Ingratitude Journaling - The reasons why I am ungrateful today

Those who know me know that I am an inherently positive and grateful person. It doesn’t take much persuasion to help me see the silver lining or the potential for joy in a situation. Therefore, it might surprise you a little to hear me actively encourage a practice of ingratitude journaling.

Hear me out for a minute…

Gratitude journaling is a well-known practice, recommended by development coaches, mindfulness teachers, self-help gurus and probably even your mum. It’s a practice I love and I truly believe that everyone should design their own formal daily practice.

Yet, for many reasons, this ‘flip-reverse-it’ practice of exploring things I am not grateful for really appeals to me.

What is ingratitude journaling?

The Journey Begins - Journaling

Ingratitude journaling is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a cathartic practice where you list all the things in your life that you are ungrateful for; the things that are causing you frustration and the things you wish were different.

The idea behind this process is that ingratitude lists help us to identify and face up to all of that pain and discomfort that we’ve been ignoring and rejecting for so long, so we can then focus on what we can do about it.

Sounds a little unappealing I’m sure, but this process really has an important place within maintaining a healthy state of mind..

Think about it – more often than not, when we share our pain with someone, we are told to ‘cheer up’ and ‘look on the bright side’. If they don’t say that directly to us, they might instead use that incredibly invalidating phrase ‘’at least’’. Your conversation may go something like this…

You: “Work is so hard right now. My boss is being so unhelpful and he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that I’m already juggling 3 other projects.”

Friend: “Oh bless you. Well at least you have next week off. Are you doing anything nice?”

In that moment, your friend is trying to help. They’re trying to brighten your day and show you a reason to smile. But, without even knowing it, they have invalidated your pain and showered you in toxic positivity. They’ve taken your difficult experiences and brushed them under the rug.

Why? Because us humans – in general – are rather uncomfortable sitting with someone’s pain.

As a result, we end up harbouring so much unresolved emotion. And, unfortunately, seemingly small frustrations and stressors, when ignored, will only continue to compound, piece by piece.

So, in this world where we often try and squish down our suffering or anger as quickly as possible and focus on what we should be grateful for, this process goes against the grain and encourages you to face the ‘not so pretty stuff’ and welcome it into the light. From here, what is good, bad and ugly can all be observed in equal measure. And… once you know what you’re dealing with, you have an opportunity to validate your experience, process it and move on.

Therefore, in aid of stress awareness month this month, I invite you to try out this process of acknowledging and validating all of your emotions and feelings, so you can then let them go.

Until the unconscious is made conscious, you will never feel at peace.

Now, I envisage people may reject this unorthodox practice in equal measure to those who embrace it. I also imagine some will be concerned that it could create negative thought patterns and cause some people to spiral. Those concerns are very valid and concerns I held myself, but that’s why ‘’how” this is done becomes crucial.

So grab a cuppa and join me in these next steps…

Grab a cuppa and journal today

How can you practice ingratitude journaling in a healthy way?

I have three key steps for you, each one as important as the last:

  1. Each day, write a list of things you are not grateful for. These might be things that cause you frustration, stress or misery, things that you wish were different. No guilt. No editing. No holding back. Write them down.
  2. Then, take some time to fully read through them, properly acknowledging each one without guilt or shame. Remember we need to acknowledge and validate our experience and our emotions before we try to move on and reframe. It’s okay to sometimes feel frustrated, sad or ungrateful about something.
  3. Finally, divide the list into a new list with two columns. One column of things you can control / influence and a second column of things that are outside of your control. Now you can use the ‘inside of my control’ list to focus on the things in your life that you could change.

Focusing on what you could change is such an essential part of this process. Often we lose hours and hours, and a massive amount of brain power, trying to change things that are largely outside of our control and it can be absolutely exhausting.

As the well-known serenity prayer goes…

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Important note: Although we want this process to be productive and helpful for you, it’s important to keep in mind that step 3 doesn’t mean you are expected to come out of this process feeling happy, or with a quick fix to any problems. Sometimes the process of acknowledging, validating and accepting is enough in itself, for now.

Gratitude vs Ingratitude

It's all about finding that balance

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge fan of gratitude lists, so I would encourage you to continue both practices alongside each other. Both practices, when done together, offer you a balanced perspective and thorough exploration and acceptance of all emotions; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Remember, this practice is not about being ungrateful for what you have in life, because we really do have so much to be grateful about. Instead, this practice is about diffusing the power that these ‘unhelpful’ feelings often gain when we try to suppress them.

It can be wonderfully cathartic when we write down how we are feeling, giving ourselves permission to accept the presence of all of our emotions and life experiences every single one of them.

Remember, the road to the good life is paved with tears and furrowed brows, as well as smiles and laughter.

It’s all just about finding that balance.