Is Gratitude Overrated?

By Dr. Perry, PhD

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been told by more than one patient that the word “gratitude” has become very cliche. They are constantly being told to be grateful as if it is a fix all to their problems. While it may not magically do away with our problems, gratitude has been shown to have a beneficial effect on anyone’s life.

So what is gratitude and is it really such a great thing to have?

One of the best definitions I have found is as follows, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation for and to return the kindness.” This is a powerful definition which contains both a thankful state as well as giving back. It is a full circle of thankfulness for what is received and the giving back of this positive emotion to others.

As a society, we must resist living with a sense of entitlement and focus on being present and truly thankful for our lives. In turn, this feeling of gratitude can then spill over into other parts of our lives and have a positive ripple effect on the lives of those around us.

Being told to feel or express gratitude is great advice and definitely is not an overrated virtue. It is a practice that should be practiced daily. Research has shown that the following benefits are associated with feelings of gratitude.

1. Promotes better sleep
Studies have shown that individuals who are grateful have better sleep. By focusing on pleasant thoughts before you go to sleep you will have an easier time falling and staying asleep. I often suggest keeping a bedside gratitude journal to write in or going through a mental checklist of the day before bed. If you take the time to focus on the goodness of the day and express your gratitude you can begin to ignore and eventually not focus on anything negative that might have occurred during the day.

2. Promotes an overall sense of well-being and optimism
Individuals who are more grateful are more agreeable, open-minded and more satisfied with life. One study showed that after 10 weeks, people who focused on gratitude in their lives were significantly more optimistic in other areas of their lives. It appears that focusing on being grateful has a positive ripple effect in other areas of a person’s life including reduced levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

3. Strengthens interpersonal relationships
Gratitude allows a person to be more willing to forgive others as well as to be less selfish and egocentric. Being thankful for others helps strengthen interpersonal bonds and helps maintain healthier relationships. Gratitude helps a person build more positive social connections and helps to create a social circle of positivity. By helping someone else you might begin a chain reaction of gratitude towards you or another person. Be the catalyst that motivates others to spread kindness.

I have immense gratitude for my life and every day I make it a point to reflect on both the positives and negatives that may be occurring. Remember, it is not enough just to feel thankful. By definition, gratitude means to feel thankful and reciprocate through positive action. Life is a balance of these two forces and both are equally important in shaping us. Set the intention to express your gratitude daily and begin creating a social circle based on thankfulness. Begin with your loved one. Take a moment to write down all of the things you are thankful for in your partner. Find some time where you will not be interrupted and read your gratitude letter and really express how grateful you are to have them in your life. This is a great bonding exercise that will reinforce your bond and remind you how much you truly have for which to be grateful.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What are your thoughts on this idea that the term gratitude has become cliche? How did this post resonate with you? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation to work with me on your mental health please click here.

Dr. Perry
“We specialize in a solution-focused approach to psychotherapy, specifically treating depression, anxiety, relationship issues and narcissistic abuse.”
Verified by Psychology Today

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77 responses to Is Gratitude Overrated?

  1. vishal4u says:

    I don’t think gratitude has become a cliche, in fact I think expressing gratitude honestly even to our self is so embarrassing for some people that they choose not to do so and hence define it as a cliche.
    Today we think what we have or what we earned is ours, we own it because we deserve it. Being grateful for that is not necessary, but I think only when we value what we have and be grateful for all that we are blessed with till now, helps us to understand our purpose, makes us realize what is important and helps is to focus on worthy stuff.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I am in complete agreement. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is the best way to overcome the despair and grief of isolationism.
    Being isolated doesn’t mean being alone, it’s the demand for exclusivity in the realm of self, and this exclusion and need to protect and serve the self does not increase self esteem or well being. This is testified to by increasing reports of loneliness, despair and a lack of personal community.

    Being grateful frees me from self obsession and its accompanying victim mentality, and creates an internal space in which I become responsible for my well being. When I’m responsible for my life I’m free to connect with others, truly connect with others as equals.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Amy says:

      I also really like “creates an internal space in which I become responsible for my well being”. I do think that gratitude has become, not a cliche necessarily, but seems to be the “it” thing right now. I like Dr Perry’s article and then the replies that gratitude’s intent is internal, it isn’t just words we say but part of gratitude is taking the time to feel gratitude. When I find myself feeling like it is cliche, I stop and remind myself to feel the gratitude not just mindlessly recite the words. When I do this, I feel an inner joy for all that life has given and has to offer.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Indeed. Being grateful frees you from clutches of over expectations, finding faults as well as disappointments too. When you are grateful you can see all positivity around you. Be grateful to every one. It’s soul soothing.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. sobhanajm says:

    Through life’s ups and downs, gratitude keeps me alive. I wish the first thing we teach our kids is to write gratitude journals. Loved your post.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I am so grateful for everything I have. I believe that if you only focus on wanting more, it means you lack gratitude for what you already have achieved and got and this blocks you from attaining greater things. If you stop to appreciate how far you’ve come and give thanks for what you have, not only do you get that lovely sense of happiness, but it says to the world “I am ready for MORE of this”. Thank you.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. boomergirl47 says:

    It is good to be grateful. It keeps me from feeling sorry for myself. Every night B4 I go to sleep I think of 3 things I’m grateful for that happened that day. But it’s not good to be a Pollyanna either. Sometimes I have to be angry about bad things before I can be grateful for the good ones. All about balance.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Velmeran says:

    I can understand the feeling that gratitude is becoming cliche. You read about it everywhere and, like most popular things, the entire story [as you have laid it out here] is not told.

    Saying a reflexive, ‘I am grateful for my life,’ isn’t going to give you the benefits listed above. It takes meaningful thought and reflection, and a true feeling of gratitude to receive the benefits, and if you have that, you will want to give back to your fellow beings in order to complete the circle.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I recently heard a statement from Oprah in an interview it went something like this ” Ego is an imposter, making us believe that we are something that we are not” true self esteem is realizing that the stillness and presence in me is the same as the stillness and presence in all people”
    I truly believe that the “entitlement” chapter in our lives is a lot like “ye of little faith” moment possibly causing the Ego to be in “survival mode” wanting to do things on our own and making us selfish and blind to others. Once we find Faith and change the focus on something bigger than ourselves we begin to have compassion for others and our own “selfishness syndrome” is then recognizable to us.
    Kind of like the “man who complained of having no shoes until he met the man with no feet”.
    I believe the secret is simply finding the right moment where the ego path in our life crosses the path of spiritual enlightenment and a deeper level of spiritual maturity is then sought, Wisdom can present itself earlier however if the longing for a deeper level of understanding is not there it will not be understood.
    I always enjoy your posts and find them so helpful. Thank you for sharing them. I find in my care-giving there are many people who would never seek counseling or any type of mental health support however they truly long for help out of frustrating unhappiness. The posts you share provide help for so many, thank you for that.
    With Respect, Hope, Joy and Love, Carmela

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hilary Tan says:

      I talked about the ego in my reply as well! 😂 being able to give brings us fulfillment and a sense of purpose. Even Erikson mentions this in his psychosocial theory of development.

      Liked by 4 people

  9. Gratitude is NOT overrated…not if it is genuine and truly felt in one’s heart. Where gratitude becomes “cliché” is when it is fake, as in the whole “law of attraction” concept…forcing oneself to be grateful in order to get something in return. That’s not genuine, and it most definitely is not true gratitude.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hilary Tan says:

      Gratitude becomes overrated when society conceptualizes it or uses it for profit. Usually these things are fads and being able to see past it will help us see the light and think for ourselves. This is why I don’t follow what the general public sees as cool or important. The law of attraction may not necessarily be a fad but the way it’s being displayed is. One who wants to learn self-actualization will realize that true gratitude comes from within, when it is not being forced. I agree with you!

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s awesome to have a mind out there who thinks like me 🙂 I go over my gratitude lists EVERY SINGLE MORNING, remembering that no one and nothing can bring gratitude to me, and no one and nothing can take it away. That it’s up to me, and that true gratitude can only be found within my heart. 🙂

        Liked by 5 people

  10. Eva O'Reilly says:

    I agree that it’s becoming a little cliché because lots of people jump on the band wagon and start flooding social media with “five quick steps to gratitude” posts. But I fully agree that it can do utterly tremendous thing for you – if you fully embrace it.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. The mindless use of the term, yes. That could very well be a cliche. But honest to goodness gratitude like you described, that needs to stay in our lives. Where I am right now (Hungary), people have a tendency to see everything through several layers of negativity. I think blowing off some steam is ok, once in a while, venting. As long as you remember what you’re grateful for. And I’m guilty of forgetting myself, so thank you for the reminder.

    Something I forgot to add though. I firmly believe that if you say please and thank you in an honest way you’re employing gratitude without being (fully) aware of it. But it has to be honest, otherwise yes, it’s a cliche.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Andrea M says:

    I can totally relate to this idea that gratitude is a bit cliche these days. It’s like we are told to be grateful but after hearing it so much I think we might lose sight of what that really means. I love how you pointed out that gratitude is also about giving back. This was a meaningful post for me. Thank you Doc!!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Kathy Treny says:

    I totally agree. How can gratitude be overrated? I always find it a so odd when people ‘look for reasons’ to be grateful. We just need to wake up to the fact that we are. To remember we are beings being. What more could anyone want? Everything that comes and goes in my life is conditioned on the fact that I am. And I am!!!!! and I am always and forever thankful.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Steve Lakey says:

    Thanks for this post. It moves beyond the shallow cliché and describes the true meaning. I like the description of needing to give something back. Life should have a natural harmony and the complete gratitude process resonates with that perfectly.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. I find gratitude to be a double edged sword. Certain people in my life are always telling me that I had better be grateful for all they have done for me. I am constantly told that I would have nothing if it wasn’t for them and I should show them proper respect and more gratitude. These people turn gratitude into something warped and use it as a weapon.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. There is no downside to gratitude – especially when we are grateful to a person and take the time to communicate our sentiments to him or her. Additionally, as a practitioner of faith-based gratitude, I believe in giving thanks to the Lord regularly (daily!), even for the seemingly small things. Life may still have its challenges, but gratitude helps us to embrace hope and optimism for a brighter future. 💛

    Liked by 4 people

  17. I think if gratitude has become “cliche” it is the egocentric and selfish culture that thinks so — a looming problem in today’s society for sure. I can easily guess that the persons participating in shout-downs, and group think, are not practicing gratitude. (That includes our stalemate politicians who cannot seem to work together on much of anything.) Gratitude gets one out of the “poor me” syndrome and into more positive action and feelings. I like the concept that if you are feeling down, get out of (thinking about) yourself and help someone. It’s amazing what a lift that provides to the spirit. Considering the hostile state of the world, it appears too many have thought gratitude is cliche when in fact it’s the one thing that will improve their lives and relationships. Thank you for promoting it!

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Hilary Tan says:

    Society teaches us to make more money, buy more things, have a bunch of friends and a large social circle, be in a relationship, go to university etc. in order to be happy. Society teaches us that if we obtain these things, then life will be good. When we are competing with everyone else and using our monkey brains instead of self-actualizarion, we are not going to be happy. Now society has cultivated the idea of gratitude and are trying to instil these old concepts in us. This is seen through marketing and even social media. I think that us humans need to think for ourselves and realize that we are being toyed with by society. Life is a game, and when people realize that it is a game and decide to live life by their own means, then they will naturally become grateful and it won’t be as forced. Ego prevents us from practicing gratitude and society is largely responsible for priming us to think this way! Once we break free of “the norm,” then we can truly heal and be grateful for the lives we have, whether good or bad.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Ayesha says:

    I strongly believe in gratitude. I often fail to understand when people around me don’t understand the privilege they have which someone can’t even afford to have. They live in a constant negativity. If we are not able to get into that gratitude mode, the best thing to do is by spending time with the underprivileged..a person with a heart (and I mean it) will definitely be moved and the first thing that will come to our mind is, “Oh God, Thank you for everything you have blessed me with”!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. I practice Gratitude everyday. The ability to be thankful and grateful helps me to stay positive and optimistic. I try to see the “silver lining” in every situation because no matter what it is…something is to be learned, or to be grateful for. Gratitude makes everything Better! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  21. When I first began to practice gratitude I did not feel thankful. But I was persistent in finding things to be grateful for and after a few months, the feeling of gratitude emerged and I found myself being thankful for everything in my life. Surprisingly, I discovered that I am thankful for not only the good part of my life, but my gratitude extends to the bad as well. This way I am able to accept all things and live with more happiness regardless of my circumstances. I am thankful I cultivated gratitude in my life……..See? I can’t get away from it! Thank you for your posts!

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Fish on a Ladder says:

    When you said “we must resist the temptation to live with a sense of entitlement” it really resonated with me. I grew up with nothing but was very grateful for everything, but the better my life got, the more things I had to be grateful for, the more I slipped into that senseless entitlement, without even realizing it. It takes more effort to be grateful, but it certainly reaps more rewards!

    Liked by 4 people

  23. SoundFlyer says:

    “the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation for and to return the kindness.” …having the quality of and being ready to return gratitude is it seems to me the essence of the discussion.

    My main relationship is with nature – and no one truly understands nature, well not rationally but maybe instinctively – so my gratitude is instinctive I am grateful to be a microscopic sensate something in this awesome infinity.

    Whether I am ready to ameliorate that gratitude with every aspect of quotidian existence is a different issue, perhaps?

    Liked by 4 people

  24. You just reminded me of Dr. Masaru Emoto. You may already know about him, but just in case You haven’t heard of him, You might love this! He researched the crystallization of water molecules in various containers (and bodies of water in the world!) after they were exposed to various types of music, prayer, attitudes and words both spoken to them and just taped to their bottles. Across the board….in EVERY language….the words that created the absolutely most beautiful crystals were “Thank You”. Amazing!!! Even over “Love” and “God”. They do a segment on him in ‘What the Bleep do We Know’ and he has some books out that show his photographs of his experiments. Wonderful. I used to own them. But I find his work fascinating; particularly because we are mostly made of water. Thanks for this reminder and for all You do! Cheers!!! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  25. In 1990 my Gma passed away and I remember as I looked down at her thinking, when was the last time I told her I loved her and did she know. I decided that day to always let everyone in my life know I love them and how I feel about them so that I never have to ask myself that question again. Later when we were cleaning out her house we found a card I had sent her by her bed that said just stopped by to say I love you. So maybe this is a gratitude in knowing that when we show love and gratitude it does come back to us. Plus it makes your heart warm and your face smiles. 😄 I love your posts. 🙏🏼🦋💜

    Liked by 3 people

  26. lilie215 says:

    Gratitude begins with expressing thanks for the material things, experiences, events and people and evolves, I believe, into that deeper understanding the Dalai Lama gave when asked what he was thankful for, “this precious human birth”.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Really interesting post thank you :O) I think that gratitude has become cliched because people feel that it is something they ‘ought’ to do in order to be viewed as virtuous by others rather than something that they want to do. In recent years materialistic success has been somewhat frowned upon and the people who pursue it viewed as selfish or self-centered. I’m not sure that the promotion of selflessness by some is anything other than self-interest as they strive for acceptance in a World that seems, these days, to be dominated and obsessed by political correctness. I think that real gratitude can only come when you forget about other people completely and think deeply and carefully about your own life and focus on the things in it that enrich your experience. Real gratitude is also being thankful for the negative – as a friend said to me the other day “I am thankful for the people who hate me because I can always learn something from them and that enriches my life”. She is one of the most loving and caring people I’ve ever met and if I end up half as enlightened as she is I’ll be very happy indeed! Thanks again for a truly thought provoking post and have a great day x

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I practice gratitude each day too and believe in its immense powers . Have a happiness jar by my side and write one thing to be grateful for each day or one thing that bought happiness to me each day in it . My gratitude rock sits smartly on my side table reminding me to sleep with gratitude at heart !

    Liked by 1 person

  29. ceyeh96 says:

    I love this post! A lot of tweetable moments here. haha. A good post I’d read again and again. Thanks for this. I think a lot of people are dismissal when it comes to being grateful. It’s hard for me personally to be grateful for things I take for granted. For example, how can I be grateful all the time that I can use a toothbrush and toothpaste to brush my teeth? But the definition of gratitude that you’ve shared is actually quite new to me. I knew it was about being thankful but I didn’t know it was also about reciprocity. This brings new light to the word!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. ekurie says:

    True, sincere, genuine gratitude has many dimensions. Humility, grace, generosity, kindness. The basis and stability of everything. And look at people who have little, they are generally happier than those who have so much! Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. tigre23 says:

    Thanks for sharing, I try to practice gratitude regularly and also try to instil it in my daughter. I find being told to be grateful isn’t meant to solve your problems but make you think and realise to be thankful you have something that you care enough about to have an issue with or that in the big scheme of things, our problems are not as big as we make them to be. It is our thought process which makes the problem seem big. Being grateful for what we have rather than what we don’t shifts the mindset – realising that some people don’t have what you have even if it’s not a lot. Some people have less and are happier! Peace and blessings! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. janmalique says:

    Gratitude hasn’t become either clichéd or unnecessary. I think in this age of instant gratification many people take things for granted. The real value of even the smallest aspect of life is missed. Good health, even still breathing and being able to get out of bed are big pluses. Being genuine and showing kindness are to be applauded.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. mishainjapan says:

    Great post. A visualization technique I use at the start of every meditation sessions in the mornings is to think of 5 things I’m grateful for. It helps put things into perspective, especially when I’m frustrated or stressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Annie says:

    Today’s society cultivates an attitude of entitlement enabling us to neglect the simple things we should be grateful for and not take for granted. Such as running water, a roof, a warm bed, laughing with someone we love, elderly parents, and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. dfolstad58 says:

    I like your promotion of gratitude. It is a powerful force to put your perspective in order. There seems a sense of entitlement that is pervading society causing rudeness, poor judgement and unhappiness and not only on the highways. Gratitude is an attitude worth cultivating in ourselves for a peaceful life.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social and more appreciative.Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem. 
    Being grateful for what you have, being grateful promotes positive thinking.. ✨
    Lovely post!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.. 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Maria says:

    Great post. I don’t think gratitude is cliche. I think it’s something we should all cultivate and practice. Thank you for sharing✨

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Laura says:

    This post popped up on my read feed this morning and I am so glad it did! I’m a huge fan of your writing but this post was really succinct and nourishing for my heart. I especially liked ‘Be the catalyst that motivates others to spread kindness.’ Yes! More of this in the world!

    I’ve been thinking about keeping a Gratitude Journal for a while now and, after reading this, I think it’s time to begin…

    Thank you, again, Dr Perry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Hi Laura, thank you so much for the kind words of encouragement. I am delighted to hear this post resonated with you. I hope you do start your gratitude journal as it is a very healthy practice. Wishing you all the best✨

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Zeal4living says:

    I enjoyed the article and perspectives on the benefits of gratitude and placed a link to this article on a recent blog entry I wrote on gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. smikg says:

    I like this post, and it comes as no surprise that I think gratitude is very important in our day-to-day lives, as I practice a daily gratitude blog!
    I think one common misconception is that people often think focusing on gratitude makes you all airy-fairy, unable to focus on real events and to imagine life in an unrealistic wishy-washy way. In some of my hardest days I find something, anything positive to focus on, no matter how simple or small it may be, and knowing that there was something there to keep me going that I am utterly grateful for, is what helps in the bigger picture. I still get as irritable and cranky as the next person, but my belief and practice of gratitude helps me to drag myself out of any hole I find myself in, quicker. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  41. hensonstudio says:

    I really appreciate this post. Especially the idea: Gratitude as an action. This post is a good reminder!

    I don’t think gratitude is cliché but perhaps some people hesitate to invest because they feel it’s an empty word?

    I wonder if critics could be inspired to reflect on gratitude after discussing how we express gratefulness. The is a reasonable difference between being “hashtag blessed” and sharing gratitude through actions and meaningful words.

    Maybe some folks want to invest in authenticity and there’s a block between the word of gratitude and the action.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for asking. Yes, as long as credit is given. Please use the wordpress reblog tool or share the link to the page✨


  42. Libby Sommer says:

    part of my daily practice each morning is to write in my gratitude journal. i reflect on the day before and write down each moment that i remember and appreciate, especially interaction with others and with nature. keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

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