How to Practice Gratitude without Being Fake

Thanksgiving is coming up next week. This holiday is one that is pretty easy for me to love because cooking and eating are two of my favorite things. You get to do both on Thanksgiving and you only have to spend one day with your extended family. Seems perfect, right?

Oh yeah, I forgot about gratitude. In some form or fashion, you may be asked to reflect on or proclaim your gratitude. I don’t doubt the myriad studies that say gratitude is good for us. I appreciate the need to express and receive gratitude. But, as a lifelong pigheaded person, I refuse to feel something on demand.

Honestly, it’s not even truly refusal. I could decide to go along with the little game of gratitude to amuse my family or shut them up. But I would know in my secret heart of hearts that I don’t really feel grateful. What I really feel is resentful.

This same phenomenon is why I also can’t do positive affirmations. They don’t make me feel strong, calm, empowered or loved. They make my mind argue and my mind already does this well enough on it’s own. In short, despite the best intentions of these positive practices, I just can’t force my mind or heart to go in a direction it’s not already inclined to go.

So, what’s the key here? How can someone like me practice gratitude in a way that’s not fake? One way, of course, is to notice when genuine gratitude comes up, savor it, and where appropriate share it. I do this and it feels really good.

But can I cultivate gratitude otherwise? Despite my mental and emotional blocks against fakery, I have discovered a hack. I have written many times about my fondness for loving-kindness practice. One of the reasons I love this practice so much is that it serves as a gratitude practice for me.

I don’t go into the practice hoping for gratitude but it almost always shows up as a wonderful side effect. When I bring to mind the people I love and care about and wish them well, invariably I also feel gratitude that they are in my life. Strangely, I even sometimes feel gratitude to myself and to the difficult people in my life as the practice progresses.

This is why I am sharing a gratitude meditation that is really a modified loving-kindness practice. It follows the same traditional pattern, but instead of wishing the phrases of peace and well-being it includes an offering of gratitude. I did this one for the Mindfulness in Law Society Virtual Sit this week and remembered how much I liked it.

To try out the practice, find it here or on our YouTube channel or on Insight Timer. Please have a wonderful holiday weekend. I am honestly and sincerely grateful to have you as a reader and meditation friend.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.

Like this post? Subscribe to the blog here or follow us on social media:

Leave a Reply