During Thanksgiving and Christmas time, we naturally look for ways to be thankful or grateful. When it comes to the rest of the year, sadly we have a tendency to not think about it at all. But, what if your definition of gratitude is shaping what you do and think every day of the year, not just during the holidays?
Thankful vs Grateful.
Last week I wrote about thankful vs grateful, is there a difference? In the middle of my writing I started to wonder, do other people really think like I used to (thankful and grateful are synonyms), or do they really believe there is a difference?
I decided to ask my colleagues how they would define thankful and grateful. Several responded and I thought the answers would be somewhat similar, but I was quite surprised at all of the different definitions!
Notice how a number of the definitions reference thinking and feeling.
“I believe to be grateful is to hold a deep awareness of the gifts, love, and compassion we’ve been given. To be thankful is to express our gratitude to the giver. ‘Grateful’ is what’s in our heart and ‘thankful’ is what is spoken aloud.” – Joanna Teigen (www.growinghometogether.com)
“Thankful is a state of mind I strive to maintain, while grateful is associated with certain acts of kindness.” – Traci Rhoades (https://www.tracesoffaith.com)
“A thankful heart is the opposite of a proud heart. It acknowledges that God sits on His throne and we do not. A grateful heart is one that praises God for His actions to us, and His grace to us. Both have their place, but you cannot be grateful without being thankful.” – Sarah Liberty Hardee (ChristCenteredMama.com)
“I think thankful is a feeling whereas grateful is an overall attitude.” – Melissa Hoyle
A Few More Definitions of Thankful vs Grateful.
“To me, gratefulness implies an element of receiving something undeserved. It wells up emotion in me that mere thankfulness doesn’t carry.” – Susan Landry (https://thesparrowshome.com/)
“Being thankful makes me think of something being done for me. Perhaps a one-time act, favor, or gift given. Being grateful gives me a sense of a deeper appreciation for what I have, be it a person, health, or material wealth.” – Jasmin Rabinowitz (www.myjoyinlife.com)
“When I think of being grateful, I immediately associate it with grace. If I were to describe my physical response to gratitude, it would be to close my eyes and breathe in the blessing, the grace. There aren’t really words that accompany gratitude because it is overwhelming and all-consuming, like grace. When I think of being thankful, I think of making eye contact and smiling as someone has done something nice for me, gifted me with something, or made me smile. Thankfulness comes as a result of a fleeting act or behavior; whereas gratefulness is an innate response to being gracefully blessed by something much more infinite.” – Kristen Grow (https://30moredaysofgrace.blogspot.com/)
“For me gratefulness is a state of the heart whereas thankfulness is more of an expression of the heart.” – Julie Terrones (https://turquoisejournal.com)
“Gratefulness is based on circumstance. We can be grateful if something good happens to us. Thankfulness comes from within and it is a choice to be thankful regardless of the circumstance. This is the reason why Apostle Paul said that in everything, give thanks. We come to a point in life where it is hard to be grateful, but our hearts can still be thankful for what the Lord allows to happen in our lives.” – Ann Marie (Changedlifedotblog.WordPress.com)
So how does your definition of gratitude impact every day of your life?
How Your Definition of Gratitude Impacts Every Day of Your Life
Your definition of gratitude determines what you do. Every day of your life is directly a result of what you think (or believe).
What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel determines what you do. Here’s a fun story to describe what I mean.
Something that I really get kind of giddy about is when I get to wear heels! I know it may seem silly, but I love wearing them! I just don’t get to wear them that often.
I had worn my gold heels literally a couple of weeks before, but it was the first time wearing them since the weather had started to get cold. Not even five minutes into my talk and I felt my left foot starting to get hot. It could only mean one thing—I had a blister forming. Ack!!
I had two choices:
Keep up a “perfect appearance” by leaving my heels on while hiding my pain. Or, look totally unprofessional by taking off my heels and going barefoot.
I was really excited to talk and wear my super fun gold heels. (In fact a couple of the moms specifically commented on them before I spoke. Which makes a girl feel good, right?).
As time seemed like eternity, my self talk erupted inside…(although it was probably closer to like 30 seconds)
“Who takes off their heals as a public speaker?”
“What will these moms think of me?”
“You have to look professional!”
“If you keep your shoes on you might not be able to walk, let alone finish!”
It looked like I had only two choices, but because part of my gratitude routine includes practicing biblical self talk, I was quickly able to crush that negative self talk.
There was a third option for me—I could avoid pain and be real with my audience by saying, I’m not perfect and you don’t have to be either.
Did you catch what happened in my story?
What I was thinking influenced how I felt emotionally—and how I felt both emotionally and physically determined my actions.
The bottom line: your definition of gratitude determines what you do.
In fact, did you know that gratitude is something that can be measured?
I recently read that it’s deeper than just a thank you, it’s more like a gratitude appreciation and from a psychological perspective it has been documented that it produces long lasting positivity
Partial Gratitude and the Alternative
If your definition of gratitude or your thoughts on gratitude are something that you only focus on during the holidays—you will most likely only see the good things of life at those times.
The rest of the time of year, your focus will be drawn towards the less-than, the have-nots, the I should haves, and the I can’t’s.
In the process it steals from you joy, peace, hope while heaping on guilt, feelings of being stuck, and the pressure the be perfect.
What’s the alternative? You can develop a lifestyle of gratitude.
Developing a Lifestyle of Gratitude
If you understand that your definition of gratitude impacts every day of your life, then the next best thing you can do is to think through how you would define gratitude.
If you have time, do it right now.
Sometimes all it takes is some prompting.
After I asked my colleagues to describe grateful and thankful, a couple of them remarked that they had never really thought about it—until I asked!
There isn’t a perfect definition of gratitude!
Remember, you will define gratitude differently than anyone else. Read back through the definitions my colleagues shared for more inspiration.
Next write down some ways you can develop a lifestyle of gratitude.
Once you are able to sort through what your definition of gratitude is—then you can begin growing that gratitude daily.
How to Intentionally Grow Gratitude Daily
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Create a gratitude journal.
When I spoke on this topic of gratitude last month, the group ended up buying these journals to decorate as their gratitude journals. We also decorated these journals with markers and washi tape.
This journal comes in a set of 6. You could make several or invite others to create gratitude journals with you. (I don’t have a picture to share because I was speaking that day. But I regularly pin ideas to my Pinterest board for journaling devotions and prayer.) If you don’t want to create a gratitude journal, here a journal that I created because I couldn’t find a journal that integrated gratitude throughout my day and involved every area of my life. It’s called the simplyOne Christian Faith Journal.
When I do this, I receive some pretty incredible benefits. That is why I make time. I have several bibles but currently I am reading the NIV Women’s Devotional Bible because that is the translation that our church uses. If you want to start cultivating this in your kids like I am, a good kid’s bible is The Beginner’s Bible. It’s the one we’ve used with our son since he was 18 months old.
End your day with reflection. Think about all the things your thankful for that happened that day.
This is one thing that I learned from seasoned Christian mom mentors years ago. I used to just meditate and recall these things mentally—then I learned the value of writing things down and how it helps to transfer things from short term memory to long term memory.
makes a lasting imprint in your mind that brings closure to your day
helps you to remember what happened
and also to bring your focus back to how God has blessed you.
It even helps you to persevere through difficult circumstances. It is this part of cultivating gratitude that has grown perseverance in my life. Anyone can make it through one day at a time—and God’s mercies are new every morning.
Need some more specific ways to get started?
I mentioned some more practical ideas to cultivate gratitude in my post thankful vs grateful—including The Ultimate Gratitude Challenge.
You could also infuse gratitude into your day using my simplyONE Christian Faith Journal.All of those things I talk about above—are exactly what I do each day and the journal helps you to do that easily. You don’t have to figure this out—I’ve put something together for you.
Have you grabbed your copy yet?
Also, check out any comments by others who have shared their gratitude stories. It’s amazing when we read about how others have practiced gratitude, we start to see more ways that we can be grateful.
If you have a story of gratitude to share, let me know in the comments of how your definition of gratitude has been shaped or changed maybe even by reading the other definitions of gratitude.
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