How To Be Grateful When You Don’t Feel It

“Thank you”, are usually not a baby’s first words. Why?

Infants and young children are wrapped up in themselves. This often continues into adulthood. We have to learn how to be grateful.

So don’t think it strange that even as an adult we might need to learn this skill. Yet it is one of the most important actions we can practice.

Regardless of how you feel, learning how to be grateful will make you happier.

Thankful vs grateful- what’s the difference?

Is it better to be grateful or thankful? This is an actual search query on Google that people ask. On the surface, it seems like it doesn’t matter. But there really is a difference.

According to various dictionaries, being thankful is a feeling. So just like all other feelings, it can change quickly depending on what is going on around us and what our thoughts are about those circumstances. Being thankful can be fleeting.

On the other hand, being grateful is an action. It is showing to others our appreciation for something they did.

You can be grateful even when you don’t feel thankful.

Why being grateful is so important

The Bible has a lot to say about gratitude or “giving thanks” to God. That alone makes it important. However, modern science backs up the medical benefits of gratitude. These include:

  • fewer trips to the doctor
  • improved sleep quality
  • improve mood
  • reduced anxiety
  • less fatigue
  • improved interpersonal relationships

Learning how to be grateful is important because it helps strengthen our relationship with God, while at the same time being healthy for us.

Why is it so hard to be grateful?

Gratitude is not something humans come by naturally. We learn how to be grateful.

So why is it hard to have a grateful spirit?

  • materialism – wanting more than what we already have
  • envy – wanting something that someone else has
  • entitlement- never seeing anything as a gift from God but something we deserve
  • lack of practice – the habit has not yet been formed

Ingratitude was the first sin.

Satan was envious and wanted to be equal to or greater than God.

Eve was materialistic and wanted more than what she already had in the garden of Eden.

Seven ways to learn how to be grateful

In order to change our feelings, we sometimes have to “fake it till we make It.”


You might be thinking, “but faking it feels so FAKE.” Yes, you are correct. Never fear. Your feelings will come around eventually.

Sometimes we have to act the part before we feel it. Practice often feels awkward in the beginning when we are learning how to be grateful.

Nevertheless, when we practice the actions, at some point we will feel the feelings. So here are rock-solid actions that will help you learn how to be grateful even when you don’t feel it.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal
  2. Avoid comparison
  3. Say “thank you” more often
  4. Keep your words positive
  5. Get out in nature more often
  6. Help others
  7. Trust God

Keep a gratitude journal

A Gratitude journal acknowledges the good things in life that we already have. So that would include things like family, friends, comforts, and your relationship with God. These alone could account for days of journaling.

Nowadays, with all the available resources, it is easier than ever to keep a gratitude journal.

Paper journals

Hard-copy gratitude journals are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book retailers.

The Gratitude Project is a 52-week journal that I have personally and have found very useful. It is full of question prompts and scripture to guide your thoughts.

Additionally, there are journals that you can print after downloading from Etsy, Gumroad, and other web-based stores.

The Creator’s Classroom has a simple two-page gratitude template that you can use in a 3-ring binder. One page is for the cover and the other page is a template for daily entries, one week per page. You can download it for free, no email is required.

Electronic journals

There are many great gratitude apps available that make journaling so easy. Most come with journaling prompts so you don’t have to pull out of the air something to write. Take a look at a couple of them.

Photo of the "bliss" icon, one of the many gratitude apps available that can help us learn how to be grateful when we don't feel it.
Bliss- for i-phone & Android
photo of logo for the app "Grateful" . It is one way to learn how to be grateful when we don't feel it.
Grateful -for i-phone
Photo of the "presently" app icon. It is another tool to help us learn how to be grateful.
Presently- for Android

Avoid comparison

In our quest to learn how to be grateful, it is important to avoid comparison.

God created us with specific abilities. He also allowed us to be in specific environments for the jobs that He has for us to do.

When we compare ourselves to others, we forget that we have everything we need to serve God. Yes, we might need some additional training but our ability to learn is a gift from God.

Say “thank you” more often

Words are powerful. They originate in our thoughts, travel neural pathways from the brain to our oral muscles, create a sound that we hear, which goes back into our thoughts again.

The more often we say “thank you”, the quicker our brains create a new habit and a new way of thinking.

Words are not only powerful to us, they are powerful to those around us.

Connecting with family and friends through a simple “thank you” strengthens those relationships. Strong relationships give you much to be thankful for.

Keep your words positive

Negativity destroys gratitude. It is important to make a commitment to speak positive words. Here is what scripture says about our words:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:2 ESV

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Remember, our words begin as thoughts. Positive thoughts lead to positive words. Transformation comes from renewing our minds. (Romans 12:2)

Get out in nature more often

God created the world around us for His glory and our pleasure.

Fresh air, a gentle breeze on our skin, the sound of birds to name a few have a positive effect on our mind, body, emotions, and spirit.

Just a 5-minute walk outside can give us an emotional boost. It also helps us connect with God and opens our eyes to more to be grateful for.

Help others

While we should not compare ourselves to others, when we help those who need assistance in one way or another, we begin to see that we have many more blessings than we realize.

Volunteering for service organizations also has a positive effect on our sense of gratitude.

Hospitals, food banks, schools, and soup kitchens are just a few organizations that are always looking for volunteers.

Trust God

Many times we don’t feel thankful because of our circumstances. I get it. I have been there many times.

Lousy situations can really get us down. But with God’s help, we can turn that around.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

I have always been good about asking God for what I need, but not so good about thanking Him that I have the need in the first place.

At one point in time, I was quite ungrateful as I thought I owed the IRS a couple thousand dollars. I was counting on getting a tax refund that year and this was not what I had planned.

My insides were churning and I felt sick. As I went to bed that night, it was as if I heard someone say, “This is an opportunity to trust God.

I knew the thought came from somewhere other than myself, but there was no other person there physically. Suddenly I felt calm and was able to sleep.

The next morning my daughter remembered something that I had done earlier in the year that could be counted as a tax credit. In the end, the IRS owed me money.

When we can’t see what is around the corner, we have to trust God. But that is impossible unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus.

If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.

Final thoughts on how to be grateful

Few people get out of bed in the morning thinking, “I want to feel miserable today.” Yet that is often what happens. We let our feelings dictate how we act. Instead, let’s act grateful, and soon we will feel thankful.

God bless you today as you practice how to be grateful.

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