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Gratitude: Can There Be TOO Much of a Good Thing?

  • gratitude_beach_Steps_to_strengthOne of the basics of Strength resides in gratitude.  Being grateful for what you have, not feeling lack because of what you don’t have.  If you’re a Strong Single Mom Network member, one of the first newsletters you received is based around the Gratitude Principle.  And if you’re a frequent read of this blog, you may have read the 30 day challenge found towards the end of this post.

    So when I picked up this month’s issue of Psychology Today I was intrigued to see a short half-page article called “4 Don’ts of Gratitude.”

    Hmm. Can there REALLY be ways of creating an Attitude of Gratitude that is actually counter-productive?  Can thanksgiving be taken too far?  Are there really RULES on how to be grateful?

    Apparently, the answer is yes.  FOUR yeses to be exact. (When I looked for the article online, I found this article that actually lists five.)

    The one that really caught my attention was second on the list:

    Don’t Overdose on Gratitude.

    According to Amie M. Gordon, M.A., there is a study that shows that journaling your gratitude once per week can leave you feeling happier, but journaling 3 times per week can have the opposite effect.  She suggests that expecting yourself to express written gratitude every day can leave you searching for things for which to be grateful.  If you come up short it may actually leave you feeling like your life isn’t that good or that you don’t have much to be grateful for.

    This leaves me wondering a couple of things:

    1. What are the details of this study?  Who conducted the study, who were the subjects, what were the parameters? After all, all of those factors could sway the results.  I’m curious.

    2. Who can’t find something to be grateful for EVERY day?!?!?!  Seriously…if you find yourself lacking things to be grateful for, then I submit to you that the answer isn’t to cut back on the frequency of writing in your gratitude journal!  The answer is to expand your view and shift your mindset.  

    If you’re receiving our newsletter, than you’ve likely read the story I share about how my CHOICE to give thanks in ALL things was the hinge that swung open the door to change in my life.  Gratitude was the catalyst that allowed me to escape an abusive relationship at age 20, change my circumstances, and start to turn my life around.

    But I had to start small.  I can still remember the first morning I awoke after making this decision.  It came after reading the Bible the night before.  There is a verse that I came across that tells us that God’s will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances.  ALL circumstances.  Hmmm.

    I was at such a low point that I figured I had nothing to lose.  I woke up that next morning with the same despair and lethargy that I usually had, what with being trapped in an abusive relationship and all. I lie in bed that morning, staring at the ceiling.  I WANTED to give thanks for something…anything…but I couldn’t think of a single thing.  I turned my head and looked out the window to see the sun shining in a bright blue sky.

    “Thank you, God, that the sky is blue and the sun is shining.”

    It was quite literally the only thing I could muster up.

    But the next morning came and I found myself able to add something to that.  And the next day I added something else.  And before I knew it, my list was longer than I thought possible.  I began to realize just HOW blessed I really was.

    So my thought on this article is that if I could turn my world around by being grateful for a blue sky in the midst of my personal misery, than anyone can do it!

    Journal LESS gratitude just because you MAY not be able to find something to be grateful for, so you MIGHT feel even worse?

    Isn’t that like telling someone that they should exercise LESS because they MAY experience sore muscles?  Maybe…just maybe…instead of journaling less one might consider that the “pain” of not finding something to be grateful for should encourage them to expand their mindset and stretch themselves further to dig into their gratitude muscle.

    But maybe that’s just me.  And hey…I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today ;)

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