The words “thankful” and “grateful” have become buzzwords in popular culture, especially in personal development circles. We hear people say that they’re grateful for the lessons they learned from a bad time in their lives. They say they’re thankful for all the support they’ve received. But is there a difference between these two terms?
Today, we’ll discuss the difference between gratitude and thankfulness, why these feelings are so important, and we’ll give you 10 ways you can practice gratitude daily.
What’s the Difference Between Being Grateful and Being Thankful?
We’re all familiar with the tradition of going around a table and asking each person what they’re thankful for (even if we’ve never practiced it), but what does it mean?
Thankfulness is, by definition, the feeling of being pleased or relieved.
Gratefulness, on the other hand, is the expression or feeling of appreciation for something you have received.
The key difference is that while thankfulness is outwardly expressed, gratitude is inwardly expressed. It’s the difference between thanking someone for doing something for you that may be inconvenient and feeling grateful that someone went above and beyond to help you. In both scenarios, you are thankful for the other person’s actions, but only in the second do you feel the inner warmth of gratitude.
What Does It Mean to Be Thankful?
To be thankful is to understand that someone, or something, did something to serve you or make you feel better. It is most often a surface-level emotion and one that is often fleeting. We throw our thanks at people as they hold doors open for us or pass us something across a table. Yes, we may also be thankful for the doctors who treated us when we were sick, but we’re more likely to use the word grateful in these circumstances.
What Does It Mean to Be Grateful?
Gratitude has a few more layers and is a little more complex a concept than thankfulness. We can show gratitude in lots of ways and at many levels of complexity, from the feeling of relief after hearing some good news to long-term changes in mindset and beliefs. Gratitude is less often summed up in a phrase and is more often felt deep in our hearts. It’s the warmth we feel when we look at our loved ones or the quiet appreciation of the sound of summer rain outside an open window when we have nothing to do and nowhere to be. It’s moving away from envy to be grateful for what you have.
It’s relatively easy to be thankful. Maintaining gratitude, however, is a practice and a way of thinking. It’s easy to feel gratitude on a good day, but maintaining gratitude on a bad day is hard. However, cultivating a mindset of gratitude can make the challenges you face much easier to overcome.
10 Ways to Practice Gratitude for More Happiness and Peace
Begin to express gratitude regularly. Using these practices as often as you can, you’ll be able to cultivate a mindset of gratitude and will be able to live each day with more happiness, peace, and purpose. It will change your life.
- See each day as a gift. Nothing is guaranteed in life, and instead of seeing this as a scary prospect, try to view it as promising and exciting. Every day you wake up healthy is a blessing, a fact we often forget. When you wake up in the morning, remember how lucky you are to be here. Remember that you are loved, wanted, and appreciated. Practicing this daily can help you garner an overall sense of peace and lead to a happier life.
- Change perspective. The first point on this list can be challenging. If you feel like the world is against you, start with a small shift in perspective. Grab a notebook and ask yourself, “what is easy?” “what is going right?” or “can i do more?” These questions can help you see the light in the dark and move into a mindset of gratitude and kindness. What can you do to be kind to yourself and others?
- Show gratitude towards those around you and tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Your family and friends matter the most. Unfortunately, we often take the most important people in our lives for granted, or we just assume they know that we love and appreciate them. But saying it aloud makes a world of difference. Next time you feel thankful for someone in your life, shoot them a text or give them a call and just let them know how much you appreciate them.
- Keep a journal. You don’t have to keep a gratitude journal you use exclusively for gratitude (journaling about your thoughts and feelings is great for your mental health), but you should practice gratitude when you do. When you’ve finished journaling for the day, make a short list of “I am grateful for” or “I am blessed to” statements about things you feel grateful for that day. Some days, you may only be grateful for the roof over your head and a quiet place to journal. On other days, your heart will be so complete that your list may feel neverending. Avoid writing about the same things daily – open yourself up to more.
- Paint a mental portrait in gratitude. This is a commonly used trick for those who struggle with anxiety-related insomnia. This practice involves closing your eyes and imagining a person you’re grateful for. Imagine all the positive traits surrounding them. If this doesn’t come naturally, ask yourself: are they kind? Have they done a lot to help me in the past? Are they generous with their time and energy? Do they make me laugh? Picture these characteristics floating around your loved one’s smiling face, and remember why you’re grateful for them.
- Spend time outdoors, in nature. Connecting with the natural world around us gives us a much-needed reminder that every living thing on this planet relies on each other in some way. The food we eat needs sun and healthy soil to grow properly, the soil relies on rain for moisture, and many small creatures rely on trees and plants for shelter and food. By heading out to a park, field, forest, lake, or beach, we can remind ourselves that we’re a small part of a big picture and that our problems are often material and temporary.
- Give thanks when you eat. This doesn’t have to come in the form of a religious “Grace” but should simply serve as a reminder that you’re lucky to have nourishing food on your plate or in your hand. Give thanks to the farmers who grew your vegetables or the sun and rain for helping those vegetables to grow. If you’re eating with others, you may want to take a moment to appreciate that you’ve all found this moment together. However you choose to do it, it’s a heartwarming practice that is easy to maintain once you’ve made a habit!
- Be thankful for yourself. Much of the focus in the previous points have been on what others have done for us or what positive experiences we’ve had in life. But if you take one thing away from this list, it should be to have gratitude for yourself. Having gratitude for ourselves and our ability to provide for ourselves, overcome challenges, and provide for others is key to happiness. Make sure you include yourself when thinking about what you’re grateful for.
- Explore your senses gratefully. If you’ve experienced anxiety or panic attacks, you may have tried this grounding method before. The idea is to engage in the senses to slow down and be present. This activity can be done anywhere at any time; just close your eyes and focus on one sense at a time, doing so with intention and gratitude.
For example, let’s say you start with your sense of hearing, and you notice the sound of your washing machine in the other room. Focus on the sound of the clothes tumbling in the drum and consider how lucky you are to have a whole wardrobe full of clean clothes.
Next, you might choose your sense of smell and notice that you can get a subtle whiff of the coffee cup across the table from you. Inhale slowly and feel grateful for the farmers who grew the beans so you could enjoy your morning ritual of slowly sipping your first coffee of the day. Do the same with the other three senses and see what feelings they unearth. Soon you’ll find an increased appreciation for the things around you.
- Write a reverse bucket list. No, this is not a list of everything you don’t want to do! It’s a list of everything you’ve done. Everyone has at least a few rough ideas of dream activities they’d like to do, whether visiting a natural wonder, going skydiving, performing in front of a crowd, or buying a home. But what about the amazing things you’ve already done? If you write your list somewhat chronologically, you’d be surprised how many cool things you’ve done. This activity alone is sure to drum up some retrospective gratitude! (Feel free to make a bucket list while you’re at it.)
- Read gratitude quotes. Quotes can often serve as inspiration and motivation for appreciation and gratitude. Find a list of quotes to inspire you today.
- Learn to appreciate the small things in life. Life is what you make it. Have a great appreciation for the small things. Learn to appreciate things that matter and ignore the rest. Be grateful for the moment. Find encouragement in something you never noticed before. Be intentional in the present moment and thoughtful in everything you do.
Discover Gratitude and Find Yourself
Hopefully, this list has inspired you and your journey to a spirit of gratitude! Showing gratitude for yourself and others can be challenging. If you find it hard to slow down and be present, spend less time scrolling on your phone, and you’d like to read more tips on how to do that, you can read more about how to do just that here.
Over the next ten days, try to implement each one of these tips each day and see which you most enjoy and which give you a better appreciation for your life. At the end of the ten days, continue the activities you enjoyed most.
Always be thankful. Practicing gratitude every day might not always come easily, but it can provide incredible mental health benefits, help you relax, and even sleep better at night. So why not try it out and see what it can do for you?
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.