When you are thankful or grateful for something, you are reacting to something outside yourself, after it has appeared in your life. You may be grateful to have safe and warm housing, or thankful for a friend’s kind act. You are thankful for a positive experience.
For example, think of your last meal. Were you grateful to have it? Thankful that you were able to purchase and prepare the food? Take it one step further. Did you fully appreciate the meal, in that moment? Did you savor the aroma, the colors and textures? Were you aware of yourself interacting with the meal in the moment of each bite – how it felt to eat? Now that's appreciation.
As another example, you might be grateful to have a fulfilling career. You give thanks to have the income, the associates, and the work. However, when you truly appreciate that career, you are fully present in each moment, consciously aware of your interactions, enjoying where you are and what you're doing.
Try this as an exercise to really experience the difference between these two concepts.
Stop right now and select something you enjoy having in your life – perhaps a nice view out the window. You’re probably grateful that your home is located where you can see those trees, the neighbor’s garden, and a quiet street. You’re glad that you can afford it.
Now turn to appreciation. Stop and really LOOK out that window. How many different colors are there to enjoy? What movement do you detect – are the trees swaying in the breeze? What do you most enjoy about the view itself? Appreciate the care the neighbor takes with his beautiful garden. Appreciate the birdsong.
Now, can you feel the difference?
Practice more appreciation in your daily life, and you will find much more to appreciate!