I use to think of gratitude as as either transactional (being thankful for something I received or something someone has done for me), or the culturally-mandated lip service surrounding Thanksgiving (especially since this holiday has a pretty dicey origin).
I didn't feel cynical about it or anything, but I struggled with feeling false and forced in my public expression of gratitude around this time of year.
But finally I tried implementing a regular practice of gratitude in the small moments in life -- in private, both when I'm on top of the world and when I feel heartbroken or overwhelmed.
I think the difference is that it isn't transactional gratitude. It's something else. It's gratitude for things the way they are. Somehow I can access whatever it is that gratitude unlocks in the bleak moments, in the angry moments, in sadness, and it tempers those feelings and allows me to get relief -- to get into a state of mind where I can see all my options, and where I can see the bigger picture. It doesn't feel fake or forced or solve all my problems, yet it allows to me access a deep sense of okay-ness (I’m pretty sure I got this concept from Christina Sell).
So this year I'm grateful for my new outlook on practicing gratitude. Because I want to be able to see all the blessings that surround me -- there are so many, and I don't want to take them for granted.