Why a gratitude practice is not working for you

“Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos”, wrote Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance. Sarah recommends keeping a gratitude journal and listing at least five things that we are grateful for every day. It is not easy to be grateful all the time. But it’s when we feel least grateful that we most need to invoke a sense of gratitude in ourselves.

Gratitude is also sometimes referred to as “benefit finding.” This refers to an individual’s perception that a major positive change has occurred as a result of challenging life events. It’s not uncommon to find people suffering from life threatening illnesses, trauma and other negative experiences show deep appreciation for their own strength and resilience. Gratitude leads to a change in life philosophy where we begin showing appreciation for little things in life.

I heard a talk by Barbara Corcoran where she was parting with business lessons to young entrepreneurs. She spoke about some key principles that enabled her to grow a multi-million dollar real estate business from a 1000$ investment in 1973. She attributed providing recognition (not monetary) to her employees as a transforming factor in her business. It boosted staff morale who then exhibited out of the box thinking and creativity to push forward through a slump in the real estate market. People don’t require big gestures, but heartfelt ones.

When we offer gratitude whether it’s a work or personal situations, it always helps to be specific. Instead of saying ‘you are amazing’ try saying ‘you are amazing because ____________.’

Why is it then, you might ask is gratitude not practiced by most? And why is it that Forbes calls gratitude – “your most powerful forgotten weapon”?

  1. It’s deceptively simple: The practice of gratitude appears to be too simple to be true. In today’s world we have come to identify complication with fulfilment. Hence why we get into debt buying things we can’t afford and sometimes invest in financial market products that we don’t completely understand. Let’s indulge in an exercise here, in this moment try to recollect something from your life that brought you joy. Chances are that whatever you remembered had little to do with what money can buy. The best things in life are free! There is enough proven research that has acknowledged gratitude’s ability to tap into neuroplasticity that begins changing neural pathways and change brain chemistry.
  2. We are afraid of putting ourselves out there: To a degree, expressing gratitude requires courage. I read someplace ‘thank your Barista for making those shapes on your morning coffee’ as an option to express gratitude. I was cringing on the inside just reading that. In a culture of individualism we have forgotten our interdependence and inter connectedness. We forget that what we want from the world is what we need to give first. Pay it forward!
  3. Assumptions associated with expressing gratitude: We might think that if we express gratitude we might be taken for granted. We think it’s not necessary to thank our spouse for making the bed every day or our kids for cleaning up after themselves. Research has identified a 5:1 ratio which increases the success and stability of relationships. For every one criticism or negative comment show 5 times more appreciation.
  4. Having expectations: ‘Expectations undermine gratitude,’ Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem, discusses in his book. “The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have. If you get what you expect, you will not be grateful for getting it.” Lowering expectations, particularly pertaining to circumstances beyond your control helps to bring gratitude to fruition.
  5. You have tried a gratitude practice and it does not seem to stick: Well we have some alternatives for you Click here!

Words To Grow By

Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos”.