One of the toughest times to practice gratitude is when you’re just not feeling happy.

You might have some mild (non-clinical) depression, maybe feeling lonely, maybe feeling pretty down on yourself or life.

Anything you write in a gratitude journal might feel really fake. What can you do?

There’s no quick fix, but here are some things you can do that might help:

  1. Acknowledge that you’re not feeling grateful, that you’re feeling down. This is OK. It’s perfectly normal to not feel happy all the time, and perfectly fine to feel how you’re feeling.
  2. Turn toward the feeling and see how it really feels. What is it like, in your body? Try to fully experience it.
  3. Give yourself some self love and compassion, comfort yourself with a hug, just like you would with a friend.
  4. See if you can feel gratitude for being in this space, with these feelings. You have the opportunity to feel, which means you’re alive. You have the space to be mindful about your feelings, which is a very useful and healthy practice.
  5. If you can’t find gratitude here, that’s OK. You can give yourself a little time off from gratitude if you’re just not feeling it. But try first, and see if it helps, then let go of trying if it doesn’t work. Try again later when you’re in a better space.
  6. Sometimes it helps me to find gratitude for the things I often take for granted: gratitude for my loved ones, for my work, for shelter and warmth, for books and exercise, for my health, for eyesight and hearing and feeling, for being alive, for music and art and nature. These are usually in our lives, to some degree, and it’s pretty amazing they’re there.
  7. Thinking of all of that, I try to remind myself how lucky I am, even while acknowledging the validity of my sadder feelings. They can both be true — I can be sad and I can feel lucky, at the same time. I can be lonely, and also feel grateful that I’m alive. This is a nice mix, much better than a dish with only the flavor of loneliness.
  8. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone else about your feelings. Tell them you would like to be grateful for x, y, and z, but you’re having a hard time because of how you’re feeling. It helps me to talk, even when I don’t feel like talking.

Even if you try some or all of these things, it might not work for you. That’s OK, I didn’t promise miracle fixes, but I do encourage you to try the things on this list, every day if necessary, and see if there isn’t some progress over time.