The Practice of Gratitude

I’m not sure who first introduced me to Danielle* but she quickly turned into a steady and long-term personal training client back when I was doing such things.

A very petite woman with a more-than-slight running and exercise addiction and a propensity to constantly complain about her high paying executive position at a non-profit, her long-distance and seemingly toxic relationship and anything else that was on her mind, Danielle’s mental health issues were affecting her physically.

She had a lot of difficulty keeping on weight. Almost all foods didn’t agree with her digestive system. She slept terribly. She had a constant, slightly off-putting body odor that tends to result not from a lack of hygiene but rather an unbalanced body chemistry.

If you train people long enough, it’s easy to spot the difference.

With all that being said, Danielle and I had a pretty good working relationship. Despite all of the aforementioned issues, she was a hard worker and a good mover who was always willing to do whatever program I prescribed.​

Unlike too many personal trainers, I never saw myself as a life coach, therapist or mental health expert. You want to get stronger, improve your body composition, move faster – I’m your guy. You want to figure out why you keep getting into relationships with married men or why you can’t talk to your mother, that’s not my lane.​

But I do occasionally like to make suggestions that lead to life improvements and in Danielle’s case I recommended something that I had seen work for myself and many other trainers and clients.​

Keeping a gratitude journal.​

A gratitude journal is as simple as it sounds. A place to write down and account for things you are grateful for. My recommendation is to do it prior to bed and to write down three things you are grateful that happened that day and three things that you are grateful for that will happen in the future.​

{SIDE NOTE: It’s often surprising to people that a meathead such as myself would recommend something as tenderhearted as keeping a gratitude journal. But I’m going to fill you in on a secret – meatheads are some of the most tenderhearted people out there).​

Before I go any further, it may help to define ‘gratitude’. Gratitude is an emotion that reflects a deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others.​

Danielle was very resistant to engaging in this practice every time I brought it up. However, one morning she told me that she was in a store at Chelsea Market that had the most beautiful gratitude journals. I asked her if she bought one and she responded by saying, at $32, they cost too much money.​

Thirty-two bucks for something that improves your happiness, sleep and quality of life (all of which gratitude journals have proven to do) seems like a bargain to me. But what do I know?​

I made Danielle a deal. If she bought the gratitude journal I’d take $32 off her next training package. But she had to promise to use it daily. She agreed.​

Now, I’d love for this story to have a happy ending. That Danielle filled up the journal, stopped complaining about her job, cured her exercise addiction, improved her self-worth and encouraged her to move on to a better relationship. But none of that happened.​

She never filled out a page. And I was out $32.​

The practice of gratitude (and it is just that, a practice – you never finish or win, you just have to continually do it) does not have to be done in this written form. You can say three things you are grateful for prior to dinner each night (a “gratitude grace,” if you will). You can make one phone call per week every Sunday where you tell someone what it is about them or your relationship to them that you are grateful for.​

And, the more I look at that definition – an emotion that reflects a deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others – the more I believe that training can be an expression of gratitude (what, you thought I wasn’t going to bring this back around to working out?!?).​

Because at its highest, purest and most beautiful level, training should help you feel connected to yourself and others, bring some aspect of meaning to your life and give you a deep appreciation for what you value.​

I can say this, we are constantly striving to create an environment and a community that is worthy of gratitude.​

But whether from under a barbell, or spoken aloud or written in a quiet room with your head on a pillow, practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to enhance your life. I cannot encourage you to try it enough.​

It is the best way to realize that your past prayers and wishes have been answered.