Thankful vs Grateful

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Thankful vs grateful, is there a difference?Thankful vs Grateful - women hugging

We often use these words when expressing the benefits we receive in life but I believe many don’t fully understand the difference between the two.

We are fast approaching our Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and it really got me thinking how thankful I am for a lot of people and things in my life…

… but am I truly grateful?

Here’s some food for thought, ask yourself:

  • Do I live my life with a grateful heart?
  • Or am I constantly wishing for things to be different somehow?
  • Do I appreciate the people in my life?
  • Or do I somehow want them to change?

In this article, I will explore whether there is a difference between being thankful and having gratitude.

Are we grateful if we’re constantly looking for a change?

Let’s dig deep, this could get very interesting.

What is Thankful

Thankful vs Grateful - Thank You Doctor

The Merriam-webster dictionary describes thankful as being conscious of a benefit received, expressing thanks or being well-pleased (glad).

Being thankful is a feeling we have when we have received some kindness or gift.

We are taught from a very young age to be thankful when someone does something nice for us.

So does this mean we have to be taught it?

For example, we say thank you when someone holds open a door for us.

Our reaction to their kindness is immediate and soon… forgotten, or is it?

By that I mean more and likely we won’t remember the person who held the door for us five years ago but at that moment we were thankful.

Thankful vs Grateful - Friends eating together

Being thankful often relates to a single something we received, someone bought us a coffee, gave us a gift or held open a door. All very tangible things.

When you are thankful, you are focused on the materialistic item or kindness you received.

It is more on a superficial level and often times we just automatically say thank you at the appropriate time.

What about the person that held the door. If the person you held the door for never acknowledges your action do you feel that that person was ungrateful?

What Is Grateful

The Merriam-webster dictionary describes being grateful as being appreciative of benefits received. Gratitude is outwardly expressing the appreciation for something done or received.

Does that mean if the person as above doesn’t acknowledge when someone holds the door for them then they were not Grateful for your actions?

Gratefulness is much deeper and can be a result of a series of small positive actions that culminate in developing a mindset of appreciation.

Perhaps visiting a sick friend caused you to reflect on your own life and feel grateful for your own health.

Or maybe you visited a third world country which caused you to feel grateful that you have abundant access to clean water.

How about when you decided to change jobs and your old boss gave you such a fantastic letter of recommendation that will benefit you for years to come. Every new job you will think of that old boss and be so grateful for them and the effect they have had on your career.

Gratitude makes you want to do something for others on a continuous basis. Being grateful is more of a way of living than just a moment in time.

Spiritual Definitions

Thankful vs Grateful - The Cross

It should be no surprise that spiritual movements such as

Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism have all addressed gratitude.

These religions teach that living a good life heavily involves living with a sense of gratitude. It involves feeling grateful to a higher power.

For example, Jewish people are taught to begin each day feeling grateful for awakening from their sleep.

Each religion teaches and uses gratitude in different ways but is similar in that they all teach to be grateful to a higher power who is responsible for their existence.

Which religion a person follows is not important, the underlying benefit is that by living a grateful life you become a better person which is a very noble goal in my opinion.

How can we apply to be thankful and grateful

In today’s world being thankful and having gratitude are used synonymously and no one will correct you if they are not used according to definitions.

Gratitude is an important ingredient in being truly happy in life.

So how can we apply these concepts in order to become a better, happier person?

Thankful vs Grateful - writing paper to take notes

There are many ways in which we can show gratitude.

  • Showing gratitude could be as simple as saying thank you to your family or friends for the many ways they have helped you develop into the person you are today.
  • Another idea that is quite popular is keeping a gratitude journal. I have heard that even Oprah keeps a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is simply a place to write down specific things or events that you’re grateful for.
  • Paying it forward can be another tool to incorporate and could be as simple as smiling at a stranger. This one is a little trickier now with having to wear masks when in public. However, my husband did tell me he could see my smile in my eyes. Perhaps eye contact is more important than we think, especially these days.
  • You can also think back over your life and be grateful for things that happened in the past. A great way to remember happy memories is by writing them in a memory journal
  • Have a good laugh. Laughter is something we often take for granted but it goes without saying how good it feels to have a great laugh with friends and be grateful for that laughter.
  • Go outside for a walk, yes, right now. Is something stopping you? It’s raining? Take an umbrella. It’s cold? Wear a jacket. Why? Because stepping away from being busy and getting a breath of fresh air and a bit of exercise is a sure way to forget about the pressures of everyday life and just be present in the outdoors with nature. Feel the gratitude for the fresh air? The ability of your body to move?
  • Track your happiness every day. For me, this goes back to my journal. Every day I write what I am grateful for, what made me happy today, what I did to make someone else happy.

Each of these things serves to help us be more aware of the things we are grateful for and to be more aware of our own happiness.

After all, life is meant to be enjoyed, so what are we doing on a daily basis to not only enjoy our life more fully but to also help others enjoy their life too.

There is great joy in giving to others. It could be a smile, a kind word, some small gesture that stands out and makes their day a little brighter because you passed by.

By taking the time to really notice the events of each day we will have no trouble being grateful.


Thankful vs Grateful - woman typing on laptop


It’s important to your own health to understand the difference between thankful vs grateful and that these terms are often used interchangeably.

Being thankful is a feeling and being grateful is more of an action which is an important ingredient in our happiness.

There are many ways we can show gratitude and become more aware of what we are grateful for.

My favourite is to keep a gratitude journal where I write down People, things and events that happened that day that I am grateful for. I write down what made me happy that day and what I did to make someone else happy or at least have a better day.

I also take the time to review my life and think of people and things that are in my life I am grateful for.

For example, I am a writer and I love to write articles for others to read. It gives me great pleasure to know when someone enjoyed my article and that makes me grateful in a number of ways.

I never discovered my interest in writing until my husband introduced it to me and for that, I am very grateful. I am so grateful for the ability to travel with the income we make with our writing. It opens up the world to us and allows us to visit more people and places of enjoyment in the world.

We truly do live on a beautiful planet.

Yes, and I can never forget how grateful we are for the training we received through WA which you can check out here. This training gave us the ability to work anywhere and it was free which was really easy on our budget at the time.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful and thankful for the many people and things in my life that have helped me become the person I am today.

So there you have it, you now have the secret to a happier life, having gratitude.

I would love to hear if you enjoyed my article today. Please leave it below.

Thank you for reading

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