When Being Grateful Isn’t Easy

Laura’s avatar

If you’re a human who’s been alive for more than about five minutes, chances are you’ve heard all about the benefits of gratitude. And it’s true: gratitude can lift your mood, combat stress, and even boost your physical health.

But that doesn’t mean that being grateful comes easily. Sometimes life just isn’t going your way, and advice to “be more grateful!” – however well-intentioned – can feel out of touch or even downright insulting.

So this time, why don’t we go about the whole gratitude business a little differently? Instead of trying to tell ourselves that we should be thankful, let’s investigate the stumbling blocks that can come between each personality type and genuine, unforced gratitude – and then let’s discuss some ideas for getting over those stumbling blocks.

Analyst Personality Types

Architect (INTJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Annoyance

In his play No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote that “hell is other people.” Sartre may have been onto something: people can be irrational, selfish, petty, and resistant to new ideas – in other words, downright annoying. Architects may sometimes focus on these less appealing sides of human nature, in part because this personality type comes with a tendency to spot what could stand to be improved about a given situation.

Solution: All Introverts need alone time to recharge their energy, but Architects may need to carve out a bit of additional alone time to stave off frustration. So if this is your personality type and you notice that people are getting on your nerves, try to steal away for a few minutes – even if just by taking a break to wash dishes or hide out in the bathroom during a family gathering. This behavior may help you restore internal equilibrium and feel more grateful in the long run.

Logician (INTP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Analysis Paralysis

Logicians’ minds tend to move at about a million miles per hour. The problem? This often results in analysis paralysis, which can end up feeling a lot like helplessness. People with this personality type can get so caught up in the pros and cons of every option that they put off taking action or making decisions. And that’s hardly a recipe for feelings of well-being and gratitude.

Solution: If you’re a Logician, you can break out of analysis paralysis by shifting your mindset. Instead of waiting to find an optimal course of action, think of your decisions as experiments whose results you can observe. Use this new mindset to take action on one or two things that you’ve been putting off – and see if making progress on those items leaves a bit more room in your mind for gratitude and its benefits.

Commander (ENTJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Waiting for Success

In their own ways, Commanders are always striving for greatness. People with this personality type are focused on results – a frame of mind that can make it difficult for them to enjoy the process of getting where they want to go. The problem? Success isn’t a guarantee, and it can take time, so Commanders may be in for a difficult time if they’re dissatisfied with anything short of achieving their goals.

Solution: If this is your personality type, identify one thing that you can appreciate about the process of moving toward your goals. Even something as trivial as being grateful for a particularly excellent pen or an inspiring guidebook can make all the difference.

Debater (ENTP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Not Prioritizing

Debater personalities have a way of turning things over in their minds – or, more accurately, turning everything over in their minds. Over and over again. With all this going on, it can be hard for Debaters to keep tabs on their top priorities. And when they can’t keep track of what’s important to them, it can be hard for them to stay grateful.

Solution: It’s not easy, but you can hone your focus by choosing one priority for each day. Make sure that it’s something that matters to you, such as an important relationship or a project that you’re passionate about. By refocusing in this way, you make sure that you’re spending your energy on things that support your values – one of the surest ways to build your gratitude quotient.

Diplomat Personality Types

Advocate (INFJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Doing Everything Themselves

Whether they’re baking a pie or caring for a rescue puppy, Advocates have high standards for everything that they do. This can make it tough for them to hand off responsibility to anyone else: “Yes, but are you sure you know how to mix the butter into the dough without letting it heat up?” But unless Advocates trust other people to help them, they can end up feeling overwhelmed and weary – in other words, the opposite of grateful.

Solution: If this is your personality type, try delegating a task or responsibility to someone else – and then see if you can be grateful for their efforts and their willingness to help out, even if they don’t do things exactly the way that you would.

Mediator (INFP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Disorganization

Mediators really, really want to cultivate feelings of gratitude for all the beauty and goodness in the world. But these personalities can get overwhelmed by day-to-day chores and responsibilities – and when your house is cluttered, you’re behind on work, and you don’t have all the groceries that you need for your next meal, it can be hard to keep your basic needs met, let alone feel grateful.

Solution: If you’re a Mediator personality type, you might put off dealing with your to-do list – or even making one in the first place. Try tackling just one task that’s been hanging over your head, even if it’s something small, like sending an email. See if crossing this item off your to-do list leaves just a little more room for gratitude in your mind (and heart!).

Protagonist (ENFJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Fixating on Other People’s Problems

The world is full of problems – and if anyone knows that, it’s Protagonists. Most of the time, people with this can-do personality type feel equipped and motivated to deal with these problems. But even Protagonists may sometimes worry that they’ll never fix the issues of the people they care about, let alone the world at large.

Solution: If you’re a Protagonist, take time today to identify something positive that hasn’t required any work or effort on your part – for example, a sunny afternoon or a particularly delicious apple. This will help you appreciate and feel grateful for things just as they are – not just for things that you’ve managed to accomplish.

Campaigner (ENFP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Needing Everyone to Be Happy

Like Protagonists, Campaigners tend to feel a responsibility to the people around them. But whereas Protagonists want to fix everyone’s problems, Campaigners want everyone else to be happy. If they’re experiencing gratitude or happiness when someone else is having a hard time, Campaigners may even try to tamp down their own good feelings out of a sense of guilt.

Solution: If this is your personality type, remember that tamping down your own gratitude doesn’t help anyone else feel better. In fact, you stand a better chance of making a positive difference by cultivating your innate gratitude – that way, you can model for others what it’s like to welcome and appreciate the world as it is.

Sentinel Personality Types

Logistician (ISTJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Not Seeing the Point

As people who prize rationality and efficiency, Logisticians might not see the point of cultivating gratitude. “Isn’t it what you do with your life that matters,” they might ask, “not how you feel about it?” This isn’t to say that Logisticians don’t feel gratitude – they certainly do. But they may not feel particularly motivated to seek it out.

Solution: Here at 16Personalities, we advocate knowing yourself. If cultivating gratitude really doesn’t make you feel any better, then that’s perfectly all right! But you need to find out for sure whether gratitude benefits you. Do this by setting a timer for two minutes and writing down all the things you can think of to be grateful for. Repeat this activity every day for five days. If, at the end of those days, you’re not experiencing a better mood or an enhanced sense of well-being, then hey – at least you’ve only wasted ten minutes. But you might find yourself feeling surprisingly good – and keeping those lists around.

Defender (ISFJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Nostalgia

Defenders tend to have a nostalgic perspective on life. People with this personality type remember the traditions and events of yesteryear through rose-colored glasses. As a result, they may end up focusing on the ways in which the present just doesn’t live up to the past – at least in their opinion.

Solution: If you’re a Defender, you might be bracing yourself for us to tell you, “Get over it! The past is the past! Embrace change!” But don’t worry, we’re not going to harp on any of that. You already know that coping with change is important (and difficult). Instead of getting hung up on change, why not choose one old tradition to revive? This might help you find gratitude and comfort – and realize that maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem right now.

Executive (ESTJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Getting Lost in Details

The good news: Executives are among the personality types most likely to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. But they are relatively unlikely to say that they often find themselves feeling grateful without much effort. So what’s going on? One explanation might be that Executives have a laser-sharp focus on the details of daily life – their schedules and to-do lists and responsibilities. This approach to life may be effective in many ways, but it doesn’t allow much time for Executives to appreciate the bigger picture.

Solution: We would never ask you, dear Executive, to throw out your to-do list. But we are going to ask you to add one more item to it: expressing gratitude. Every day, share one thing that you’re grateful for or make a special point of thanking someone who’s helped you out (not just in your mind – say it out loud!). By doing this, you create a daily opportunity to see the big picture of what you have to be grateful for – all without having to slow down or step back from any other responsibilities that you may have.

Consul (ESFJ)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Taking Things Personally

Consul personalities love surrounding themselves with other people – but that doesn’t mean that their relationships always go smoothly. Inevitably, someone will be rude or late or inconsiderate or disagreeable – or (worst of all!) they may ignore Consuls’ well-considered advice. In these moments, Consuls might feel personally let down or bothered by their friend’s or loved one’s behavior.

Solution: When someone’s behavior irritates or offends you, see if you can come up with a possible explanation for that behavior that has nothing to do with you. For example, if someone doesn’t thank you for helping them out, you might think, “Maybe she didn’t thank me because she’s distracted by worries about her elderly mother.” The point isn’t to come up with an accurate explanation of the bothersome behavior – it’s just to remind yourself that the behavior may not be about you. Once you’ve reframed the situation in this way, you’ll probably find it a bit easier to move on and reconnect with the many things that you have to be grateful for.

Explorer Personality Types

Virtuoso (ISTP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Bottling It Up

In our research, Virtuosos are among the personality types least likely to say they feel comfortable expressing gratitude when they feel it. There are many potential reasons for this. One is that Virtuosos are often in the habit of keeping their feelings to themselves. Another is that these personalities may underestimate how important gratitude is to other people – and how happy other people are to hear it.

Solution: Rather than asking you to conjure up intangible feelings, we’re going to suggest that you do something concrete: thank a person for something that they’ve done. This may be something that they’ve done specifically for you or something that they’ve offered the world at large. Either way, make sure to let the person know that you’re thankful for what they’ve done. And if you’ve done something that makes your own life better, it’s perfectly acceptable to thank yourself (out loud!) for doing it.

Adventurer (ISFP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Losing Perspective

Adventurers have a talent for staying in the present moment. Most of the time, that’s a good thing – it keeps people with this personality type grounded and aware. But sometimes the present moment is a tough place to be. In these moments, Adventurers can become so fixated on what’s going on right now that their mood tanks. They may lose track of positive things that have happened to them in the past – and they may also lose hope that the future will be different.

Solution: If this is your personality type, gratitude might just become your secret weapon for digging yourself out of a negative mood. To harness the power of gratitude, create a tangible reminder of a cherished memory – for example, a framed photograph of a special occasion or a keepsake from a favorite place that you’ve visited. Whenever you’re having trouble feeling grateful, pick up this item and let it remind you of better times. It might even help reassure you that better days lie ahead too.

Entrepreneur (ESTP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Boredom

From the outside, Entrepreneurs often seem to lead exciting lives – pursuing interesting hobbies, going to cool places, and surrounding themselves with fascinating people. But on the inside, Entrepreneurs often feel restless. They may worry that, unless they constantly work to make life interesting, they’re doomed to be bored.

Solution: Fear not: we’re not going to ask you to give up the novelties and distractions that keep life interesting. That said, it’s worth noting that 64% of Entrepreneur personalities admit that they often try to relieve boredom with something unhealthy. So brainstorm a list (right now!) of healthy things that you can do when you’re feeling bored. This will help you keep your life in balance – which is a key prerequisite for gratitude.

Entertainer (ESFP)

Gratitude Stumbling Block: Comparison

Many Entertainers have the best intentions of cultivating gratitude. But they may get distracted from this goal by that nemesis of thankfulness: comparison. Although Entertainers are free-spirited personalities in many ways, they may still compare themselves with others – either people they know in real life or influencers on social media. And as a result, Entertainers may often feel as if they’re lacking or falling short.

Solution: Comparison is tricky to root out entirely, so if you’re an Entertainer, don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling into the trap of comparing yourself to other people. That said, you can improve the situation by unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel anything less than good enough. Once you’ve removed these triggers, you may find it much easier to feel grateful for yourself and your life just as it is.


Gratitude can bolster feelings of contentment, connection, and well-being, but that doesn’t mean that it comes naturally for everyone – far from it. Life presents us with more than enough challenges to make staying grateful pretty darn difficult. Fortunately, by becoming aware of the stumbling blocks that tend to trip you up on your gratitude journey, you can find new, proactive ways of cultivating this positive emotion.

So, readers, what are your tips for staying grateful even during difficult times – and what tends to get in the way? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Further Reading