Are you Thankful or Grateful?

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the word thankful as “pleased and relieved.” Both of those are feelings. The same dictionary defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation or kindness.” Gratitude goes to a deeper level, it is being aware that your appreciation stems from something outside of yourself such as a higher power.

The teacher in me would ask you to circle the verb and underline the noun. So, play along with me. The definition of thankful was “pleased and relieved.” Both of those words are feelings. However, grateful is defined by showing something. What are we showing? We are showing appreciation and kindness, which are actions.

How do we show someone they are appreciated? We can take them out for coffee, write them a letter telling them how they have been helpful to us, or make them a dinner. Showing kindness, can be smiling, hugging, or simply using good manners.

The Thanksgiving holiday is around the corner. My hope is you will have an opportunity to spend time with someone you care about. In some traditions, people at a Thanksgiving meal will go around the table and share what they are thankful for. Some might say, “I’m thankful for my friends, my house, or my car.” While others might say, “health or wealth.” But when we get up from the table, and the holiday is over, are we still thankful or do we stop thinking about the things we just talked about at the table?

When it’s mid-December and the lines are long in your favorite department store, and traffic is backed up due to Christmas shoppers, are you thankful? Thankfulness and gratitude go hand in hand-in-hand. It is much easier to have thankfulness than gratitude. Thankfulness can be fleeting, but gratitude requires action, thought, and critical thinking.

Gratitude stems from a cause, and becomes the effect. For example, if you have a friend who is sick with a terminal illness and you are seeing the impact on their life, you may think to yourself, I am so grateful I am healthy. Someone else’s pain has caused you to see the goodness in your own life, and from that stems gratitude.

UC Davis Health states, “The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude.

“It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide,” he said.

Practicing gratitude also affects behavior. Studies have shown that grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence – factors that translate into a healthier and happier life.”

1 Thesallonians 5:18 states, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

This week, spend some time reflecting. Are you thankful or grateful, or both? God tells us in many verses in the Bible to be thankful, but also calls us to action as Christians. We may have to work at having gratitude or showing gratitude, but as the physicians above shared, we will feel physically and mentally better if we practice both.

Blessings Sweet Friends,


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