Skip to main content

Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Know the Difference Between Thankful and Grateful to Live a Richer Life

Knowing the difference between thankful and grateful is important because one is a passive emotion and one is an active attitude that moves you to act.If the words “grateful” and “thankful” were colors, in the shade of red, which would be the darker, richer red? Many of us use those words interchangeably. They are closely related. But there are fundamental differences between the two. Understanding the difference between thankful and grateful will deepen and enrich your mindfulness practices.

Difference Between Thankful and Grateful

Merriam-Webster tells us that grateful means appreciative of benefits received while thankful means conscious of benefits received. Can you be conscious of something, yet ignore it? Yes, you can be conscious or aware that you need sleep, but you stay up to binge-watch your favorite show. On the other hand, true appreciation always leads to expression and action. 

When you are present and thoroughly and mindfully experiencing a gift or act of kindness, it always leads to showing gratitude — you may praise the giver to everyone, say thank you, reciprocate a gift, place the gift in a prominent spot, or use the gift more thoughtfully. You certainly remember it for years to come.

Some further distinctions between gratitude and thankfulness:


  • Surface-level pleasure from receiving positive aspects.
  • Often related to specific events or outcomes.
  • May be reactive or automatic.
  • Dependent, short-term, and passive.
  • An aspect of gratitude.
  • A response.


  • Deeper emotional response.
  • Ongoing appreciation for life, regardless of circumstances.
  • Involves a conscious shift in perspective.
  • Independent, long-term, and active.
  • A way of life, seeing what you have not what you lack.
  • A choice.

As an example, you may have been taught by your parents to say “thank you” when someone does something nice or gives you a present. I’m grateful that my parents did that for me. It’s an automatic response that acknowledges kind acts, so we don’t appear to be self-absorbed, entitled, or arrogant. But I want to deepen that automatic response to a mindful response, don’t you? I want to really see the person and give them recognition and gratitude. Because, let’s face it, there aren’t as many kind acts as there used to be and those who make the effort should be commended.

To get some ideas for deepening thankfulness into gratitude, review the personal and professional suggestions below and pick one you’d like to work on.

Thankful Moments vs. Grateful Living: The Choice is Yours

Gratitude in Everyday Life 

  • Reflect daily on positive aspects of your life.
  • Mindfully focus on the present moment.
  • Regularly add to your Gratitude Journal.
  • Verbalize gratitude to yourself.
  • Integrate affirmations into daily routines.
  • Take Gratitude Walks in nature — focus on the beauty and express gratitude for the environment. Mindfully pay attention to each step and breath.
  • Set monthly Gratitude Challenges — express gratitude to a different person each day, find gratitude in challenging situations (reframe challenges as lessons learned or unexpected positive outcomes), or discover new things to be grateful for.
  • Start a Gratitude Sleep Ritual — reflect on three positive things that happened during the day. This practice promotes better sleep and a positive outlook.
  • Gratitude through Digital Detox — dedicate time to deepen your connection with the present moment, fostering gratitude for simple pleasures. 
  • Writing Gratitude Letters to people who have positively impacted your life.
  • Engaging in random acts of kindness.

Gratitude at Work

    • Team Building:
      • Implement gratitude circles or sharing sessions.
      • Recognize and appreciate colleagues’ efforts openly.
      • Create a Gratitude Board in the workplace — encourage them to create a visual representation of things they appreciate.
    • Leadership:
      • Express gratitude for your team’s hard work.
      • Incorporate gratitude into performance reviews.
      • Model gratitude as a leadership behavior.
      • Attend Gratitude Retreats or Workshops.

Gratitude with Family

Family Traditions:

    • Establish a gratitude ritual during family meals.
    • Reflect on positive family moments during gatherings.
    • Create a Gratitude Jar — write moments of gratitude on small notes. Revisit these notes periodically, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the accumulated positive experiences.
    • Create Gratitude Games that prompt players to share moments of gratitude or appreciate each other.

Open Communication:

    • Encourage family members to express gratitude for each other.
    • Hold family meetings to share appreciations.
    • Teach children about the importance of gratitude.

Gratitude with Friends

Gratitude Challenges:

    • Initiate a gratitude challenge among friends.
    • Share daily moments of gratitude in a group chat.
    • Plan activities that foster a sense of shared gratitude.

Quality Time:

    • Organize gratitude-themed get-togethers.
    • Reflect on positive aspects of the friendship during conversations.
    • Surprise friends with small tokens of appreciation.

Thankfulness is great; showing gratitude is better. When we’re grateful, we aren’t waiting for others to do something for us. Rather, we’re taking the initiative to show that we’re grateful that they’re in our lives. The more you add gratitude to your life, the richer your life will be. 

My personal note to you: I am so grateful that you’re part of my community. You matter to me. That’s why I strive to bring you useful information every week. If there’s some further way I can serve you, please contact me, and let’s connect. I’d love it if you’d just say hi.

Thank you for the photo Donald Giannatti.

emotions, Happiness

Let's get started with 30 free minutes

I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.


How to Step Forward to a Future You've Created

Discover how to replace your old, self-limiting map with a new map full of possibilities for the future