We all have a relationship to this word "gratitude." For some, it reminds them of the upside of life and energizes them. For others, it is a signal of some kind of burden, unpaid debt, or just general anxiety (I was in this camp for many years). And on today of all days, it is brought to our attention, good or bad.
Research behind gratitude has mostly shown that consciously practicing it makes people more resilient to adversity, kinder to others, and more inspired to broaden and build in their lives. But there is a nuance to it, and this idea of gratitude can actually make people less happy, less resilient. What makes the difference?
It seems to all come down to a distinction between thinking and feeling. If we feel truly grateful, not indebted but freely given to, and we feel it as an emotion in our bodies, then it is beneficial. If, however, we are reminded (either by others or by our internal voice) that we should be grateful, and that we have a lot to be grateful for, but we don't feel it as an emotion, don't feel it in our bodies, then we are actually harmed, weakened, and less happy from it.
So I invite you to meet yourself where you are. If you naturally feel grateful today for whatever life has freely given you, do so and by all means share it with others. (By the way, research also shows that techniques such as gratitude journaling work better when they are spread out, rather than done every day, because it will become one of those Shoulds.)
If you feel right now that gratitude is not for you, then do yourself a favor and don't try to feel it. There is nothing wrong with NOT feeling grateful. It is far more important to let yourself be where you are right now than to have to feel something just because it's a certain day of the year.
Whatever you choose to do, see if you can allow yourself to be imperfect, yet whole. In other words, a real human.
If you're interested in reading further about gratitude research, to get some of the nuanced picture, click here.