Thankful. Grateful. Appreciative.
Recognize the difference, and apply it to your life.
It’s hard to believe another year has flown by, but here we are again, entering the holiday season. This is a rather dark mindless moment segment, but it is my hope that it will remind everyone to be more mindful as they conduct their holiday activities. It is estimated that over 400 people will die this Thanksgiving weekend due to traffic accidents as they drive to or from their holiday festivities and that over 40% of these deaths will be due to people not wearing their seatbelts. A little mindfulness in holiday traffic could save a life, so please, buckle up. After our big meals, the next hazard arrives. I confess I am not a Black Friday shopper and it is largely from seeing images on TV of people sleeping outside in the cold, shoving and pushing each other through store doors, and the general mayhem that seems to ensue once shoppers gain access to the goods. But did you know that between 2006 and 2018, twelve people have died and 117 people have been seriously injured during this holiday tradition? I understand that many people find this shopping frenzy fun and exciting, but this year, please be mindful of your own safety, as well as those around you.
We can practice mindfulness in everything we do without taking any extra time. Remember to stay present and practice self-care as you cook, shop and attend events. Slowing down may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll enjoy the season much more if you take your time, let go of perfectionism and savor the many special moments that are bound to arise.
It’s that time of the year, when we all focus more on being thankful. While most of us use the terms thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation interchangeably, there is a subtle difference in the meanings of these words as well as a difference in their effect on our emotional well-being.
Thankfulness is a behavior. Someone does something for us and we say thank you. Saying thanks is of course always a good thing, but it’s also frequently an automatic response – a habit. Thankfulness is typically an instantaneous act prompted by a benefit received. Thankfulness doesn’t occur randomly, but occurs as a reaction to someone else’s action. It is an outward expression of gratitude to another person that is usually over in an instant and it’s very easy to practice. Society has conditioned us to say thank you even when we don’t feel thankful for something because it is the polite thing to say.
Gratitude is a feeling instead of a behavior. It is a sense of feeling that happens at a deeper level that comes from within our hearts. Feeling gratitude is memorable and can live for a long time. When we feel grateful toward someone, we can feel that sense about the person even after many years. Gratitude encompasses shared experiences, love, and understanding. It is a manifestation of commitment, devotion and affection toward people or things that are meaningful to us. Gratitude is a sense of being and even a way of life.
Appreciation is to recognize the value of someone or something. It is a feeling or expression of admiration, approval or gratitude. It is also a positive or favorable judgment. Appreciation also means to increase in value as opposed to deprecation which means a decrease in value. We can be thankful or feel grateful for something, but to appreciate something indicates a cognitive assessment.
I point these definitions out not to indicate that one is necessarily better than another, but to help us discern how we are feeling and how we are expressing those feelings. Thankfulness is a behavior, gratitude is a feeling, and appreciation requires thought. Saying thank you is one way we can show gratitude or appreciation to someone else. Expressing thanks can also be a first step toward developing a sense of gratitude, if we’re saying it consciously instead of out of habit.
But gratitude and appreciation do not necessarily require an outward expression. They are feelings or thoughts that we can experience in complete solitude. They are not necessarily responses so don’t require an act by another person. We can feel gratitude for our own feelings, for nature, for a higher power, or anything else we experience. We can appreciate the value of work, play, other people and material things. We can feel gratitude and appreciation for life in general and continuously practicing these thoughts and feelings has an impact on our emotional health, which in turn affects our physical well-being. Studies have shown that living in a state of gratitude alters our neuropathy, leading to more feelings of happiness and joy. This creates a cycle of positive thoughts leading to positive feelings which leads to more positive thoughts, etc. This state of being lowers stress levels, improves our health and even boosts productivity.
We can express our gratitude and appreciation beyond words. We can perform random acts of kindness, we can help others, or we can contribute toward a better society. Expressing thanks is the simplest of acts to show gratitude or appreciation, but it’s important to note that many people don’t feel appreciated through those words. To truly reflect feelings of gratitude or appreciation, it’s essential to recognize how our expressions are received by someone else more than how we wish to express them.
Consider asking others how they feel appreciated. If you haven’t read the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, I highly recommend it. I first read the book several years ago and it was very eye-opening, as I had never considered the receiver experience, including my own. I do not appreciate (highly value) people saying thank you or complimenting me with praise, which I was not aware of prior to reading the book. Instead, I was aware that I found verbal praise somewhat irritating. Someone would say, “You were fantastic,” and I would think, “I’m just doing my job.” It turns out, verbal praises are the language of “Words of Affirmation.” While this is the most common language for people to feel appreciated, it’s not my language. It turns out my language is “Acts of Service.” When someone steps up to support me or assist me when I need help, I feel truly appreciated. Other languages of appreciation are “Quality Time,” “Tangible Gifts” and “Physical Touch.” Learning other people’s language of appreciation can dramatically impact relationships, as well as motivate and inspire people.
So, as we gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, let’s be mindful as to how we feel about the people, the meal, the location, the sense of family or community, the labor involved, the weather outside and perhaps even the trip to and from the event. Thankful, grateful or appreciative?
Wishing you a wonderful holiday,
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