Cultivate the act of being grateful

I had a really interesting chat with a gentleman at my gym. While we are social media friends, we’ve hardly talked in person as we usually workout at completely different times of the day. We started with small talk, and somehow touched on his daughters’ gastrointestinal issues – and as a young women with gastrointestinal issues I was immediately intrigued.

Our conversation continued and he expressed that all three of his kids have medical issues, which prompted him to admit that he struggles with being pessimistic and has actually found he has become less emotionally connected to things as a natural coping mechanism with all he and his family have endured. He went on to say that he would like to be more of a positive person for his children’s sake, but truly doesn’t believe he can change his perspective.

I don’t usually press my beliefs onto other people, but this interaction impacted me so much I couldn’t help but share my thoughts with this gentleman, and try and impact his thought process.

I explained that I was plagued by serious gastrointestinal issues throughout my adolescence, and my parents always made it a point to remind me how grateful we were. I had the ability to receive healthcare, family that loved me, the access to medicine and healthy food, the list would continue. One year from being diagnosed with intestinal metaplasia, my mom and I got matching sun tattoos on our wrists as a constant reminder of optimism – I was 16-years-old at this time.

When I initially got sick, I was forced to quit my competitive volleyball career and thus find other ways to fill my time that were easier on my body. I fell into journalism, where I eventually became the Editor-in-Chief of the school paper and discovered my passion for writing and designing. Although, I missed being apart of the fitness community so I scored my first job at Life Time Fitness – where I worked for over four years and developed myself as a professional and gained a wealth of business knowledge. Being surrounded by this population encouraged me to get into body building, which was an invaluable learning experience. Realizing it wasn’t for me led to me discovering CrossFit, and now I’m here!

Of course that’s the short, simplified version of 8 years of life events, but I absolutely believe my medical issues set me up to thrive in the position I am in today. And that’s exactly what I told the guy from my gym, that I always look back on being sick that way. And granted, I’ll have to take medicine the rest of my life. But I really, truly believe that is such a small price to pay for all of life that I get to enjoy.

He countered with his perspective as a medical professional, his mind is trained to identify problems – because for a living he identifies issues to properly prescribe medicine to alleviate them. I suggested that we retrain his thought process to seek the good in life by utilizing a gratitude journal. Everyday, morning or night – whichever is more conducive your schedule, identify three things you’re thankful for and write them down. They can’t be the same day to day, and they can be as large scale as the clouds in the sky or as small as the delicious creamer in your coffee. To my surprise, he thought this was a good idea! Now sure, maybe he was just trying to appease me in the moment, but he genuinely seemed like he believed it could be beneficial, and assured me he would give it a shot. We agreed it would be a good challenge for him to try it for at least a  week. I really hope he does.

This conversation really touched my heart, and I came home radiating in joy to tell my roommate about it. It’s hard to argue that our conversation wasn’t meant to happen – it wasn’t a coincidence.

In the kitchen discussion with my roommate of this encounter, I admitted to her that I practice my gratitude journal every single day. When I drive to work before the sun rises, I consciously think how blessed I am to see the sun rise every morning, that my coffee tastes great, that my car runs and I have a job that I enjoy, that my clothes are clean and I have a full day ahead of working, training and enjoying all the wonderful people in my life. I mean that in all seriousness, I’ve made such a point to identify good things in my everyday life, that it just happens naturally. This kind of behavior also means that when really amazing things happen to me – such as graduating college as I just did, my heart become SO incredibly full. What a beautiful way to live life, don’t you think?

Alternatively, when you paint your life in a light that is positive, the negative stuff doesn’t get to you so much. My dad sent me a text from the airport a couple weeks ago; my mom was sick, and I was stressed out with final exams. He said something to the effect of “I have to get on a plane to come home, and I’m so worried about you and your mom. I’m worried about all the right things.”

I’d like to leave you with a quote I keep in my phone as a friendly reminder when things get overwhelming—


It’s a beautiful thing to have lungs that allow you to breathe air, legs that allow you to climb mountains, and it’s a shame that sometimes we don’t realize that’s enough.
— Unknown