4 Things That Can Keep You From Being Thankful

Woman smiling at the table being thankful

So here we are in November already (big sigh). And because the holiday of the month is Thanksgiving, my chant for the month will be, “will be thankful! ” (That is, thankful that spring and summer will come again!) Whatever! Back to Thanksgiving. Even though there are different theories on when and how the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, most people understand it to be a day of giving thanks. But what do you do when you just don’t feel like being thankful? 

I get it! Life can undoubtedly deliver setbacks to us all, such as grief over a loss, rocky finances, sour relationships, loneliness, health issues (physical or mental), etc. And the very last thing a person dealing with these types of issues might feel like doing is celebrating by giving thanks. If you are one of those individuals, I hope after reading this blog, you will have found something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and beyond.

However, before I go any further, I want to be clear about something first. Suppose you are genuinely experiencing a dire situation right now. In that case, I don’t want to come across as being flippant or uncaring. There really are times when overwhelming grief or sadness are the appropriate emotions. This blog is more for the person who is just in a general “funk,” shall we say, regarding the holiday as being a time to give thanks.


Imagine living in a world where we wanted nothing or nothing ever went wrong. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You might think so, but then how would we ever learn to be grateful if we never experienced need? Have you ever really thought about it? Let’s talk about this for a second.

The first settlers that came to America endured many hardships. From sailing the dangerous seas to settling in a land of the unknowns, times were tough! After landing, they had to survive the harsh winter with little food. After losing so many to disease and starvation, those left in the spring planted their crops. After reaping their first successful harvest, it’s not hard to imagine how grateful they were, knowing they would have food to sustain them through the following winter.

If we never experienced hunger, how could we appreciate the food set before us? If we had millions in the bank and financially had no worries, how giddy would we be to find a $50 bill? Suppose we drove the latest model of vehicle on the market. How willing would we be to accept a donated or inexpensive car so we could get around town? If we never had an ache or illness, what would pain relievers or medical technology mean to us? If we never lost a loved one, how would we learn to cherish and hold dear those who have been put into our lives? 

Sometimes, we have so much at our disposal that we tend to take “stuff” for granted. It’s easy to do. And yet, unfortunately, we don’t run out of things to complain about or be unthankful for either. 


  1. Envy  This can be a big one, and it can be ugly. Comparing yourself or your “possessions” to others is a surefire way to feel inadequate, depressed, or a failure. 
  2. Dwelling on what you don’t have – When you are so focused on what you don’t have, it’s harder to see and be thankful for what you do have. 
  3. Hanging on to the past (hurts, let-downs, injustices) – In the world of psychology, there is a term called rumination. It literally means “Chewing the cud.” It’s what cows do—Chew, swallow, regurgitate, re-chew. It’s suitable for cattle but not so much for humans. Ruminating is like a stuck record that keeps repeating the same lyrics. 
  4. Fear of what being grateful might bring – Say what? Yes, some people excel at focusing on their suffering (and sharing it, I might add). It’s a way of life for them to constantly complain, hold regular self-pity parties, and play the martyr. Changing would mean stopping these behaviors and having to acknowledge others’ difficulties and find something else to talk about instead of their own problems. So, for them to be grateful, it could turn their lives upside down, but in a good way!

So now, to answer what to do if you don’t feel thankful. Dig deep and really look at your life. Consider all the things you should and can be grateful for. They are there! Everyone, everywhere, has something to be thankful for. Look past the challenges before you (I know they are there.) If, after looking around, the only thing you can be grateful for is that you had just enough milk to cover your cereal this morning, then “Bye, Golly! Be thankful for that!” 


I have an exercise for you. Get a pen and paper. Write down all the things you can think of that you can be thankful for. Don’t overlook anything! Even things we tend to take for granted, from biggies like food and water, electricity, transportation, nature, family, and friends, right down to things like socks without holes. You should do this for a couple of days as different things come to your mind. Then, I want you to contemplate what your life would be like without those things you wrote down. I believe it will seem pretty grim. So, do you have anything to be thankful for? 

Gratitude helps us to appreciate the moment in front of us, even during trying times. It contributes to increased physical and mental health. While it doesn’t take away the challenges we face, it will help us to see life in the best possible light. I hope this makes sense to you, but this thought just came to me: the nose that smells a skunk also has the ability to smell a rose. So go out there and look for some “roses.”

 “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” — Frank A. Clark

Maybe you struggle to be in a thankful mood and can’t quite figure out why. In that case, working with a coach is a great way to explore your emotions and work together on devising a plan to move forward.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And even though it’s November, I believe we can still find you a “rose” garden to tend to. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This article first appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan