Showing gratitude for the people and things in your life can be a beautiful practice.

If you’re not familiar, the art of gratitude journaling is focused on highlighting the things in your life you feel an appreciation for. Usually this is in the form of documenting 3-5 things you can call to mind each day, over a ritualistic coffee or candlelight.

The research behind this practice shows us that expressing gratitude can help shift our mindset and reduce stress and anxiety.

….If you’re doing it right.

However, if you’re using it to further self-silence or avoid difficult or unpleasant emotions by putting a gratitude bandaid on top, you might need to rethink it.

The culture of “someone’s got it worse”

We live in a culture of suppression.

We don’t like feeling anything perceived as difficult and we often don’t know how to handle someone else’s difficult, either.

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I planned for a natural, unmedicated birth. You know the transformative, empowering ones you see plastered all over social media?

I wanted that experience so bad. So I read all the books and took the right classes to prepare me.

I was ready.

And, after 36 hours in labor, my daughter was born via emergency c-section.

I felt devastated, exhausted, and disempowered.

But all anyone could think to say was “at least she is healthy and you are healthy.” And while they meant well, and there was truth in that statement, it didn’t allow me to feel the disappointment I was feeling.

For a long time, this was exactly how I used my gratitude practice: just another way to suppress the more difficult feelings I felt by forcing myself to see the silver lining and focus on the good.

I didn’t know how to sit with my pain, disappointment, grief, or anything that felt uncomfortable. I wanted the discomfort to go away.

In the culture of “someone’s got it worse than you, so suck it up” I would suck up whatever unpleasant thing I was feeling and further silence myself with my own pen. 

But all I was really doing was shaming myself for feeling what I was feeling and forcing myself to feel something I didn’t.

Don’t be like me.

If you want a gratitude practice that is empowering, avoid these 3 things:

  1. Make sure you’re not using it to suppress or avoid any difficult emotions
  2. Avoid using it as a bandaid and shaming yourself for feeling a certain way
  3. And try not to zone out while letting it become a repetitive or routine practice

With a truly empowering practice of gratitude, the idea is to be highlighting the things we appreciate and feel grateful for without dismissing the challenging or difficult aspects of our lives.

Both can exist.

If you’re feeling sad, or angry, allow those feelings their space without trying to sugarcoat them.

Forcing yourself to feel grateful, or telling yourself you *should* feel grateful because ________ (enter whatever self-silencing and shaming sentence fits the mood) is not going to call in the good feels you’re looking for.

If you are a sensitive soul and this resonated, let’s stay connected!

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