As kids, our parents teach us to say “thank you” when someone holds the door, gives you a present, or brings you soup when you’re sick. Soon, saying thank you becomes second nature. It slips out by form of habit, and often we forget to pause and feel the gratitude meant to go along with the sweet sentiment.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to practice thankfulness and gratefulness. If you’re a bit rusty, below we’ve laid out the major differences between the two, exactly what gratitude means, and how you can practice more of it in your everyday life.
Key Differences Between Thankfulness and Gratefulness
If you thought thankfulness and gratefulness were basically the same, think again. The two share similarities, but they can end out playing out differently throughout your day. Here are the major differences:
- Thankfulness is reaction, gratitude is a chosen state of being;
- Thankfulness fades, gratitude remains;
- Thankfulness is situational, gratitude improves your relationship with yourself and others.
To be clear: one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Practicing both thankfulness and gratefulness can benefit your well-being. But for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on gratitude, which is the one you probably need a little more practice at.
What Gratitude Means
So, what is gratitude, exactly? Simply put, it’s about being content physically and mentally with the state of your life, even when nothing positive happens (or worse, something negative happens). You may not always be happy, but you can always practice gratitude. Gratitude is a choice, and it offers you an optimistic outlook, even when the waves of life are rocking your boat.
Benefits of Gratitude
By choosing to cultivate gratitude you are actively improving your health and well-being. Here are a few of the positive effects gratefulness can have on your mental and physical health.
- Boosts your immune system (1)
- Reduces your risk of heart failure (2) chronic disease, and mortality (3)
- Improves your mental health by easing symptoms of depression and perceived stress (4)
- Increases relationship satisfaction and improves happiness (5)
- Helps to cultivate optimism (6)
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Ready to be more grateful? There is no right or wrong way to practice gratitude, so find what works for you. Here are a few of the most practical ways to start practicing gratitude today.
Start a Gratitude Journal
One of the most common ways to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. There are many ways to do it. You can keep an ongoing list in the notes on your phone or take to classic pen and paper. Some good starting points are to recount a favorite moment from the day, describe a special person in your life, or list three things you’re grateful for that day.
Try Gratitude Mapping
Gratitude mapping is perfect for visual learners. It involves creating a visual mood board of everything you’re grateful for. Include pictures of people and things that mean the most to you. You can then place your board somewhere in your home to remind yourself of what you have to be grateful for every day.
Begin a Meditation Practice
Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand. For a boost in gratitude give meditation a try. You can choose to meditate on things you’re grateful for, or simply take gratitude in taking a moment of peace. The morning is a great time to meditate as it can set the tone for the whole day, but an evening meditation can be a great time to reflect on everything you were grateful for throughout the day as you wind down for bed.
Sign Up to Volunteer
When you help others, it’s a reminder of how much you have. And by what “you have” we’re not talking about material goods (although we certainly are grateful for the clothes that keep us warm, and a roof over our heads). Volunteering cuts to the soul and reminds you of the things that really matter life, human connection, small acts of kindness, a shared smile. Plus, it just feels good to make a difference.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Having close friends and family helps us feel supported and loved. But instead of approaching holiday get-togethers in hope of what you can get out of it, consider what you can give without expecting anything in return. A kind comment, a listening ear, and your undivided attention can go a long way. Be warned: caring for others feels good, so good you just might want to do it more often.
(1) ‘Positive health: connecting well-being with biology’ The Royal Society, 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1693417/pdf/15347530.pdf. Accessed 18 November, 2022.
(2) ‘Pilot Randomized Study of a Gratitude Journaling Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Patients With Stage B Heart Failure’ Psychosomatic Medicine, 2016. https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2016/07000/Pilot_Randomized_Study_of_a_Gratitude_Journaling.5.aspx. Accessed 18 November, 2022.
(3) ‘Optimism and health Aging in Women and Men’ American Journal of Epidemiology, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6545271/. Accessed 18 November, 2022.
(4) ‘Effects of gratitude intervention on mental health and well-being among workers: A systematic review’ Journal of Occupational Health, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8582291/ Accessed 18 November, 2022.
(5) ‘It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships’ American Psychological Association, 2010. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-10257-015. Accessed 18 November, 2022.
(6) ‘Strengths in older adults: differential effect of savoring, gratitude and optimism on well-being’ Aging and Mental Health, 2018. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2018.1471585. Accessed 18 November, 2022.