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November 22, 2022

Express Gratitude: No Matter What!

Twelve months ago, we were still living in the thick of a global pandemic. In fact, my family had COVID this time last year. (Thankfully it was not too bad for any of us). I remember constantly living with this feeling of “will this ever end”. When can we stop staying home every time we’re considered a close contact? When can we stop wearing masks? And why aren’t the vaccines working like we were told they would?

I was concerned about when our business would return to normal. Exercise Inc’s best two months ever occurred in the first two months of 2020. We grew ten percent in just two months. The shutdown stopped our growth. Our gradual reopening at 25% capacity, then 50%, and 75% forced us to streamline just about everything. And when we went to 75% capacity, we could only get about 60% of our clients to come back. By the fall of 2021, we had scratched and clawed to get our business back to 80% of what it was before the beginning of the pandemic.

But that 80% felt good. It felt good because we learned to operate in a way that made us more profitable than ever. We started January of 2022 thinking we would immediately return to our pre-pandemic numbers. The opposite happened. The last strong wave of COVID set us back considerably the first 6 weeks of this year.

By the beginning of March, the pandemic had calmed down and enough of our clients came back to finally return our numbers to pre-pandemic levels. It was exactly two years from when the pandemic began.

Two years. As I look back at that, I realize that God gave us two years to make our business a lot stronger. He gave us two years to learn to work better as a team. He also gave me two years to become a better leader. He broke me down and then lifted me up to become wiser and stronger.

Reflecting on the last year, I realize I’ve done a lot of complaining. I’ve complained about gas prices, inflation, and the declining value of my retirement account.

But I’ve never faced a week when I could not fill up my tank (or at least put in the $100 the pump allowed). I’ve never faced a week when we couldn’t buy groceries. My kids have been able to attend school in person. And I’ve stopped wearing masks.

And despite gas prices, inflation, and the market, America remains the greatest country in the world. There’s no other place I’d rather live, raise a family, and own a business.

A lot has changed in the past year. And even though most of us aren’t where we want to be, I think most of us can say we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago. I’m grateful for where we are and where we’ve been.

I’m also especially grateful for everyone who has stepped through our doors or supported our business since Exercise Inc opened in 2004. I’m grateful for our clients who stuck by us, as well as those who started training with us, over the past two years. I’m thankful for the patience you gave us while we adjusted when things rapidly changed during the pandemic. I’m thankful that you trusted us to maintain a safe and clean facility. I’m thankful for your grace when we continued requiring face masks in our gyms. I’m thankful that many of you tried our Virtual Training program. We are so grateful for your continued support, allowing us to grow stronger than ever as we move forward toward the future.

Taking time to examine your life and express gratitude for what you have is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Several studies over the past decade have shown that people who consciously count their blessings tend to feel happier and less depressed.

Psychologist Robert Emmons believes that gratitude has two key components that affect our mental well-being, beginning with an affirmation of goodness: We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.

In the second part of gratitude, Emmons explains, we recognize that the sources of goodness are outside ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or God—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

If the science doesn’t convince you, check out a few profound affirmations about gratitude:

It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same time. 

–  Naomi Williams

Once you begin to take notice of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things you lack.

–  Germany Kent

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.

–  Meister Eckhart

In 2011, I completed the Art of Manliness “30 Days to a Better Man“ challenge. The assignment for day five challenges you to Cultivate Your Gratitude by making a list of 10 things you are grateful for. I made that list, and I’ve kept it on my computer desktop for the past eleven years. Referring to that list daily has helped me through a lot of tough times—especially the past 24 months.

Taking the time to write down the things you’re most grateful for will lift your spirits. But don’t forget the social aspect of gratitude. Sharing your gratitude with those who have helped you will lift your spirits even more.

If you want to take gratitude a step further, find someone over this holiday weekend who could use your help. Take time out of your busy schedule to be present with them and help them. It’s hard to feel depressed while you do something to make someone else’s life better.

But don’t let your gratitude end the day after Thanksgiving. Adopt an attitude of expressing gratefulness every day. If you need help, I highly recommend The Five Minute Journal. This great little book will take you on a six-month journey of gratitude.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take time to write down and talk about the things you are grateful for. Tell others how much you appreciate them. Take time to help someone who truly needs help.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay Strong and Grateful,

Bo Railey