Stretching Those Gratitude Muscles

For the past three Fridays, I’ve been taking a “full-body barre” class that my niece is teaching, via Zoom, at my workplace. Woof…it’s TOUGH! Fifty minutes of isometric holds, (allegedly) controlled movements, and core exercises that leave me sore and muttering about the uncooperative state of my 62-year old body. I walk a lot, but this is different. These movements push my muscles to the max and leave them shaking with fatigue. Yet I keep going back for more because I know that stretching these oh-so-tight muscles is good for me—that eventually I’ll get stronger and maybe a little more flexible. And, to be honest, once I get started, I enjoy pushing through physical and mental resistance.

This week, as part of a Lifestyle and Movement Challenge at work, we were asked to try a different type of exercise—to begin or end our day by listing twenty-five things we’re grateful for. “TWENTY-FIVE?!” my brain screamed. I’m used to jotting down a few things every now and then, but twenty-five?! Every day?! This would definitely stretch my gratitude muscles—muscles that I haven’t been flexing strongly enough lately.

On Monday, I squeezed out a random list of things for which I’m grateful. A quick little workout. That felt good and my day went better than your typical Monday. I walked into the work week feeling better prepared to handle whatever the day threw my way. Less like a raw nerve.

On Tuesday, I did the same, and found myself straining a little harder. “Coffee” showed up again. Maybe that’s cheating.

By Wednesday, I decided to try another strategy. Instead of mentally flailing around, I picked a daily theme for my gratitude list. Over the course of the next few days, I focused on journaling about the following:

  • The people for whom I’m grateful. How fortunate I am in this regard.
  • Special places, some of which appear to be quite ordinary at first glance—the wooded trails at work, a local museum, this desk, a warm bed.
  • Difficult experiences that turned out to carry positive gems inside of them. This took some doing—like trying to perform those pretzel-like movements in exercise class.

Whether it’s exercise or some other lifestyle practice, I almost always find myself initially resisting—prone to contemplating the easy way out. I’d rather take an easy walk than do planks. I’d rather read a book than do lunges. I’d rather drink coffee than water. But once I push through that resistance, I feel a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. And in the case of this week-long, pumped-up gratitude exercise, much more fortunate and hopeful.

It’s never a mistake to flex your muscles—to push beyond what’s comfortable—in both physical exercise and gratitude. It’s been a good week with an abundance of things, people, places, and experiences to be thankful for. (Without this exercise, would I have appreciated them?) I’m glad I dug a little deeper. I’m glad I stretched those gratitude muscles.

Now to keep going. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

And, hey, if you some ideas for more gratitude themes, send them my way!

Stretching Those Gratitude Muscles