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Thankful Thursday | This is when you get stronger

You know how when you are exercising, there’s a point where you feel like you really cannot possibly keep going for a moment more?

And you know how often turns out that you actually can do a little bit more?

In a Before Breakfast podcast episode that I listened to this morning, Laura Vanderkam was pointing out how in weight training, the moment you squeeze out that last super difficult rep is precisely when your muscles do most of their getting-stronger work.

bumper plates

When you are pushed to the edge of your current capacity, but you do just a little bit more, you grow. Staying in the easy zone helps us maintain, but it doesn’t help us grow or get stronger.

This applies to a whole lot of things in life, such as speaking up in a meeting or doing public speaking, but as I listened to the podcast, I thought about how it applies to thankfulness.

Gratitude is sometimes talked about as a muscle, and while it’s not truly a muscle, neurologists have discovered that the more we use our gratefulness brain pathways, the stronger those pathways become.

So, when things are tough and we have to work especially hard to look for the good, I wonder if those are the times when our gratitude “muscles” do most of their growing.

rep fitness bumper plate outside

Getting stronger makes “easy” things easier

I can see other analogies to the weight training idea here too.

If I push my muscles when I am lifting weights, the strength I gain helps me in all sorts of situations that are less strain on my muscles. If you regularly do kettlebell swings, then going up the stairs is easy. Carrying heavy bags of groceries is easy. Walking long distances is easy.

And for me, it seems that when I practice gratitude in the hard times, it becomes easier and easier to be grateful in the not-so-hard times of life. I can be thankful, even when things are hard.

And when things are easy? Those strong gratefulness muscles make gratitude as easy as coasting down a hill or lifting a 5-pound kettlebell.

bumper plates

Being weaker makes even “easy” things hard

I really am going to get to the gratefulness list, but first, one more analogy I see: If you never push beyond the point of comfort with your muscles, everyday, “easy” activities, such as getting up out of a chair, become hard.

Weak muscles make everyday life feel exhausting.

I think the same is probably true for gratefulness “muscles”. If you don’t practice pushing against the human tendency to complain and to only see the negative, then you might be prone to discontentedness even in relatively easy times in life…those times in life that are analogous to the act of getting up out of a chair.

(Just to clarify: I realize there are plenty of reasons that people can’t lift weights, and there are plenty of people with medical problems who are sedentary through no choice of their own. My point is not to be judge-y about that; my point is that the, “This is when you get stronger” idea probably applies to gratefulness practices.)


This week, I’m thankful:

for people who kindly listen to me vent

Sometimes, I just need to get my frustration out, and then I feel calmer, even if the problem is not actually solved.

In fact, once this week, I messaged Mr. FG about a frustration, but first I said, “I’m really upset about something, and I don’t need you to fix it; I just need you to listen.”

He did indeed just listen, and I felt much calmer after my little vent. 🙂

for my beautiful pearl push pins

I needed some thumbtacks for my new bulletin board, and instead of buying some plain ones, I decided to be kind of extra, and so I ordered some with pearl tops.

pearl thumb tack on a bulletin board.

My order initially said they wouldn’t be here until December (!!), but they arrived yesterday, which was a nice surprise. 

that I finally got my exam grade!

It felt like it took forever, but I did get my bone terminology exam back, plus the second exam I had that week.

I missed two on the bone terminology, but I got the two extra credit questions right, so my grade looks like I made no bone mistakes. Ha. 

My school philosophy: always try the extra credit! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

that I have two weeks between exams now

Last week I had the bone exam on Monday and then an exam on two more new chapters on Friday. That was….a lot.

It feels quite luxurious to have two whole weeks to learn all the muscle anatomy and physiology. Yay!

that bone knowledge helps with muscle-learning

I can totally see how my work on bone-learning is making this muscle module easier for me. 

And I can definitely see how the muscle-learning is going to cement my bone knowledge. 

that I like learning about the body

If I hated the topic, all this anatomy and physiology work would feel like a terrible slog. But I think it is so fascinating to learn about how bodies work!

for chatty blog readers

It can’t be said too many times: I love that the people who read this blog are talkative! It’s so much fun to have things be a two-way conversation rather than just me typing into the void.

that the internet brings people together here

As we’ve been hearing from international readers in the Meet a Reader series, I am often amazed to think about how widespread this community is. Isn’t it wild that people from around the globe all connect here?

A little Indian girl looking at her arms.

And then I think about how impossible this all would have been without the internet! But since we do have the internet, we’ve gotten to peek into Lea’s German life, Efterpi’s Greek life, Sonal’s Indian life, and so on.

So awesome!

What are you thankful for this week?

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Sunday 31st of October 2021

Re chatty blog readers…it is nice to get a response. I guess I need to comment more often if I want to get a response huh? 1. I’m thankful for fall…my favorite time of year. The leaves in the woods out our living room windows are still slightly colorful, but I like it when the trees become bare and we can see up the hill as the deer make their way into our back yard in search of their daily fare. 2. My hubby bought me two pairs of camo sweats and I like them a lot. (I think I may have mentioned that previously.) Hmmm, not frugal though! 3. Thankful for time spent living near my cousin. She’s leaving tomorrow on the first part of her move to be near her two sons…also thankful she’ll be near them again. 4. Thankful for a visit from my niece. It was fun to spend time with her. 5. Most of all…thankful for my hubby and that so far we get to spend these later years in life living quietly and enjoying our home.


Sunday 24th of October 2021

Thanks so much! My husband and I made a promise to take 12 hikes this year…one a month. We live where it’s cold so we have doubled up on hikes some months. Your analogy with the muscle strengthening was encouraging! Keep up the good writing ✍️

Katy in Africa

Friday 22nd of October 2021

1. Improving health after a sick streak in our family. 2. This beautiful and peaceful place we are staying at a few days. I love the cool bird here! God's creativity never ceases to amaze me! 3. A little break from schooling my kids, not only do they enjoy it, but I do too. 4. Internet and technology. 5. Cold, clean drinking water.


Friday 22nd of October 2021

I too returned to school at a later age to become a Physical therapist assistant. I was married and had youngish children as well. It was hard but I made it and loved my job. In hindsight I wish I had not been so hard on myself regarding grades. I would be so disappointed if I made less than a B. I’m here to tell you that good grades did not make me a better clinician. That compassion and kindness lies within you and is God given. You’re going to be a phenomenal nurse. I know it!

R Smith

Friday 22nd of October 2021

I’m thankful for this post today. I read this blog regularly, but today the gratefulness theme really resonated with me. I have so much to be grateful for, yet find myself worried and stressed so often. It’s time for me to start exercising my gratefulness muscle, and I’m going to encourage my husband to do the same! Thank you, Kristen and all the commenters!


Friday 22nd of October 2021

Oh, I'm so glad it was timely for you! And good luck on your gratitude work. I really do find that it gets easier and easier the more I do it.

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