Thanksgiving, the most obvious time of year to have a theme on gratitude. I’ve had an interesting relationship with gratitude. I’ve read what many experts have written about the power of gratitude and how it is like a magic wand that brings more things in our life to be grateful for. Although there are times I have felt a feeling of gratitude, I have also experienced times in my life where frustrations and pain felt so deep that trying to be grateful, even for the little things, felt fake.
The day before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call at midnight that my dad was in the hospital and they didn’t know what happened. It took a few frustrating days to sort things out because of the holiday, but eventually we found out that he had another stroke. A lot of trauma came up for me remembering the first stroke 9 years prior. Since it was Thanksgiving and gratitude was forefront in my mind, I remember focusing on what I could be grateful for. I was grateful that someone found him, grateful that he was in a hospital with great care, and grateful for a new path moving forward.
I remember tears in my eyes when I would share this in my classes. That in the times when I couldn’t feel grateful, when I didn’t know what to think or what to feel, I knew that deepening my breath would create cortical thickening and help balance my emotions. (see that blog here)
For some, this upcoming time of year will have added motivation to hit our workouts hard, to offset the stress or holiday treats we experience. For some, the overwhelm of commitments and temptations of social occasion can seriously derail our body positivity and fitness goals.
How can we apply this practice of gratitude through the ups and downs and overwhelms of the holiday season?
Here’s a quote from Author and Mentor, Petra Kolber, from her recent book The Perfection Detox, “As you bump around in your emotions, the key is to keep returning over and over to a place that allows you to seek the good. You will bounce back and forth between a positive headspace and the more negative emotions, but the more you make an effort to focus on the good, the easier the practice will become.” My interpretation of this quotes is that the goal is not always to be grateful, but the goal is to be able to quickly bounce back into a positive headspace. We could feel grateful for just that, or being back in a more positive mindset can make it easier to find things to be grateful for.
So how does this relate to our workouts?
Get more out of what you’re doing. If you’re experiencing added social or family stress this time of year, as well as excessive holiday cuisine, Get more out of what you ARE doing. Take the High Intensity class or up your weights in what you’re doing. The energy expenditure and metabolic effort will both offset the mental stress and added calories. The more difficult it feels, the more opportunities you have to be grateful for what you’re doing.
But what if I just can’t, I feel overwhelmed, I don’t have the mental capacity to focus and my body is drained?
What is small enough that you believe is achievable for you? If you can’t prioritize your regular 6:30pm class, can you make it to the gym for 15 or 20 minutes on the treadmill at 7, or attend the 15 minutes abs class at lunch? Could you do your online shopping while on a treadmill or elliptical, or take that phone meeting while walking around your living room? Get off the train a stop early and walk, or take the stairs. Do a 1 minute plank at home before you take your shower. Even though it’s not the biggest workout bring yourself into a positive headspace that you’re training a positive behavior. You can feel gratitude that your body can do something wonderful. Some extra walking, some stair climbing, even just a few sets of squats. Something is better than nothing. That’s something to be grateful for, isn’t it?
Next blog we will focus on what’s next, New Years resolutions, and I’ll share a bit more about how this has ebbed and flowed for me.
For the next week, or 2, or month, how can you increase your focus on gratitude, or as Petra calls it, becoming a ‘Benefit Seeker.’?
No matter how impossible your workout feels, become a benefit seeker about what you CAN do. Use that as a mirror for what you can focus on to be grateful for in other areas of your life this holiday season.