Can You Be Too Grateful?


This is the time of year when almost everyone has gratitude and a Thanksgiving feast on their minds. We know that too much of that yummy food could have negative consequences, but is their really such a thing as too much gratitude?

Research demonstrates that we adapt to the good things in our life. A new car or even winning the lottery doesn’t increase our happiness as long as we think it will. Even a higher income has a limited affect on our sense of well-being. We human beings adapt to happiness as we to to all situations.

The same is true of gratitude. Writing down three good things that have happened to you, what they meant to you, and what you can do to get more of that is called the “Three Good Things” gratitude exercise. It is proven to lead to better health, sleep and relationships, and a more positive experience of life in general. However, research has also shown that people adapt to gratitude exercises as well, and that doing “Three Good Things” once a week is more effective than doing in every day.

So gratitude works to improve well-being and happiness, but it does seem to be true that even when it comes to being grateful, you can get too much of a good thing!

Accentuate The Positive

Research demonstrates that we each pay attention to about 20, 000 things a day, and that the ratio of things that we pay attention to are way in favor of the negative. We are in fact hard wired to pay attention to the negative. In our cave dwelling days you had to be  hyper-vigilant about the saber tooth tiger sniffing around your abode and that attention to the negative was a life saver.
Now that the saber tooth tiger is gone and you are living in a home with wifi, you can relax and use another thing that we all have, selective attention. Selective attention is great, like when you are at a noisy cocktail party and Bill Gates wants to have a one to one chat. You can tune everyone else out. But, there is a hitch with that too. Selective attention combines with our tendency towards negative confirmation bias. It creates tunnel vision and often guides us towards seeing things through a negative lens so that we end up making things worse for ourselves.
Despite this, rest assured that you are not the victim of your attention. You can’t always control what attracts your attention. What you can do is to notice that you are paying attention to the negative and divert your attention to the positive. In this way you give yourself the option to take steps to pay attention to the positive.
What happens when you pay attention to the positive? You are more likely to build rather than burn relationships, deal with stressful life situations better, bounce back from adverse situations and set backs faster, and have a better immune system that resists illness. A study showed that people who were cut and guided towards paying attention to the positive healed faster than those who were not guided towards the positive.

So do some attention training and change your brain chemistry from  one of a cave dweller to a healthy resilient person paying attention to the positive. 

  • Look for the silver lining, it is always there.
  • Choose to see the positive in others, sometimes very challenging, but worth the pay off.
  • Develop a positive go-to image, like your child, the beach or a hole in one. When you are attending to the negative you can redirect your attention to your go-to image.

As you practice attention training it will take less effort and you will reap the benefits of accentuating the positive.  Remember, saber tooth tigers are only in cartoons.  


“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”

Michael Jordan 

The 24 Personality Traits/Self-Control Traits/Contentment

#23 Contentment is the degree to which you are satisfied with your life and are worry free.

If you are above average you are grateful and can be happy, despite setbacks. You may also be complacent.

If you are below average you are unhappy with your circumstances and anything but complacent. You may also be pessimistic, negative, and depressed.

Based on where you are on the continuum, you may need to find motivation or empower yourself. Where you are on the continuum of ambition has a big effect on how you handle your level of contentment.


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