Why It Can Be Difficult To Feel Grateful

Catherine Andrews
7 min readNov 27, 2022

It’s not what you might think. Looking at gratitude from a nervous system-based perspective.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Happy Sunday, Soothers. With Thanksgiving having just taken place here in America, it makes me want to talk about something that I’ve struggled with for a long time:


Let’s first of course note that the Thanksgiving holiday is a white-washed version of a story that attempts to cover up mass genocide, instead of some magical exchange between colonizers and Native Americans. It’s a national day of mourning for many tribes. I like to make land tax payments around this time of year. You can find out whose land we live on by looking on Native Land Digital and then seeing if you can make a donation or land tax.

The other topic that comes up this time of year is the understanding of gratitude. I want to explore why gratitude can be very complicated or even impossible right now for some of us, not from a mind-based perspective but from a nervous system perspective that will hopefully give you some understanding of how and why you work and why you are not selfish or broken if gratitude, real, bone-deep gratitude has ever felt nearly impossible for you, even if you have so much.

Let’s start where I always do with these explanations: With me and my story.

I have had plenty my whole life. More than plenty, most times. Enough food, money, good family, warm, safe homes, stability, loving friends, good jobs, an able body, all the things one could ever want. All the privilege a person can be afforded.

And I’ve been emotionally miserable for much of my life, too. Depression, anxiety, shame, low self-worth, self-flagellation, the loudest inner critic, a mind that just wouldn’t quit, and not in a good way, have plagued me, on and off, since my teens.

In the self-help world, a common tactic often advised to try to switch our mindsets is to focus on gratitude. Write 5 things you’re grateful for every morning. Write 5 things you’re grateful for every night. Stop and pause for gratitude once a day. Be grateful for all the obvious things in your life. Marvel at the running water coming out of your tap. BE GRATEFUL!

Catherine Andrews

Teaching awakening + healing through vulnerability + self-compassion. Finding hope in a messy world. Author of the Sunday Soother. http://catherinedandrews.com