How to Practice Gratitude When It’s Not Working for You

Gratitude Tips

Last Updated on May 7, 2022

Do you know what’s hard sometimes? Practicing gratitude.

Those gratitude lists that everyone tells you to write aren’t always easy for me. 

And not in the sense that I don’t have anything to be grateful for in my life because I absolutely do. It’s just that gratitude sometimes gets overwhelming because it feels like I’m forcing myself to write a list for the sake of writing a list.

5 tips for practicing gratitude

Maybe like me, your mind tends to focus on the things that are going wrong. Or you think you’re a terrible person because you don’t feel grateful for the things you SHOULD be grateful for – things like family, friends, food, a roof over your head, etc.

I often stare at a blank page thinking to myself, “I should probably write that I’m grateful for [fill in the blank]”, but then it just feels ingenuine and forced.

So what are we to do? Well, if you also find it difficult to practice gratitude on a regular basis, I have a few simple gratitude tips that might make it easier for you.

Why your gratitude lists might not be working


Gratitude Tips

Let’s acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t tend to think in positives or revel in gratitude every waking moment.

I used to think that I was broken because gratitude didn’t come naturally to me, but it turns out it’s not a human being’s standard way of operating.

We’re not wired for positivity

There’s something called the negativity bias which says we react to negative stimuli more intensely than positive stimuli.

Why would we learn more from negative stimuli? Because we need to avoid the harmful, negative things that could hurt us. Our brains need to recognize and remember negative experiences so we can dodge them at all costs.

That means if we want to remember positive experiences, we have to try really hard to savor them.

Once I learned this, I felt less like an overly cynical, heartless being for not being grateful 24/7.

Do we actually need gratitude?

So if gratitude isn’t our standard mode of operation, do we really need to be practicing gratitude? 

One study on gratitude interventions showed modest improvements in people with depression and anxiety, but the researchers still recommended people utilize other forms of support as well.

That means practicing gratitude alone probably isn’t going to change your life. 

But I do think it helps to savor the things that bring you comfort, no matter how small they are. 

After all, the small things are what get us through our days.

And I believe you will attract good things in life when you radiate the kind of energy that tells the universe you’re open to receiving good things. Gratitude is one way to attract that kind of energy.

5 simple gratitude tips


Gratitude Tips

In my experimentation with gratitude, here are some things that have made it feel less forced for me:

Think of things that bring you bliss

I’ve started referring to my daily gratitude as my ‘Daily Bliss’ list. 

Instead of framing the list as things I’m grateful for, I write down three things that made my day blissful. If you need to, just think of the things that made your day mildly tolerable.

This means things like enjoying a new show, finding a new favorite song, reading a good book, talking to a friend, or making progress on a project.

Related: The Daily Bliss Planner is Here!

Write your list at the end of the day

So many people tell you to write a gratitude list first thing in the morning, but I can’t be the only one whose brain does not work when I first get up. 

I swear I can’t think of a single thing that even exists, let alone that I’m grateful for when I first wake up. 

Instead, writing my list at the end of the day works much better for me because I can reflect on the happenings of the day, who I interacted with, and the little things that lit me up.

Leave out the ‘shoulds’

Forcing yourself to try and be grateful for something isn’t going to make you feel better.

For example, if you’re not vibing with your family at a particular moment, trying to force yourself to feel grateful for your family isn’t going to do a whole lot of anything.

Instead, focus on the things that genuinely make you feel good. Let go of what you think you should be expressing gratitude for.

“Pretending you’re grateful when you’re actually not will just serve to bury your feelings. You don’t need to force yourself to think about your life in a way that isn’t true to you.”

Sarah Bence

Related Post: Letting Go Of What Doesn’t Serve You

Ask yourself why you’re grateful 

Writing a gratitude list is one thing, but actually finding the words to express WHY you’re grateful for something gives it more power.

You may take having a roof over your head for granted because you’ve never had to live without a roof, so saying that you’re grateful for the said roof may not have much meaning to you.

What might help is identifying WHY you’re grateful for that roof. For example, is it protecting you from a storm? Is it keeping the heat inside and helping you stay warm? 

Perhaps what you’re really grateful for is the protection and security that the roof provides. Digging deep into why you’re grateful can give you a new perspective on things.

Use gratitude for your goals

If you want to attract more good things in your life, use gratitude to help you achieve your goals

For example, if your goal is to improve your physical health, try expressing gratitude for the things that are already helping you to achieve your goal.

In this case, here are some reasons you might be grateful:

  • Your body allows you to move in a certain way
  • You have access to free workouts on YouTube
  • You know people who can motivate you to keep going

Practicing gratitude for the things you have, while working towards what you want, is a great way to attract positive energy in your life.

Free Resource: Get the Free Goal Planning Worksheet

Do you have any gratitude tips to share?


I hope this post has given you a few ideas to make gratitude work for you. Remember that it’s not our natural human state to feel gratitude all the time, but there is power in savoring what brings you joy on a regular basis. Leave a comment below if you have any of your own gratitude tips!

Catherine Beard
Hi, I'm Catherine! I'm here to help you get out of your head so you can stress less and focus on what matters.

19 Comments

  1. As I see it, there are 3 distinct types of gratitude:

    1. gratitude as a tool for increasing happiness and wellness when we are feeling down
    2. gratitude as a general attitude—being thankful for life’s ups AND downs, in the recognition that life’s
    challenges are often catalysts for our growth.
    3. gratitude as an expression of our true nature. When we align with our higher self, love, joy and
    gratitude are natural by-products.

    Thanks for your article. I love your writing!

  2. In the morning, I’m often my most stressed out. Especially when I don’t have my day planned out. It’s not a good time for gratitude.

    I like the idea of using gratitude for your goals. It’s like using affirmations for your goals, but focusing on the things that are going right. I’m going to incorporate that into my life for sure.

  3. I love how you talked about the reasons it’s okay if we don’t feel gratitude all the time. That we are wired to look for things that can harm us and that doesn’t make us a bad person. I’m a life coach that talks about this stuff all the time and I still need reminders! Thanks so much for spreading hope to all of us on the internet!

  4. I love how you mentioned that by practicing gratitude for the things you have now, while working towards what you want, is great for attracting positive energy. I find that many of us tend to forget how a lot of the things we have now are things that we once truly longed for, but once we got it the gratification was short-lived. Many tend to always look for the next big thing without living in the present with what one has now. Therefore, I believe that by reflecting on our past goals and comparing them to our current goals as well as our current lives can help us show gratitude for what we have now. Thanks for your post Catherine!

  5. Hey Catherine!
    I loved this post, so helpful, I think it will definitely help me a lot.
    I do gratitude every morning, but my gratitude looks like writing a list of the same thing everyday. Which I guess there’s nothing wrong with, but when you only ever recognize the same things everyday, it can be hard to experience proper gratitude. But I do have my reasons, whenever I sit down to write the list I endu up just startting off with the same things (because I really am grateful for them) but then as I go further down my brain tells me ‘hey you forgot this, you should be grateful for this’ sometimes I even manage to convince myself that if I don’t write it down as something I’m grateful for it will be taken a away (which is silly, I know). So, yeah, I haven’t really been able to experience the proper benefits of gratitude (yet!!) because of this, but I think these tips will help, to be honest it’s just nice knowing that I’m not the only one who doesn’t really reap the benefits of gratitude sometimes.

    I really loved these tips and can’t wait to implement them into my daily gratitude routine.
    Indi

  6. I’ve been resistant to the gratitude thing for quite a while. Recently I’ve incorporated it into my morning routine. As usual, what I resist most turns out to be the key to freedom from my mind. Thanks for the tips and reminder. SW

  7. I too feel like when I sit down to write what I’m grateful for it’s forced. I’ve tried it in the evenings and in the morning. I know I’ve got so many things to be grateful for but when I list them out it always feels fake. I’m so glad I came across your article and thank you so much for posting it. I am truly grateful that I’m not alone with this struggle :)

  8. Great read about gratitude! As someone who talks a lot about reaching your goals and focusing on personal development, this is my favorite part of the article, “If you want to attract more good things in your life, use gratitude to help you achieve your goals. ” -Ryan

  9. Great post. I also find that writing small and specific stuff that went good during that day like “I’m grateful my client gave me a $10 tip today” “I got a message from an old good friend” or “I managed to burn 500 calories in 3 hours” really helps. Writing generic things that everyone else writes is ungenuine and forcefull.

  10. Love your thought about writing a gratitude list at the end of the day. I write in my gratitude journal right before bed each night and it’s such a sweet way to reflect on my day and focus on the best parts of it! :) Great post!

  11. Gratitude is one of the highways to happiness. But I think it is important to realize that being happy 24/7 is impossible. Life also has surprises. And I think another key is balance.

  12. Gratitude means a lot to me and it helps really with keeping my mind straight and grounded into what is important for me. I believe that on the hard days is the time that makes the gratitude even more important. To be able to show what you truly are grateful for. I cant say I do it every day, but I do it as often as I possibly can. This was a great post!

  13. Hi Catherine, I have found that gratitude and faith go hand in hand for me. When I consider all of the blessings I have been given along the way, I concentrate on those and the gratitude comes more naturally from there. Your insight about pondering the ‘why’ of a gratitude statement making it more powerful is very true!

  14. Great post! I can relate for sure. One thing I play with is to think about what I did that day. Sometimes I find some gold in the mundane things like going food shopping. The things that we take for granted, like stocked shelves and variety. COVID19 taught me how unexpected it was when I couldn’t just get what I went to the store for!

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