When I was in high school, I went out for the track team. I wasn’t particularly fast, but I found that I could endure pain well enough to be a middle distance runner. And I was crazy enough to love it! The workouts were not easy. Often, we would run repeats of a certain distance, maybe 300s, or 600s, and we had a goal pace we were trying to hit each time. These workouts were great for increasing our speed and endurance, but most days I dreaded them. Now, years later, I don’t remember specific workouts very well, but I do remember one day so clearly. We had just finished several rounds of a tough workout, and I was trying to catch my breath. My legs were on fire, and I said something like, “Gosh! This hurts so bad!” My younger sister, who was also on the team, and probably had just beat me (she typically did), said back to me, “Ya. But aren’t you so glad you can feel it?” In the moment, I wasn’t impressed. I wanted validation, and she had come back with….gratitude?? But this phrase became our new mantra. After each workout, we would say to each other, “Aren’t you glad you can feel it?” And I started to really believe it. I WAS grateful that I could feel it–that I had legs that could run and muscles that could push beyond comfort, and a spinal cord that could relay messages to and from my brain, and the ability to FEEL it.
I have never forgotten my sister’s lesson that day, and I think now that gratitude is one of the key tools in loving our bodies. I believe gratitude is an emotion. When I feel gratitude, I feel a change take place in my perspective, and I feel it in my whole being. So it’s more than just a thought. But, like all feelings, it is triggered by my thoughts. When I recognize things and appreciate them (choose the thought), I create the feeling of gratitude.
The human body is amazing! I recently asked a group of friends to think about things that they find amazing about their bodies. Here are a few of their responses:
“I am amazed at my hands. As I braided my daugher’s hair for church, I noticed how detailed and precise we are able to use our fingers. What a great tool!”
“My eyes. Whenever I learn about eyes I am amazed by the complex process of taking in light, refracting it, sending it to the brain and turning it into all the things we see around us. I am so grateful for my eyes and the chance I have to take in the beauty that exists all around me!”
“I’m so grateful for my legs! They get me where I want to go and are essential for most of my hobbies—hiking, skiing, sports, even sewing! How else would I push that pedal?!”
“My arms! With so many little ones at home I am grateful that I can hold and carry them to where we need to go! I can hug, wash, and feed my little ones. What a blessing!”
“I’m grateful for the gift of procreation! How amazing it is that we can create some of our best friends on this earth and they call us “Mom.” Truly a miracle, our bodies are amazing!”
“I am grateful for the God-given ability of the body to recover from sickness and injuries. A few years ago I had a very bad fall and broke several bones and sustained nerve damage. I do have a few residuals, but by and large, I totally recovered with the help of therapy, exercise, and prayer.”
“I am thankful for my senses to be able to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. What a miracle it is to be blessed with these bodies and to be able to use these senses without even thinking about it.”
Aren’t those great? I have great friends. And really, guys, the body is incredible! I know that when I take time to appreciate it, I feel gratitude. And gratitude is a positive feeling that inspires action. When I am grateful for my body, I want to care for it better. It propels me into that “loving my body cycle” that I love to live in. I feel more love for my body, so I want to treat it with love. I take care of it, and I love it even more. And on and on.
So if you don’t have the tool of gratitude in your toolbox yet, start today. List ten things you appreciate about your body. Better yet, post one in the comments below! These could be things about what it can do, how it looks, how it feels, how it makes your life better, or just what it is. It can even be its imperfections, if you are at a place where you can appreciate them. Maybe you want to start a little notebook and notice one thing each day. Choose thoughts of appreciation, start feeling gratitude, and begin to love your amazing body!
Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥