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Gratitude Without Illusions: How to Practice Gratitude Without the Gloss

In the journey toward mental wellness, finding genuine paths to embrace gratitude without veering into the realm of toxic positivity is a delicate balance, especially for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) women. The societal expectation to maintain a perpetually positive demeanor, even in the face of genuine struggle, can invalidate real feelings and experiences.


Black woman smiling holding phone
Photo: Shutterstock

This article aims to explore ways BIPOC women seeking mental health support can cultivate authentic gratitude, implement practices that steer clear of toxic positivity, and use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to enrich this practice.


Understanding Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. It dismisses emotion and allows little room for genuine human experience, often making people feel marginalized and unheard. For BIPOC women, whose experiences often encompass navigating systemic oppression, encountering toxic positivity can add an additional layer of isolation.


Embracing Authentic Gratitude

Authentic gratitude is acknowledging the good without overshadowing the bad. It means being thankful for what brings us joy and strength, while still recognizing and honoring our struggles.


1. Specificity in Gratitude

Be specific in your gratitude. Instead of a broad "I'm grateful for everything," identify exact moments, sensations, people, or aspects. This specificity makes gratitude more tangible and genuine, evading the trap of overgeneralization that comes with toxic positivity.


2. Dual Acknowledgement

Practice acknowledging both the good and the bad in a situation. This practice does not detract from a grateful attitude but enriches it by recognizing that challenges coexist with victories. For example, "Today was tough, and I'm grateful for the strength I found to navigate it."


Integrating Therapeutic Techniques


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Reframing Thoughts

CBT focuses on altering negative thought patterns. By identifying and challenging these thoughts, one can reframe them in a more balanced way. For example, instead of dismissing a problem with, "I shouldn't feel bad because someone has it worse," you might say, "My problems are valid, and I'm also grateful for the resilience I'm building as I face them."


Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT): Building on Success

SFBT encourages focusing on what's already working and envisioning future success. Apply this by reflecting on past instances when gratitude has genuinely uplifted you, and use these insights to cultivate more such moments, without dismissing your current struggles.


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Embracing the Both/And

DBT emphasizes the balance of acceptance and change, an approach very much in line with practicing gratitude without toxic positivity. It's about accepting the reality of your situation and also recognizing the points of light within that reality. Techniques like mindfulness can help you stay present with your emotions, acknowledging and accepting them without judgment.


Practical Steps Forward


Reflective Journaling

Start a reflective journaling practice that includes what you're grateful for alongside the challenges you're facing.


Mindfulness and Meditation

Engage in mindfulness exercises and meditation that focus on the present, helping you to acknowledge and accept both the joys and sorrows of the moment.


Community Support

Share your journey with others who understand the importance of balancing gratitude with authenticity. Community can offer both support and a reminder that you're not alone.


For BIPOC women, navigating the path to mental wellness is intertwined with the practice of gratitude—a practice that should enhance rather than diminish the authenticity of their experiences. By incorporating therapeutic techniques and approaches, it's possible to honor the full spectrum of emotions and experiences, fostering a genuine sense of gratitude that contributes to healing and resilience. Authentic gratitude isn't about ignoring the dark; it's about finding the stars within it.

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