The confusion between gratitude and positive thinking

The confusion between gratitude and positive thinking

When I blog about gratitude and speak in public, I have noticed that many people believe they are hearing me talking about positive thinking and gratitude whilst ignoring the bad in their lives. They think I am advocating that we should stick our heads in the sand or put our fingers in our ears whilst chanting “la-la-la” when we come across the icky, sticky and down right nasty in our lives. Do I write about gratitude and positive thinking?

If you think this I am not surprised, I used to think the same way. A quick glance at Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram will reveal a whole raft of confused positive thinking memes with very muddled ideas of gratitude.

Right now, I can only apologise if my work sounds this way too.

Because it isn’t true.

Would allow me to clarify?

Gratitude is what happens when we get out of our heads and really start to feel life. It is part of us, at every point in our lives. It will flow if we get out of the way and allow it!

But how do we do this?

Should we ignore the nasty things in our lives? Look the other way? Should we start to re-frame what we see? Should we even lie to ourselves about what we see? Think positive? Is that gratitude?


For me, the key to gratitude is the opposite. Reframing, positive thinking, affirmations and ‘fake it till you make it’ all are trying to fight fire with fire! It is using thinking to try to think ourselves out of our thinking and into some new thinking! Phew! Sounds tiring!

Understanding the simple fact that the thoughts that we expereince in our heads every second of the day, yes those loud and pesky blitters that appear to have our voice (or sometimes that of our mother or father – gulp!) shape the way we see the world. So why not reshape the shape-maker? Reprogram the computer? Because I want so much more for you than that! I couldn’t bear it if you settled for second best as I know you are so much more than that.

If our thoughts shape how we perceive the world, we can start to see how this plays out in our lives and the world at large. Situations and people that we thought were “bad” no longer seem that way. They just are – no judgement, no positive spin. We may acknowledge that by the rules (based on many people’s thinking) put in place by society, their actions do not fit. But it doesn’t effect our mood and we certainly doesn’t make us outraged. We may see outraged thinking in our minds (rant! rant! rage! rage!) but we don’t get caught up in the whole thought storm and fail to notice that the sunset tonight is gorgeous. We can take action but from a calm and centred place.

Gratitude is to be fully in our lives not sitting on the side lines. Being on the side lines means we miss gratitude entirely because we are living a life in our heads: this is good; this is bad; I should think this; I should think that; he is nice; she is nice; he is bad….. etc…

Gratitude is knowing that the story in our heads, constructed by thinking, is separating us from experiencing the world. When we clean the glass between ourselves and the world, we get to see the colours so much more brightly.

This is why I adore this quote:

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery.
It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colours”.
– Richelle E. Goodrich

Do you get gratitude and positive thinking confused? What do you think the differences are?
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So how can Gratitude clean the glass and help us see the world more clearly? Click here to access the downloadable PDF where this is discussed further. As a thank you for your email address you will also gain access to the full parenting and gratitude resource library which continous articles, interviews and more resources.

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