What to Do When You Can't Feel Thankful Over the Holidays

November 28, 2019 Natasha Tracy

Sometimes we can't feel thankful over the holidays. And by that, I don't mean that we don't have things to be thankful for, I mean we literally can't feel that thankfulness. This could be for many reasons. You might not be able to feel thankful because of mental illness, because of grief and bereavement or for many other reasons. I want to say, this is okay. I get it. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard. Here's what to do if you can't feel thankful over the holidays.

You Can't Feel Thankful?

First of all, let's just get this out of the way: it's entirely possible to have many things to be thankful for and not be able to feel thankful anyway. Some people don't get this. Some people think this isn't possible. I call these people "normal." 

It's normal to think that your feelings should reflect the situation. It's normal to think that if we reframe things we can change our feelings. It's normal not to get what people with sick brains go through when you've never experienced a sick brain

But believe me when I tell you this: you have less control over what your brain does than you think. You cannot control how you feel -- your brain does that. You can only control how you deal with those feelings. So yes, some people truly can't feel thankful.

It's Not Your Fault If You Can't Feel Thankful

I want to make it clear that it isn't your fault if you can't feel thankful. As I said, it's your brain at work. You didn't do anything wrong. And in the case where you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression, you have to understand that a sick brain may not react inline with a situation. We all have things to be thankful for, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to feel it. That's just the hard truth.

When You Can't Feel Thankful Over the Holidays, Here's What to Do

I know you might dread when everyone goes around the table and says what they feel thankful for, but you don't have to.

First of all, don't beat yourself up for your feelings. This will not help anything. Understand that your brain and even your feelings are not you in your entirety. You are bigger. You have multitudes.

And then look at things in a different way. Recognize that no matter how much you might not feel it right now, you do have things to be thankful for. You have loved ones. You likely have food. You likely have a roof over your head. And you have many more things too. So make a quick list to yourself, take a deep breath and realize those are the good things. I know that not feeling the thankfulness hurts; but, at least seeing it means it's there. And it also means that you will feel it again someday. Maybe you won't feel it now. Maybe you won't feel it at all over the holidays. But someday that feeling will return.

So if you can't feel thankful over the holidays, know this: it's okay. I realize it's less than ideal, but please recognize you're not alone. Many of us can't feel the things we want to feel, but that doesn't mean those things aren't there. 

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2019, November 28). What to Do When You Can't Feel Thankful Over the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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