Community//

How to Know the Difference between Thankfulness, Appreciation, and Gratitude

Gratitude differs from thankfulness and appreciation as its action-oriented. Knowing the difference allows us to create happy lives.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
Gratitude is Different
Gratitude differs from thankfulness and appreciation as its action-oriented. Knowing the difference allows us to create happy lives.

The Thanksgiving holiday shifts our focus on looking at our lives with thankfulness.   And as we enter the holiday season, many of us think of others.  What our friends and family mean to us, and what ways we show them our admiration through a lovely gift.  But do we realize that thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude are slightly different?  They are, and despite the subtle similarities, the differences are meaningful.

We define thankful as a feeling of being pleased.  To appreciate means, we recognize the excellent qualities of something and see the item’s value.  Both terms are referring to feelings or ideas we have within ourselves.  Gratitude, however, is action-oriented.  It means we show our thankfulness or indebtedness to another through our deeds, not just our words.  It isn’t difficult to feel thankful or appreciative of others, especially during the holidays.  But taking loving, thoughtful deeds to express our gratitude is putting our love into action. 

In my opinion, gratitude is a state of being because it rises up from deep within our soul.  It’s through our gratefulness that we can change our vibrational frequency, and thus, change our lives completely.   

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward

Understanding Thankfulness

When we say, “Thank you,” we’ve usually received something.  Whether it’s an item, act of service, or a kind word, we are reciprocating, acknowledging receipt of a kindness.  It’s also commonly an automatic response to another to show our pleasure.  This interaction happens quickly as society has conditioned us to be thankful. 

Our thankfulness is short-lived.  For example, do we remember everyone who ever held a door open for us? Probably not.  It’s also easy to express our thankfulness to another by saying a quick, “Thank you.”  It’s part of the social norm in all walks of life, both in our personal and work lives. 

Thankfulness is a surface level expression of approval towards another.  Its reactionary response to another’s action or comment to us.  It’s also expressed with words only—a verbal response or a written note that illustrations how we felt about the others’ kindness.  Gift-giving falls under this type of expression as well. 

We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction. ~ Harry A. Ironside

Comprehending Appreciation

Remember, we earlier defined appreciation as the recognition of the value of something.  It also comprises enjoyment and full understanding.  So now we are using our senses—the enjoyment of a warm campfire on a crisp fall evening. 

When we are appreciative, it benefits our soulful beings.  It can occur in the moment or when we remember a time with fondness.  It also doesn’t require that we interact with others for this emotion to occur.  It’s a cognitive action and how it affects us meaningfully. 

Appreciation permits us to pivot relationships, mindsets, and perceptions by allowing us to create the connections within the brain associated with interpersonal bonding and relief from stress.  When we appreciate those in our lives, we build these cognitive connections, helping us destress. By practicing appreciation when we’re alone, we can build these links in our brains without fear of how someone will react to our self-expression. 

For example, when we have to deal with the negative nellies of our lives, by appreciating their good points.  We can trigger a natural cerebral response that lowers our stress and allows us to feel kindness towards them instead of the egoic mind’s angst.  And over time, it lessens our natural responses to the negative person through our appreciation of them.

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness. ~ Dalai Lama

Realizing the Depths of Gratitude

Thankfulness leads to appreciation, which moves into gratitude over time.  Gratefulness happens at a deeper level than the other two expressions.  To show gratitude means we took action; therefore, it’s a practice, something we can and should do daily.  An act of gratitude is memorable because its feelings come from deep within ourselves, and it stays with us. 

To see long-term changes in our lives through our expressing gratitude, we need to understand its complexities.  We express gratefulness because a deep feeling from within caused us to take action not just once but as a consistent part of our lives.  To live with a grateful heart means we need to be aware of how others affect our lives. 

As a way of life, gratefulness is the manifestation of our love and dedication to those who are meaningful to our lives.   It arises from our shared experiences, understanding of one another, and deep knowing that we are connected.  Therefore, it is based on our relationships with others.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

Living from a Grateful Heart

As we integrate our attitude of gratitude into our lives, we will begin to notice the changes it creates.  Expressing our gratefulness can occur in many ways.  Paying it forward is an act of gratitude because it encourages us to bless those around us when we focus on the abundance in our lives.   

The most powerful way to see the many blessing in our daily lives is to have a gratitude journal.  This journal is simply a daily list of those things we are feeling grateful for—our cup of coffee in the morning, time with our grandchildren, or our healthy body.  As we list them, feel the emotions that rise up from within our hearts. 

We will see changes in our nature, and others will see a change in our personality because we will look at everything in our lives through the eyes of gratitude.  And what we focus on multiplies, so the more love and appreciation we see in the world, the more we receive in our own lives.   

A few years ago, I wanted to express my gratitude to the people who profoundly affected my life.  This letter of gratitude to them explained how they helped me during some challenging times of my life. Their willingness to give me their love and time was significant to me then and had grown. 

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy. ~ Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Happiness Grows from Practicing Gratitude

The more we practice being grateful, the happier we will feel.  Positive psychology research has shown a strong correlation between those who consistently practice gratitude with greater happiness.  Why?  Because when we practice being grateful, we feel more positive emotions.  As we have happier feelings, we are more aware and therefore enjoy our experiences more. The more we enjoy life, we become healthier, more resilient, and have better relationships

The side effects of gratitude are unlike most, as they are all positive.  So why aren’t we grateful?  Because the egoic mind allows fear to maintain its reign over our lives.  It’s afraid if we allow ourselves to feel happy that it will be taken away from us.  Many people feel happiness is fleeting, but it’s a misconception.

We choose how we feel.  If we aren’t happy, the only person who can change how we feel is us.  So why would we choose to feel anything negative?  The mind wants us to be cautious, but the ego takes it to extremes.  We can stop this through the practice of gratitude.  This simple practice has life-altering effects because it actually rewires our brains. 

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Moving Forward with More Thankfulness, Appreciation, and Gratitude

Again, what we focus on grows.  So consciously choosing to focus on being more thankful, more appreciative, and more grateful means increasing our positive outlook on life and are happier. 

As we live a life with a grateful heart, we can retake control of our minds by focusing on the positive aspects of our lives and thus become happier.

When you are grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears. ~ Anthony Robbins

If you would like to receive more informative and mindful articles right into your mailbox, fill this out

Do you need support to help you let live life with more thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude?  Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please contact me, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Be Thankful & Grateful; Be Aware & Appreciative

    by Elaine Guerrazzi, PhD
    Community//

    Giving Goes Beyond Thanksgiving

    by Chris Parsons
    5 Ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude by Mark Pettit of Lucemi Consulting
    Community//

    5 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

    by Mark Pettit

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.