Not Feeling Thankful? — How Come?

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, “I 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? 

Life can certainly 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 even beyond.

However, before I go any further, I want to be clear about something first. If you are truly experiencing a dire situation right now 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 if we lived in a world where we wanted for nothing or nothing ever went wrong. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You might think so, but 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 much hardships. From sailing the dangerous seas to settling in a land of the unknowns. Times were tough! They landed and then had to make it through the harsh winter with little food. Many lives were lost due to disease and starvation. Those that made it to spring planted their crops. So 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 next 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. If 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 pills or medical technology mean to us. If we never lost a loved one how would we learn to cherish and hold dear those that have been put into our lives. I think 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 sure-fire 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 good for cattle but not so much for humans. Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. 
  4. Fear of what being grateful might bring – Say what? Yes, there are people who 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 acknowlege 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 the question of 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 that are before you, (I know they are there.) If after looking around and the only thing you can be thankful for is that you had just enough milk to cover your cereal this morning, then “By 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 have to 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 might even want to 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’m thinking 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 the roses.

If after reading this blog you still struggle being thankful why don’t you give me a call, (Kris Henderson) at 616-516-1570 or schedule an appointment online. Even though we are deep into November I believe we can still find you a rose garden to tend to. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!