By Sarah DeCiucis

In the busyness of life, it may be easy to overlook opportunities to provide simple acts of kindness and reflection. As we approach the holiday season, we are often reminded of the idea of thankfulness — the process of stepping back and looking at who and what we can be thankful for over the past year. The idea of practicing gratitude is an emerging self-care practice strategy, with various media promoting the idea of being grateful. One question that may arise, then, are thankfulness and gratefulness one and the same?

Thankfulness and gratefulness, though similar, are perceived by some as different. Thankful means “conscious of benefit received,” “expressive of thanks,” or “well pleased,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Grateful, then, means “being appreciative of the benefits received” or “expressing gratitude.” Some may think of gratitude as having a deeper and more meaningful feeling of appreciation than thankfulness. Others may think of one being more like a feeling and one an action. Some may think of them interchangeably.

Whatever gratefulness means to you, it is generally a positive experience and something you can practice at any time not just around the holiday season. Similarly, expressing gratitude or appreciation to someone else can evoke positive emotions in both the giver and the receiver. You can spread some happiness to others by showing them your appreciation, while also filling your own cup.

Here are some simple ways to practice gratefulness

Saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you” can mean a lot, and only takes a short period of time.

Paying it forward can also shine some light on someone’s day.

Leaving a small token of appreciation, such as a brief note, can also make someone smile.

Here are some other gratefulness activities that may help you to remember the things for which you’re grateful

Create a grateful mandala, like this one.

Color a reminder to practice being grateful, find a printable coloring page.

You can teach, model and encourage the idea of practicing gratitude with children by playing a gratitude game.

Do a gratitude scavenger hunt like the one found here.

Sarah DeCiucis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is dedicated to helping children, youth and families improve their lives and well-being. She has experience in providing trauma-focused treatment, including expressive and play-based interventions, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral, integrated play therapy and cognitive-behavioral interventions. Learn more about our counseling services here.