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Human Performance Blog

You don't have to 'Just be Grateful'

Similar to Toxic Positivity in an earlier blog...Forcing yourself to feel grateful in times of stress isn’t just ineffective. It’s also emotionally damaging.

Every once in a while (or more often than that…we have one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong — at work, with the kids, the world, in your head. etc.)

The instinct is to journal and to vent…or wallow….you know its true.

After unloading, staring self pity in the face…we try to switch from the negative to the positive immediately to feel better…. “Just be grateful, look for the positives about…-insert whatever you want here”.

How many times over the last year have you thought to yourself...Be Grateful! What do I have to be sad/angry/stressed about….others have it SOooo much worse right now!

Gratitude, the practice and the attitude is well documented as a powerful source of those happiness hormones and even rewiring your brain to be 10% happier with consistent practice.

Naming what you’re grateful for can reset your perspective. But over-fixating on the “good” can also shame you away from some very valid emotions.

Toxic Gratitude however, forces people to breeze past their pain in search of a silver lining, whether or not one exists.

Gratitude, an amazing performance tool, and strategy can have a dark side if its used as a 'quick fix' to simply bypass a challenging feeling or experience.


The problem with trying to rush past feelings is that those feelings are bound to resurface later — often with a vengeance. (Have I explained the whack-a-mole analogy with you? Ask me!)

Here are 4 things to remember so that you can practice Gratitude in a way that avoids this complex practice pitfalls!

1. It sucks...and that's Ok (Own it)

2. Gratitude is not a Bandaid

3. Its your Life and experience

4. Cash in on your Support Network

It sucks...and that's Ok (Own it)

Devote some mental space to the crappy stuff, too. (Permission to Acknowledge....NOT wallow).

When you allow yourself to take a good and realistic look at what you are feeling, that awareness not only helps combat it, but it also gives you the ability to be in more control and eventually a more grateful person. This is because you are now in a position to be more thankful for the things that do bring you joy and happiness. Awareness also grounds you into the present moment (and i bet you've read a tonne about how much that helps in times of stress) and sharpens your ability to have perspective.

Need Help Owning it or Developing Awareness in Times of Stress? Ask Me

Gratitude is not a Bandaid

Gratitude isn’t a 'get out of jail free card' its as real as the feelings you are experiencing, consider it the yin to your emotional yang. All emotions rely on each other, and its not something that exists in a are allowed to feel more than one thing at a time...or across a time.

So when you make that gratitude list...think of it as a flashlight to help you see through the challenging emotions you are experiencing to the things that can help you survive and thrive.

Need Help Understanding if you are using Gratitude as a Hall Pass? Ask Me

Its your Life and Experience

Hey, avoid forcing it...feel what you feel. If you do force it, that can sometimes lead to guilt, frustration and even detachment. That is, not feeling like you are being yourself or hiding away - who you really are. I could go off on a tangent here about authenticity...but I wont lol.

See blog on Why we say Its Ok

Cash in on your Support Network

Sometimes we force ourselves to be grateful, so we don't have to deal with a difficult emotion. News Flash, sometimes the people around us...the "Come'n, just be grateful" ones do it so they don't have to be uncomfortable with your emotions too.

When a person dismisses your feelings, it’s often to protect themselves. A lot of times, people put up defenses where they don’t want to create any space for unpleasant emotions because they feel like they’ll be overwhelmed by them. So they end up putting their own avoidance on other people, which is silencing and unsupportive. When that happens, you won’t just miss out on an opportunity to process a feeling. You’ll also gain additional shame and stress from that person’s judgment.

Revamp your support out people who have the emotional capacity to listen to your pain and difficulties without forcing gratitude.


Want to chat? Free Check in

People that you can really talk to, without a fear of being judged, are not super common, so take care when choosing to share your experience with others and foster true empathetic relationships. This is much more effective than manufacturing gratitude in the name of self-care.


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