being self-compassionate about where you are. Have a talk with yourself, or journal a bit. This is step 1. For example, “Okay, I recognize that I’m not feeling grateful right now. I recognize that what I am feeling right now is tired, a bit cranky, and a little scared about where all the money is supposed to come from for the upcoming holiday season.”

Caution: Don’t add on judgments or meaning to your acknowledgement, as this can give more space to the negative (e.g., don’t add, “I’m such a hypocrite—I can’t even walk my talk on this gratitude stuff” or “I should have saved more money for Christmas presents”). I repeat: don’t do this!

Step 2: Next, add gratitude for your self-awareness. For example, “And as I recognize what I’m really feeling, I’m grateful that I have the self-awareness to be able to know where I am. I’m grateful that I can allow myself to feel a full range of emotions without judging myself. I am grateful that I am continually learning.”

Step 3. Linger over the gratitude. Focus on holding it for 10 seconds longer than you thought you could. Picture a loved one as you linger over the gratitude. Or picture a Divine Being or white ball of beautiful energy. Your mind is a powerful tool for creation.

TIP #2: BORROW IT!

If you’re not feeling it, chances are someone else is. Connect with another human being, and you’ll boost your odds for gratitude. Oxytocin will be released, and that always makes us feel better. Consider connecting with:

  • A bone marrow buddy who knows how to listen empathetically, without guilting you into “you should be grateful!”
  • A random stranger in the parking lot or in the aisles of the grocery store—share a warm smile, let your eyes twinkle. Feel it.
  • A fun video. Watch the final seconds of the World Series, followed by a bunch of grown men jumping around like little kids. Guaranteed to jump-start some warm-fuzzies (apologies to any Dodgers fans out there).
  • Send an appreciation text to someone. In two sentences state a trait you admire about them. Press send.

Bottom line: Choose to do something mindful, self-compassionate, novel, or fun. Want more tips? Here’s an earlier blog on “Choose Your Mood”!

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