What to do when you can’t feel gratitude

You are currently viewing What to do when you can’t feel gratitude
Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

Have you been yo-yo-ing on emotions for so long that you feel like a human pinwheel? You feel everything and nothing. One thing that you definitely can’t feel is gratitude. Instead of trying to force yourself to feel grateful, this article (the first of a 5-part series) will help you navigate the ingratitude spiral, sharing some tips on what to try if you just can’t feel grateful for anything in your life right now.

The flaw in faking it

When I’m down, I’m really down. The things that usually bring me joy leave me empty. I feel like an enormous fake, just pretending and going through the motions. Positive affirmations don’t work. Fake smiling doesn’t trick my brain into feeling happy. And I sure as hell can’t find a single thing that I can genuinely feel grateful for. The problem with faking it is that it can just make you feel even more disconnected from reality and everyone else than before.

When you’re in the pit and burrowing deeper

It can be hard to feel much of anything at all. Of course, you should be grateful you can breathe. But, would you rather not be breathing?

What about walking? Rationally, you know it must be horrible not to be able to walk. Rationally, you are grateful that you can walk.

But do thoughts like these make you feel more guilt and self-hate because you can’t bring yourself to care about yourself, least of all someone else? Do you sometimes envy others, even beggars or the homeless? Thinking that they would be able to do more with your life?

When someone tells me to be grateful when I’m in this space, it often has the opposite effect. I’m not grateful. I wish I wasn’t alive.

The ingratitude spiral

If you’re in a spiral of ingratitude, even your favourite spiritual gurus or motivational speakers become annoying. You might find their jollity, their strident enthusiasm for life, difficult to bear. When you can’t feel grateful, hearing personal stories and struggles that are supposed to motivate you and show you that they get it, are treacly authentic at best, at worst, patronising or alienating.

Maybe you go through the motions of a happy, can-do person: long walks, eating healthy, getting rest, succeeding in work or the tasks you’ve set yourself, seeing friends and doing cool things, but they don’t help. You feel like you’re in a pit with no light streaking in, one that’s dark and awful, but you don’t really have the energy or will to get out (or maybe you just don’t want to, because everything feels meaningless).

So, how do you bring yourself out of such a funk, when absolutely nothing helps?

Well, the good news is that there actually is a way out. This article is the first of a 5-part series, covering some of the things that are worth a try when you just can’t feel gratitude.

Blue-footed booby Success formula: Stop trying to feel gratitude 

  1. Stop trying to change how you feel (using sheer willpower)
  2. Acknowledge your feelings
  3. Accept that you’re not okay

It’s okay to not be okay 

If you’re struggling to feel grateful, the struggle to get out of bed in the morning is real. Maybe you need a day, a week, or a month to lie in bed and hide. Sometimes the pressure, the guilt, the internal conflict of just trying to be okay is more than you can bear. So, accept it. You’re not okay. You want to die. But you’re not doing anything about it right? That’s something. Not much, but a glimmer.

If you can’t feel gratitude, it’s usually a sign that you are in a very dark place. It’s quite likely that you need professional help. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts that you’re worried you might act on, please contact your nearest medical facility, a GP, or a suicide hotline. Please go through this list of suicide hotlines around the world, by country to find someone you can talk to.

However, some of us don’t have the ability, resources or strength to seek the help we need.  Maybe you don’t even see your feelings as a problem. If gratitude remains elusive and you just want to learn more about things you can do at home to help you deal with your emotions (or lack thereof), keep reading for the next part of this series.


Q: What if I don’t have money to see someone?

A: There are many free clinics and centres that can provide counselling. Here’s some info.

Q:  I need to find a clinical psychologist, where do I start?

A: Search for registered psychologists with current and confirmed credentials on credible websites such as www.goodtherapy.org or www.psychologytoday.com. Or ask your local doctor, who should be able to refer you.

Q: What can I do at home?

A: Try a grounding therapy technique to clear and reboot your mind.