Are You Thankful or Are You Grateful?

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Every fourth Thursday for the last 397 years, we, the good people, have been celebrating Thanksgiving by gathering with family and close friends to offer up thanks for all the positivity in our lives. Year in and year out… Year after year… This year being no different. And believe me when I say that I set out to write the requisite Thanksgiving piece about having an attitude of gratitude and all that fuzzy, feel good rhetoric, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. We use the words ‘thanks’ and ‘gratitude’ interchangeably, but are they in essence the same thing? Is there a significant difference?? Are we ultimately thankful or are we grateful??? So I did a bit of investigative work and I am pleased to share my findings with you!

If you open up a good ole fashioned Oxford dictionary, you’ll find that the word ‘thankful’ is defined as ‘pleased and relieved.’ In other words, it’s a feeling, plain and simple. The word ‘grateful’ on the other hand, is defined as, ‘showing an appreciation of kindness.’ In this case we’re dealing with an action. And therein lies the VERY big difference between being ‘thankful’ and being ‘grateful.’ Allow me to explain.

So let’s assume you’re a nurse. Which as an aside does not make me a psychic. Rather, if you’ve landed on my page and have read this far it’s a pretty safe assumption. Getting back on track, though! You’re a nurse. You’ve got close family, great friends, a solid career, health, happiness, you name it! If what I just described resembles your life in some way or another, then chances are that a lavish Thanksgiving dinner spent in the company of loved ones will engender all those feel-good vibes we associate with holiday gatherings. In layman’s terms, you’ll be feeling thankful. So thankful, in fact, that you may feel as if your heart will burst. Now I know what you’re thinking; if that’s what ‘thankfulness’ is all about, then what in heaven’s name is ‘gratefulness?’ Here goes!

Being grateful is when we act upon the feeling of thankfulness. It’s when we take a feeling and turn it into an intentional way of life. And it’s hard to do, because real life gets in the way. Jobs, schooling, bills, relationships etc. But Thanksgiving is a great place to start. It can set the stage for the way you live out the rest of the year. You have a great job as a nurse which translates into financial stability and so you pay it forward by paying for a stranger’s coffee. You have your health intact and appreciate that, so you go the extra mile when it comes to making your sick patient comfortable. That can mean fetching him or her an extra pillow or always wearing a smile and reassuring them that things will be okay. You get to wear scrubs to work every day. If that isn’t the epitome of comfort I don’t know what is. If you recognize the blessing in such a uniform you may channel that thanks by going out of your way to wear themed or fun printed scrubs in order to set your patients at ease and perhaps brighten their day. And it goes on…

If you’re aware of all the good in your life and feel thankful for it, the act of gratitude will follow effortlessly. Happy Thanksgiving to all, and remember: Are you thankful or are you grateful?

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