Completing a Gratitude Journal has been a very important part of my life for many years now. It helps to ease my anxiety, it helps me to live in the present moment, and it helps me to appreciate everything in my life.
Over the years i have come to recognise that focusing to much time on gratitude, it can formulate feelings of worthlessness, self-recrimination, guilt and self-doubt.
How you might ask?
With an ever growing emphasis on self-development and self-love we are told to be grateful, count our blessings and appreciate everything in our lives.
I totally get this, and practising gratitude on the hole did and does shift any negative thoughts to positive, but then it raises the question.
Why am I so fortunate?
Why do i have x,y and z, when some people have nothing?
When i would watch the news, or someone would tell me a piece of bad news. I would feel incredibly sad and guilty.
Feeling down about sad and tragic events is obviously a natural feeling felt by the majority of humans, but these feelings started to consume me.
I noticed that even though i now felt more positive and grateful for everything in my life, this magnified the fact that many deal with such tragedy and hardship. Feelings towards others and their misfortunes started to consume me and create feelings of self-recrimination.
I would feel helpless that I couldn’t help, and guilty that I was so fortunate.
I read some literature about the drawbacks of practising gratitude. I have tried to breakdown in my own words some situations where practising gratitude may hinder our happiness.
They are as follows:
- If we don’t like our job. Gratitude would tell us that we should be grateful for said job. Some people would love to be in our shoes. Our job pays the bills and puts food on the table.
- If we are unhappy in a relationship. From a lover, partner or a friendship. Gratitude would tell us that we ought to be grateful that we have a husband, wife, lover, or friend. Some people don’t have anyone, and lead incredibly lonely lives.
- If we want to improve our quality of life. From improving our health, diet, taking trips to moving house etc. Gratitude would tell us that there are people out there with worse health issues and diets. Some people don’t even have running water. Why move to a bigger house, some people are homeless?
Practising gratitude in the above instances, instances where we genuinely don’t feel happy, or instances were we want to grow and make a positive change in our life. It could stunt our growth, and leave us feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.
We would stay in jobs we despised, plod along in unhappy relationships, and never improve our quality of life, or self- development.
We could hinder pursuing our dreams, if we settled and rationalised our feelings by simply thinking:
“I should be grateful for what i have in my life, it could always be worse”.
If we want to better ourselves and the quality of our life then we should, we shouldn’t just settle and feel grateful because Joe Bloggs may have it worse.
We are told time and time again:
“Comparison is the thief of joy”.
This quote is usually associated with what others may have, not what others don’t have. I think the quote is applicable to the two.
Whilst we should be conscious of others and help and support those who are less fortunate, we should not feel we are not worthy of our fortune.
So whilst practising gratitude is something that is integral to our mental well-being, it should be practised with care.
If a part of our life is genuinely making us unhappy, or we want to better our lives, we shouldn’t practise gratitude.
We should without fear or judgement – practise change.