Brené Brown’s Guidepost #4: Benefits of Being Grateful

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What are the benefits of being grateful? Why is practicing gratitude so important for living Wholeheartedly?

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown’s fourth guidepost for living Wholeheartedly is to practice gratitude. There are many benefits of being grateful, but it can sometimes be difficult due to the fear of emotional pain.

Continue below to learn about the benefits of being grateful according to Brené Brown.

Practice Gratitude

The fourth guidepost for living Wholeheartedly is practicing gratitude. There are many benefits of being grateful. Brown’s research shows that true gratitude is more than just a passive attitude. It’s not simply waiting for something good to happen and enjoying the transient feeling of gratefulness that this event brings. This approach won’t lead to a grateful mindset taking hold. 

Instead, you need to practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude means frequently taking action to recognize all of the things you’re grateful for. This could be the small things, like your coffee this morning being delicious, or big things, like having a fulfilling job. You could keep a gratitude journal, do a regular gratitude meditation, or verbalize the things you’re grateful for. 

You might feel that you’re too busy to sit around thinking about all of the things you’re grateful for and that the benefits of doing so won’t outweigh the time you’ll lose. However, practicing gratitude doesn’t require a huge time commitment. Even if you just spend two or three minutes each day listing the things you’re grateful for, you’ll still feel the benefits.

The Benefits of Being Grateful

There are three key benefits of being grateful. First, it reminds you of the good things in your life that you might otherwise ignore. Humans tend to adopt a “scarcity” mindset. This is a way of thinking that emphasizes what you don’t have and ignores what you do have. For example, it’s thinking “I don’t exercise enough, I don’t have enough money, I’m not successful enough” while simultaneously ignoring the good things you do and your positive qualities. 

This mindset harms your worthiness. It’s another way of seeing yourself and your actions as “not enough.” Meanwhile, gratitude takes the focus away from all of the things you don’t have and puts it back on the things you do have. This restores your worthiness. You’re more likely to feel “enough” if you constantly think about your positive traits and the good things in your life.

Second, gratitude encourages you to appreciate the “ordinary,” more mundane good things in your life. Society allocates great importance to being exceptional: for example, winning awards or earning a fortune. This may make you feel like your actions aren’t worth anything unless they’re extraordinary. For instance, you might think, “Yes, I made a great sale at work today, but a scientist I read about in the news just won a Nobel Prize. What value does my achievement have compared to that?” You begin to lose sight of the worth and importance of “ordinary” actions. 

Practicing gratitude can help you to overcome this issue. Gratitude encourages you to acknowledge all of the good things about your life, including things that seem mundane. It invites you to be grateful for these more “ordinary” occurrences and restores their value.

Finally, gratitude breeds joy. During her research, Brown found that people who self-labeled as “joyful” regularly practiced gratitude. Ultimately, if you want to be joyful, you need to be grateful.

By joy, Brown doesn’t mean happiness. She sees happiness as something that’s brought on by specific and short-term circumstances—for example, the burst of positive feeling that comes from getting a good appraisal at work. Meanwhile, joy is a deep contentment with life that is borne from practicing gratitude—for example, the fulfillment you feel when you recognize that you have a satisfying job that you’re deeply grateful for.

Fear, Gratitude, and Joy

There is one barrier you’ll need to overcome if you want to embrace gratitude. That barrier is the fear of emotional pain.

Admitting that you’re grateful for things and that they bring you joy often leads to the fear that you’ll lose these things and experience deep emotional pain. You might think that if you avoid gratitude and joy, you’ll avoid pain too. You may also believe that practicing gratitude isn’t worth it because the vulnerability to pain it brings is too great. 

To stop this fear from inhibiting your gratitude and joy, you need to learn to become comfortable with the existence of pain. This will take courage: pain isn’t an easy thing to accept or acknowledge. Our natural instinct is to shy away from it and avoid it at all costs. But, accepting the existence of pain is an important part of embracing gratitude and living Wholeheartedly.

To become comfortable with the existence of pain, you should remember that you’re never going to be able to avoid pain entirely, no matter how hard you try. Refusing to practice gratitude and experience joy won’t totally shield you from suffering, so you might as well allow yourself to be grateful and joyful. It’ll give you some good times to go along with the bad.

Second, you need to recognize that pain can have positive side effects. For instance, going through tough times means you will appreciate good times and joy all the more. Pain may strengthen you and make you even more grateful.

Third, you should frame your fear as another thing to be grateful for. For example, be grateful that you have something that you love so strongly that you’re afraid of losing it.

Finally, remember that giving in to fear and shutting out gratitude and joy will only serve to make pain harder to overcome. Allowing yourself to be grateful and joyful even during tough times can make your struggle easier to bear. Even when bad things happen, there are still little pockets of good in the world that you can be grateful for. You can use this gratitude to soothe your pain.

Brené Brown’s Guidepost #4: Benefits of Being Grateful

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Brené Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Gifts of Imperfection summary :

  • How to stop feeling like you're not "good enough"
  • How shame affects your self-worth
  • The 10 guideposts to living Wholeheartedly and cultivating worthiness

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *