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How to foster gratefulness for our health, take stock of what's going well, and track "small wins"

One of our awesome clients sent me an intriguing email and a really great question recently:

I picked up a nasty cold and flu that I still can’t shake 🤒 But it got me to thinking about a concept. I find that as humans, we are hard-wired to focus on what’s not working or going well. It doesn’t come naturally for us to spend our days being mindfully grateful for how amazing our bodies are. For example, you never think about the wonders of your bladder, but get a UTI and suddenly all you focus on is your bladder! Or me with my cold… I never give much thought to my lungs, but now that they’re sore and congested, I can’t wait till they recuperate and stop preventing me from doing my normal day-to-day high energy activities! When it comes to overall health and wellness, I don’t think I’m alone when I express that I have a really hard time “taking stock” of what is going well. Have you ever come across a practical way to do this? (To gauge that we feel better, sleep better, move better, etc.?) Some of these things happen so gradually and subtly that I find myself not noticing, and stuck in an impatient mindset of thinking I should be doing more, or tweaking this or that… It is easier to compare our (hopefully overall good) health to people we know who don’t make health and fitness a priority, and therefore suffer from ongoing ailments. But how do you compare “today’s you” to “a month or a year ago you”? I find it very abstract… -Marcy

I’m so glad Marcy brought this up. In our work with clients, we prioritize “small wins”, including ones that can be difficult to measure (like energy levels, sleep quality, and ability to move through day-to-day activities). But, as our client above mentions, it can be challenging to take stock of these things! And we don’t have an official way of measuring these, either – we let each client develop their own.

I thought it would be interesting to collect ideas from my community, so I asked my email subscribers to write in with their thoughts on the following: “How do you maintain gratefulness, recognize small wins, or otherwise focus on the positive aspects of health? Any tips to share?”

Here are their insights (all shared here with permission, of course).


We spend time appreciating our bodies when we meditate/pray/contemplate, thanking the greater good for the positive aspects of our lives and environment. I think it’s at those times we tend to focus more on what’s right and what’s wrong with ourselves.

For as long as we are striving to slightly improve some aspect in our lives every day, then we are already feeling the benefit of this upward change by being positive in our outlook and goals. It doesn’t always have to be the same improvement - it could be to take the stairs one day, or walk the extra distance from the bus stop the next, or not be the first person to reach for a cookie on the plate at the next meeting.

Continuous improvement is the key to becoming better. We don’t necessarily need to measure every day – sometimes the daily changes are so small they are immeasurable. But with accumulated changes, over time, we can see and feel these changes.

This is where the 2 points above coincide. Meditation allows you to reflect on your recent achievements, and be thankful for what’s improved in yourself. We aren’t succeeding if we are measuring change against others, only against ourselves.

In a similar vein, for my work, I set out 5 goals I want to achieve that day, then reflect and analyse them towards the end – what could I have changed, what doesn’t need to change and what should I change next time. I don’t always meet them all but at least I’ve tried to and that’s satisfying for me and gives me more focus next time I hit similar challenges.

Recognizing negative aspects are important for change and they need to be dealt with positively in order to be able to resolve them.

- Paul


I’m an Oncology nurse, so my patients have inspired me to appreciate the small things. Standing to the commode, swallowing water, breathing, appreciating relationships, and having energy to do anything besides sitting up in bed.

Yes, people do take all these little things for granted when they can do them without thinking.

- Roxanne


I've prayed constantly since I was young, so being grateful is familiar to me. In 2010, after getting a keen piece of advice, I started a very fun/useful/simple gratitude practice that involves conducting a quick, full body stretch (starting from my toes and moving all the way to my "over the head" arms/fingertips) that I perform twice while still in bed right after I've woken up each day. The stretch has two purposes: a) offer gratitude to my maker that I woke up at all and b) making sure all my body parts are working as they should.

And since this past July 2023, I've been in training for my Positive Intelligence (PI) Coach Certification to share "Mental Fitness" to my clients. "Mental Fitness is your capacity to respond to life’s challenges with [a] positive rather than [a] negative mindset."

- Cathy


I suffered through a very difficult time from May of 2016 through September 2017. It all began with getting my orders to deploy in May of 2016. The very next day, I find out that my sister Emilia [names have been changed] was getting divorced after 30+ years from a man I had admired and known since I was 14, but wound up cheating on her and abandoning their children. I left for my deployment on October 9, 2016 and I had only been gone for 2 weeks when my sister Shauna died unexpectedly. My sister-in-law succumbed to cancer in January of 2017 and my son Darryl died in May of 2017. Shortly after that, my older son Mark told me his biological father had found him and wanted him to move to Hawaii so he could get to know Mark. Needless to say, my life changed drastically. No matter who told me what, or what I knew at the time, I will always feel I could have done more to help Darryl. He was a grown man who made his own decisions, but I still sometimes feel as if I failed him. Mark's revelation, despite his reassurances, makes me feel like I was losing another son. I was due to visit my sister Shauna when I was done with training in Mississippi, but I never got the chance. I hadn't seen her in 2 years. All of this is very long way of saying I have learned over the past 7 years to be grateful for what I have and to strive to be better.

I share this because it is part of my vegan journey that led me to find you and your podcast. I stopped eating veal in the '80's when my sister told me how the cows were treated. Over the next several decades I slowly lessened my consumption of meat and dairy, mostly due to reading of how those products can affect your health. When my "year of hell" was over and I began to see a therapist, I found new ways of coping with my depression. One of those was to get my dogs out for hikes. Over the course of time my beagle Daisy became increasingly important to me. She is my support when I've been alone. Daisy was also a tether for me for when my depression hit me so hard, I was in a very dark place. Her presence pulled me back. As my journey continued, I began to research animals and abuse, discovering how beagles are one of the most common dogs used for animal testing due to their amenable nature. I switched to natural, cruelty-free products. This eventually led me to the vegan lifestyle. I was listening to Star Talk during a workout and you were one of the guests. Immediately after that interview I found your podcast and website and I was off and running, so to speak. Within a year I was about 95% vegan. I had already had a foundation in cooking and exercise, but with your podcast and the information you put out I have increased my overall health and exercise routines. I have been very grateful for your podcasts and willingness to gather and share all of the information that you do!

All of these things have led me to discover and appreciate small goals. Getting through a day without focusing on my son’s death and being able to get work done was a big deal. From there I decided to live in the moment. Whether I'm going to a baseball game, date night with my wife, or spending time with my family, I make a conscious effort to be in the moment. I stop, take a breath and look around at my surroundings, taking it all in. The fact that I'm still here after some very dark days I consider a victory. At 52 I am not on any medication, with the exception of the occasional meloxicam for knee pain and a nasal spray for bad sinuses. My therapist originally wanted to prescribe me an anti-depressant, but I've managed to discover ways to deal with my depression. When my doctors see my blood work I am very proud of the fact that my sugars are "perfect" and my cholesterol is really low (in a good way)! It is nice to see them impressed and ask about my lifestyle.

After reading back through this email, I may have delved too deeply into why I take time to be grateful and ways I have discovered to maintain gratefulness, but I am also happy to share my story. I believe it is very important to be open about mental health issues and ways to combat it. I could also go further into my struggles to stop using weight as a measure of good health, but that is another story.

I am grateful for what you do, the ways in which you do it, and how you have helped me through the years.

- Wesley


Thank you to these amazing folks for sharing their thoughts! Whether it’s meditation, a specific movement practice, our line of work, or difficult life experiences – there are ways each of us can foster a gratitude practice.

Small wins

It's also important to keep track of "small wins" as you progress through your fitness and health journey. Celebrating small accomplishments keeps us motivated to stay on track, and increases our confidence. This, in turn, leads to more consistency, which is the most important factor when it comes to getting fitness and health results.

Here's an example of one of our clients celebrating some fantastic "small wins"!

So it’s been a month of consistency… and it is showing! How? We travelled this weekend to be a part of our recent granddaughter’s baptism. Parents live on the second floor of an older building. Narrow winding stairs, straight up and down. No problem for me! Not even winded and knees didn’t complain either, and no holding the rail! You would have thought I was a youngster. Other notable win: we stayed in an Airbnb on the second floor… more stairs! Carried my luggage and bag straight up and down with ease. And I could pick up my 4-year-old granddaughter from the floor onto my lap, when she was just dead weight because…she’s 4 and wanted to be held! Cool for me because I was noticing how much harder those things were becoming before we started this plan. So I know you are smiling reading this… and so am I. Can’t wait to see what the next 4 weeks bring!


Remember that we get to work out. We don’t have to work out. Being able to work out is a privilege, and how we talk about it and the language we use are important.

Check out this post by Dr. John Rusin. In it, he says:

Everyone has an opportunity to reflect, rearrange the thoughts in their head and restore their heart back to a place of humble thankfulness. Spend a few minutes a day devoted to defining your purpose, giving thanks to what you have, and planning on proactive ways to keep pushing forward no matter what’s ahead in your path. Ultimately, you must change the way you THINK, to change the way you FEEL and change the way you LIVE. It all starts with you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Anything to add? Want to share your own health gratefulness practice? Please get in touch!


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