When you don’t feel grateful, write this list instead.

The studies on the effects of recording what you’re grateful for on a daily or weekly basis have caused experts and non-experts alike to sing the praises of the gratefulness list and extol all of its many virtues. And yes, it is great. It can be very effective for lifting one’s mood and helping them to focus on the positive.

But what about when it’s not?

Sometimes it just doesn’t do it for you.

when you don't feel grateful, try this list instead - pin.png

PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other struggles are a bit too much to overcome with a simple little gratefulness list, let’s be honest. It’s not going to cure what ails us. Help, yes. Cure, no.

Sometimes when we’re dealing with bigger struggles, we just don’t feel like being grateful.

I’ve found that what helps me more during these times is making a “what’s good right now” list.

A “what’s good right now” list is not about our feelings. It is a black and white list of all the good things we can list about our lives in the present moment, even seemingly unimportant things.

Here are mine for today:

  • Tony (my senior dog) didn’t pee in his diaper today.

  • I don’t have any social obligations this weekend.

  • I overcame personal struggles at work this week.

  • We implemented changes that help me with my work.

  • I’m not worried about finding a new place to live in October.

  • I made a plan for my path to home ownership.

  • I got approved to leave early from work on Friday.

  • I found NY style pizza on my way home.

  • I managed not to sweat too much today.

This kind of list tends to work better for two big reasons:

  • It gets us out of our feelings. Our feelings, especially for those of us dealing with some really deep and complex issues, are tangled webs woven with our subconscious and memories and lots of other sticky, messy things. “Good” vs “bad” is simple. It’s much easier for us to process and understand. When we work through this, we’re no longer thinking about what we’re feeling - does that make sense? We get out of our feelings. And therefore,

  • It helps to change our perspective. A grateful list starts with thinking about what we feel grateful for, which is then supposed to change our thoughts. But that’s not really how feelings work. Our feelings are derived from our thoughts. This is an exercise in thinking positively that doesn’t make us feel like we need to try to feel something we’re not. It helps us to look at things with more of an objective, birds-eye-view, and as such, it helps to change our perspective, which then changes our thoughts, which then changes our feelings. It starts at the top instead of starting at the bottom.

My dog not peeing in his diaper today (or anywhere else in the house) is a fact.

Me not sweating too much today is a fact.

Getting approved to leave work early next Friday is a fact.

And most people would argue that those are all good things.

See what I mean?

All of a sudden, you’ll find yourself thinking, “Oh man - those are a lot of good things!” And it helps your mood to get lifted.

So the next time you’re sitting down to write your daily grateful list but you’re like Drake and in your feelings, try a “what’s good right now” list.

What’s good?