Gratitude Practice: What I do instead of daily gratitude practice

Objectivity is a core value of mine. So maybe that’s also a reason why I don’t resonate with the typical daily gratitude practice. To me gratitude practice just seems too forced. Too focused on finding a silver lining – which often discounts the struggles we may be facing.

Like so many things in life, it’s a balance. Figuring out how to find that balance is what I want to talk about.

Research consistently highlights the benefits of practicing gratitude. Showing its power to improve overall mental health and enhance our sense of well-being. When we acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of our lives. No matter how small, it can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. 

But to be honest, I really don’t resonate with the daily gratitude practice. This is of writing down three things you’re grateful for everyday for many reasons:

  1. Because it gets so freaking repetitive so quickly and becomes meaningless.
  2. Because it has you focused on things outside of yourself that you can’t control. Things that can get taken away from you.
  3. Because it subtly forces us into a place of toxic positivity. Where we’re directing our attention to everything that’s great. This is without acknowledging that there are some parts of life that really suck.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to recognize the positive things that are happening in our life. I just think it’s also important to recognize the neutral and undesirable things as well.

Instead of fixating on always finding the silver lining, we really have to embrace a more nuanced approach to gratitude practice

The Unhelpful Side of a Daily Gratitude Practice

Daily gratitude practices aren’t really meant for complex situations like people who have had a history of trauma. Those who are currently struggling, or when we’re navigating complex emotions and experiences. Like having your body break just a little bit more every few years as it piles on a new chronic health condition…just sayin’.

Studies have shown that forcing oneself to feel grateful, especially in the face of adversity. Can actually lead to increased stress and negative emotions. Along with that, the pressure to maintain a facade of constant positivity may contribute to feelings of guilt or shame when one inevitably struggles to find something to be grateful for.

Instead of fixating on always finding the silver lining, we really have to embrace a more nuanced approach to gratitude—one that objectively acknowledges the full spectrum of human emotions and experiences. This might involve recognizing and sitting with difficult emotions, allowing space for healing and growth, rather than rushing to find the bright side. By honoring our authentic experiences, we can cultivate a more genuine sense of gratitude that truly helps us feel better.

During challenging times, focusing solely on the silver lining is not only dismissive and invalidating, it rewards the ability to soldier on in gratitude practice

Stop Celebrating the Word Resilient

Gratitude and resilience go hand in hand.

During challenging times – which is kind of just life in general for most of us right now – focusing solely on the silver lining is not only dismissive and invalidating, it rewards the ability to soldier on. 

I’ve talked before about how I hate the word resilient.

Yet this word keeps getting thrown around like it’s something to strive for.

I remember one of the courses I took when I was working in a pediatric ICU and it taught what not to say to someone who’s dying or their family. All of those empty platitudes “Oh they had a good life” “At least you get to say goodbye” “They’re in a better place now” those were all off the list because they invalidate or oversimplify those people’s experiences.

The number of times someone asks me what I did this weekend and I say “slept pretty much the whole time to recover from the week.” Then they say “oh that’s so great, I wish I could nap and spend all day in bed” like it was a choice, and not something forced on me because of my disability and chronic illnesses.

Absolutely, I’ve learned a lot about myself because of my disability, illnesses, and past traumas and struggles. But that doesn’t mean I want to look for the bright side of needing to be constantly aware of my four energy levels or need to double check every single ingredient in every food to make sure nothing contains a histamine trigger food.

This is where finding the balance really comes in. For me, that balance isn’t a gratitude practice – but a celebration practice.

Even on the rough days, I can still find something to be proud of.

What is a Celebration Practice and How is it Different From a Gratitude Practice?

Gratitude practices typically:

  • Focus on the positive aspects of your life that are external to you (big or small).
  • Allow you to be more present and attentive to things that go well throughout the day.
  • Share acts of kindness and gratitude with others, fostering a sense of connection and reciprocity.
  • Notice that many of the blessings in life come from sources outside of oneself, cultivating a sense of humility and interconnectedness.
  • Maintaining a positive (but not necessarily objective) outlook on life, even in the face of challenges, by focusing on the things you’re grateful for.
  • Drawing strength from moments of gratitude to navigate through difficult times and bounce back from adversity. (which has a downside that we’ve just talked about)
  • Recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals.

A celebration practice is a bit different. Instead of focusing on finding the positives and celebrating things primarily outside of yourself, a celebration practice takes a more neutral/objective approach.

By focusing on celebration, I’m acknowledging my challenges or the difficulties in my day and in my gratitude practice

Acknowledging Daily Triumphs through gratitude practice

We’re able to reconnect to our own strengths and confidence and give ourselves a pat on the back for all of the effort we’ve put into the day (rather than only focusing on the outcome.)

Somedays I celebrate the fact that I got out of bed in the morning and put real pants on. Somedays I celebrate how I showed up for a client, or the way I helped people in one of the yoga classes that I teach. Other days I celebrate that I managed to not snap at anybody despite feeling super irritable due to a lack of emotional energy or if I’m in a lot of pain. There are somedays I celebrate the fact that I accomplished more than I thought I could.

So you see, by focusing on celebration, I’m acknowledging my challenges or the difficulties in my day. I’m accepting that some days are rough. But even on those rough days, I can still find something to be proud of.

Questions to Guide your Daily Celebration Practice:

I know that this is tricky to do, especially if you’re a people pleaser that often has their focus on other people rather than on yourself. So I’ve created a short list of questions you could skim through and ask yourself one or two of them each day to celebrate you and how you’re moving through your challenges.

These are taken from the Creating Calm App’s journal/reflection prompt section, and you can either try out the app free for a week here, or you can get a free pdf of the 15 questions here.

Are you going to give a celebration practice a try?

I know that celebrating ourselves is tricky to do, especially if you’re a people pleaser that often has their focus on other people rather than on yourself. But try anyway. It will be worth it.

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Beautiful Day - U2


Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. [This study explores the effects of gratitude on subjective well-being, highlighting the potential benefits but also noting the importance of authenticity in gratitude practices.]

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2009). Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the Five Factor Model. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(4), 443–447. [This research examines the relationship between gratitude and life satisfaction, demonstrating its positive impact on overall well-being.]

Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2012). Gratitude and depressive symptoms: The role of positive reframing and positive emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 26(4), 615–633. [This study investigates the relationship between gratitude and depressive symptoms, highlighting the importance of authentic positive reframing in mitigating negative emotions.]

Kashdan, T. B., Uswatte, G., & Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(2), 177–199. [This research examines the impact of gratitude on well-being in veterans, offering insights into its role in fostering resilience in the face of trauma.]

Kashdan, T. B., Mishra, A., Breen, W. E., & Froh, J. J. (2009). Gender differences in gratitude: Examining appraisals, narratives, the willingness to express emotions, and changes in psychological needs. Journal of Personality, 77(3), 691–730. [This study explores gender differences in gratitude expression and its relationship to psychological well-being, providing insights into individual differences in gratitude experiences.]


  1. What challenges did I face today, and how did I navigate through them?
  2. What difficult emotions did I experience, and how did I respond to them with compassion?
  3. What moments of growth or learning did I encounter today, and how did I embrace them?
  4. How did I show kindness or support to myself or others today?
  5. What accomplishments, big or small, did I achieve today?
  6. In what ways did I demonstrate courage or bravery in facing obstacles or fears?
  7. How did I prioritize self-care and well-being today?
  8. What moments of joy or gratitude did I experience, despite any challenges or setbacks?
  9. How did I practice patience and acceptance in moments of uncertainty or difficulty?
  10. What small victories or milestones did I reach today, and how can I celebrate them?
  11. How did I honor my boundaries and advocate for my needs today?
  12. What moments brought a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction, and how can I acknowledge and celebrate them?
  13. How did I demonstrate resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity?
  14. What strengths or qualities did I embody today, and how did they serve me in navigating through the day?
  15. How did I prioritize my values and align my actions with them today?