Tag: gratitude

difference between being thankful and grateful

The Difference Between Being Thankful and Grateful

We’re all about to sit around the table with family and friends as the Thanksgiving season is upon us. It’s easy to look around and say that we are thankful (many of us do this as a tradition along with the turkey dinner). We may feel thankful for the presence of those in our lives, and glad to see everyone since the last big meal. However, is being thankful the same as being grateful? And does “thankful” adequately express the deeper feelings we may have?

Contrary to what many may think, there is actually a difference between being thankful and grateful.


What does it mean to be Thankful?

The textbook definition is that “thankful” means being conscious of benefits received. The person receiving the benefits has an awareness of a beneficial gesture…and responds as such. Often, it’s automatic, such as saying “thank you” when someone does something nice or helpful. It’s an expression of appreciation for something another person has done for you. It’s more about the act itself (and how you feel about it) than the person doing the act.

Thankfulness is often tied to politeness, with society and many a child’s upbringing conditioning people to express thanks for a kind act – either instantly (with words) or later (with another form of communication: email, card, phone call).

We tend to think of thankfulness as something that lasts for a short moment, often with little thought given to the act again once thanks has been shared. Showing that one is thankful is often easy to do, as it is a surface-level response. Few think of being thankful as something hard to do. Most consider it pretty simple.


What does it mean to be Grateful?

Dictionaries define being grateful as having a sense of thankfulness that comes from a feeling within, rather than a social norm response to a kind gesture. Being grateful, or having “gratitude” can be directed at not only people you appreciate but things that you feel have been of great assistance in your life.

For example, you can be grateful for your car that has supported you as you worked your way through college and achieved your degree. And you can be grateful for people like your mother who gave you guidance and good advice over the years. Both are worthy of gratitude! And this feeling comes from a deeper place within yourself and/or your heart.

difference between being thankful and gratefulGratitude is often much more memorable than thankfulness. It can last a long time. When you feel gratitude, you can have that sense of appreciation for many years. Gratitude often encompasses shared experiences, love, commitment and devotion with special people in your life. For many who focus on gratitude regularly, it is a way of life…a state of being.

RELATED: Attitude of Gratitude

When you feel grateful, you can express it without words or any physical action. And it goes beyond thankfulness, although that is often the first step that grows with time into a lasting feeling. Often, being grateful makes you willing to sacrifice time or money and go the “extra mile” even when no one is requiring this of you. It’s something you simply do willingly.


Why both are worthwhile

It’s not wrong to be thankful and express it. Random acts of kindness, as well as intentional acts of kindness, occur every day…and it’s important to express our thanks for it. And not just because society suggests that it is the “polite” thing to do. Rather, thanking people for kind gestures creates a positive feeling within us and can, with time, foster true gratitude for people in our lives.

So yes, there is a difference between being thankful and grateful… and it’s fine to be thankful. At the same time, we should strive to feel grateful, as gratitude is part of how we make sense of our lives and the people within it. When we keep it in the forefront, we are able to credit our loved ones with the appreciation they deserve. By striving to make gratitude a discipline, many things such as time spent with loved ones, takes on a new depth of meaning.

Try making gratitude something you focus on and practice in a deliberate way…whether it is expressed outwardly or felt inwardly. It will change you and the relationships in your life for the better! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Dr. Sharman

alternative to the new year's resolution

An Alternative to the New Year’s Resolution

This is the time of year. We start hearing about them. Our friends are making them. We may be making them ourselves. What am I talking about?

New Year’s Resolutions.

Am I hearing a collective groan? If so, I’m right there with you!

One reason I’m not a fan of the stereotypical resolution at the beginning of each year is that we often set ourselves up for failure due to:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Unachievable timeframe
  • Lack of a support system

Research shows that only nine percent of us who make resolutions feel successful in reaching our goals. When we don’t achieve what we resolved to, we often cannot see any accomplishment we may have made….just the fact that we fell short. How does this really help? It doesn’t.

In looking for a better approach to the New Year’s Resolution, I found that many creative, compassionate, intelligent people have come up with some amazing alternatives. There are better ways to improve our lives without the self-guilt that comes with falling short of the goal. I’m very excited to share these alternatives with you – and to hear back from you about the ones you like the best.


30-Day Challenge

Set a specific daily objective for a 30-day timeframe. If you are so inspired, come up with 12 different ones (one for each month of the year). The first one can be basic – like decluttering. What action would you be taking each day in January to declutter? It could be throwing away, donating or selling five items per day. At the end of the month, celebrate your accomplishment and decide if you want to take on a new challenge (or skip a month and pick back up in March).


Find Your People

Instead of committing to a new activity, commit to the people you want to spend time within your life. Make a list of who brings out the best in you. Who adds value to your day. Who makes you laugh and improves your mood? Get the list down to about five-eight people and plan how to spend more time with them. It could be monthly coffees, weekly walks in the park, weekend trips or even just regular hangouts at your place. Be intentional – and spend quality time with “your people”.


Decide What to Track Rather Than Pick a Goal

This one is very interesting to me! Instead of a goal, you’ll decide something to track in your life. It could be how you spend your money, what you eat (food log), how much you use social media…anything. The idea is to decide on your metric and what you’ll measure rather than a measurement goal. A goal may evolve out of it, but in the beginning, you focus on tracking. And perhaps the act of tracking will result in the implementation of a goal (like weight loss).


Focus on Gratitude

Practicing gratitude regularly can have an amazing impact on your life. Start by making a list of things you are grateful for, then think about why. Reflect on this list as well as what doesn’t make it on the list (that can be equally insightful). Then make a list of people you are grateful for. Write each person a note sharing why you appreciate having them in your life (without expectation of a response). Go through this exercise as often as you like throughout the year and see how good it makes you feel!


RELATED: Attitude of Gratitude


Pick a Word of the Year

Find a word to serve as the inspiration for the new year. The idea is that this single word will give you clarity and help you focus in a particular direction. To get to the word, make a list of all kinds of things you’d like to accomplish throughout the year. You should see a theme come to light that can be encapsulated in a single word: joy, relaxation, friendship, discipline, wellness, etc. Whatever it is, that word can be your guide for the new year. Make a poster for your room, write it on your bathroom mirror, buy a keychain with the word on it – then commit the year to that word!


Do an Experiment Each Week

Decide to make the new year a year of curiosity rather than difficult change. Establish weekly experiments to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, try a new activity or discover a new passion. One week you can talk to five strangers to see what happens (new friends, new perspectives). Another week you can decide to do your exercise before work instead of after by going for a brisk walk in the morning. Another you can taste a new food each day to try to expand your diet (you may actually love Brussel sprouts and not know it!). This approach lets you try out a variety of things to decide which ones you want to keep going with. You never know what you may discover about yourself… and what you want to become a permanent habit.

In conclusion, don’t sweat the New Year’s Resolution, and please don’t think you have to do it like everyone else does! There is no one right way to make a change in the new year. Try one of these options – and be sure to let me know which ones you like!


Dr. Sharman


Resources for this article (and more good ideas not mentioned):