Forced Gratitude: When Gratitude Harms Your Mental Health

February 22, 2024 Mahevash Shaikh

Forced gratitude happens thanks to the fact that gratitude is trendy -- it's been in for a couple of years now. And whenever something becomes popular, many of us jump on the bandwagon. Of course, it may be that practicing gratitude benefits your mental health. But what if your gratitude isn't genuine but forced? Can it then backfire and harm your mental health? Let's take a look. 

What Is Forced Gratitude? 

To know what forced gratitude is, we need to take a look at what gratitude is. According to PositivePsychology,

"Gratitude is an emotion similar to appreciation. Gratitude is both a state and a trait. Better explained, one can experience gratitude for someone or something at a certain moment in time, and someone can experience gratitude more long-term as a positive character trait."1

When one expresses gratitude that is not genuine or sincere, I call it forced gratitude. 

Why Does Forced Gratitude Harm Your Mental Health?

I feel, as a practice, gratitude is good for your mental health only when it's genuine. For example, if you make a list of things to be grateful for at the end of a good day, you might feel grateful after the exercise. But if you force yourself to make a gratitude list on a day when nothing went right, you might end up feeling like a fraud. Because at the end of a bad day, it can be difficult to hold back tears, let alone find things to be grateful for.  

That is what happened to me.

A while back, I sincerely tried gratitude journaling on the recommendation of my therapist, and it backfired terribly. I felt forced gratitude was invalidating my problems by overlooking them and thinking that "others have it worse." The truth of the matter was that I had some serious issues going on in my life, and I was in a dark place mentally. Life was not in my favor back then, and forcing myself to be grateful for things like having a roof over my head only made me bitter and resentful. 

What Can Improve Your Mental Health Instead of Forced Gratitude?

If practicing gratitude every day doesn't improve your mental health, what does? Check out the video below, where I talk about more organic ways to boost your mental health.

How has an attitude of gratitude impacted your mental health? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. 


  1. Millacci, T. S., PhD. (2023, October 3). What is Gratitude and Why Is It So Important?

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2024, February 22). Forced Gratitude: When Gratitude Harms Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 19 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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