Grateful vs. Thankful

In this week’s Motivational Monday post I touched on starting the day off with saying “thank you.” Waking up every morning, while still laying in bed, saying “thank you for today” is not only starting your day off to be one full of continuous gratitude. It is also starting your day off by thanking the universe – God – or whatever higher power you believe in for waking you up to live another day. Throughout the practice of gratitude, I always start off by saying “thank you for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

People will often say to me, “But isn’t grateful and thankful the same thing?” This is where we are going to break down that they are not the same. Similar? Yes. Different? Yes.

So let’s start with grateful:

The definition of grateful is – feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness. To be grateful for something, there is always someone/something else involved. For example:

  • I am grateful for your kind words.
  • I am grateful for this post.
  • I am grateful for his/her help.

All show that to be grateful you need some sort of influence from the surrounding world. This is not a feeling that can be generated on its own.

Moving on to thankful:

The definition of thankful is – pleased and relieved. Being thankful is an internal feeling. Yes, it can still be directed by what someone has done for you but this feeling comes from within. For example:

  • Your friend David helped you change a flat tire when you were stuck on the side of the road.
    • We would be grateful that David helped us change our tire – but this is generated by David’s kindness. There is still a sense of helplessness underlying this feeling of gratitude.
    • Being thankful that David helped us change our tire – is generated by a feeling of gratitude from within. This is a sentence that can be said by simply reflecting on David’s help, in his absence.

The gratitude from this is directed towards David, where the thankfulness from this is directed towards the experience you had with David helping you change your tire.

A lot of people like to choose between grateful vs thankful. If you are one of these people that is awesome and there is nothing wrong with that! We already know that grateful and thankful can work hand-in-hand, and in my opinion you can’t have one without the other. So why do we wake up being thankful instead of grateful? It is my personal belief (it is ok if you disagree, and I would love to hear why) that we can not be grateful without first being thankful. If we jump right into being grateful for something we do not allow ourselves to bring this feeling of being grateful forward from within. Instead, this feeling of gratitude will be purely superficial. If we take the time to internalize and be thankful for an experience in our life it will lead us to be wholeheartedly grateful for the experience as well as the person/thing that influenced the experience to begin with.

5 thoughts on “Grateful vs. Thankful

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