Gratitude: How the Finest Nurses in Oakland Adjusted My Attitude

It’s official! I’m in full recovery mode from this seemingly never ending wrist injury! After nearly 4 months out of the gym, I’m BACK and climbing about 90% as hard as I was when I got hurt. I’m almost there! I no longer have to worry about tweaking my wrist picking something up, twisting my hand too abruptly, constantly being careful not to reach for something too quickly, or holding something for too long with my thumb out. I can type all day — with proper stretching and breaks (which I probably should have been doing in the first place) — and most importantly, I can CLIMB! 

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I used acupuncture as part of my treatment for about 2 months during the healing process. On this particular day, I couldn’t believe how many needles she got in there, so I had to document it. 

Outside Season!

We went out to the Tahoe area to climb a couple of weekends back and I couldn’t wait to get on the rock. It was my first time back out in 2015, and I had a whole new appreciation for the sport after having to take such a long break. I didn’t complain about the long approaches, I tried just about every climb I could, and I kept up a positive attitude even when things got hard. Intending to climb at Lover’s Leap, we ended up at Hog’s Back the first day on the wrong route in direct sun after getting a pretty late start. Loren was really mad, but I brushed it off and kept smiling. It was AWESOME. I surprised myself following Loren up a pretty tricky 10A at Hog’s Back and then exhausted myself the next day with a thirty minute vertical approach to Sugarloaf and another long 10A. When we got back down to the van on Sunday, I was so happy to be completely wiped out. It had been too long! 


Setbacks and Life Lessons

I just got home from a week in Texas, and getting back in the gym after a week off was pretty deflating. It’s amazing what you lose from just a week. It comes back quickly, but that first day in the gym can be a bit of a bummer sometimes if you aren’t mentally prepared. I found myself getting frustrated, cussing, yelling, kicking (if you’ve ever climbed outside with me before, you’ve seen this super charming side of me), and I just quit a route after failing to complete a tough move. I completely lost my focus and ended our session shortly after that. Not a great first day back at all after all the progress I made in April. 

Over the last two days I’ve been working with the nurses at Highland Hospital on relaxation and stress management. It’s National Nurses’ Week, and as the wellness program manager of a large chain of hospitals in Alameda County, I helped set up relaxation rooms with an essential oil diffuser and did guided meditation with the nurses on each floor. Part of our work together has been discussing how we set our intentions each morning and how we prepare for bed each night. I was struck by the amazing positivity these nurses expressed. So many of them said they wake up with gratitude every morning, and that they wind down in the evenings in just the same way. It occurred to me that the job of nursing might very well be impossible if not for routines like this. We also talked about how we use our hands as healers. We shared a gentle reflexology hand massage, and in doing this work, I finally connected the dots.


Gratitude for My Health

My hands are a gift. When my dominant hand was injured, I realized just how much I need it every minute of every day. I really need my thumb! There were times over the course of the healing process that I thought it would never get any better, and that I was doomed to a miserable, limited, injured life forever. (Not that I’m dramatic or anything.) I got down about my injury quite a few times over the course of the last few months, and when I finally got back into the gym, I was so happy I could cry. My first trip back outside was pure bliss. 

But those feelings fade quickly, and it’s all too easy to sink back into an unconscious state of taking my health for granted.

I’ve been back in the gym for one month, and on my first bad day I had the same crappy attitude I tended to have before I got injured in the first place. It was like I’d learned nothing. These nurses have reminded me of just how lucky I am. Through their example of daily gratitude and positivity in the face of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the county, they’ve inspired me to recognize and appreciate what I have.

I have the use of my thumb again. I can sleep through the night without accidentally tweaking it and waking up to sharp pain in my wrist. I don’t have to wear a clumsy brace on my dominant hand. I can type without pain. I can live my passion and climb again. I have my health, and that lesson in gratitude is the gift I’ve received in sharing self-care techniques with some of the finest nurses in Oakland.

Thank You Highland Hospital!

‘Tis the Season: 5 Ways to Foster Gratitude

With Thanksgiving around the corner and the gift-giving season shortly to follow, it seems like the right time to reflect on the value of gratitude and how we might better practice it in our daily lives.

The Value of Gratitude

It’s easy to guess why consciously seeking gratitude might be beneficial for our mood and overall outlook on life. If you’re envisioning reasons to be grateful, then you’re likely remembering or even reliving the joy you experienced from the original source of gratitude.

“Expressing gratitude for life’s blessings (a sense of
wonder, thankfulness and appreciation) is likely to elevate
positive affect for a number of reasons. Grateful thinking
fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations,
so that people can extract the maximum possible satisfaction
and enjoyment from their circumstances.”
                                                        –Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006

fostering gratitude

I’m grateful for these two buddies and perfect days like this one

I absolutely love this idea, and am ready to choose the joy that conscious gratitude will bring into my life. It can be challenging to remember to be grateful if you don’t create a practice around it — it fact, it’s much easier to notice all the things going wrong in day-to-day life. It’s easy to get bogged down by traffic and family drama and stress at work and holiday shopping lists and ridiculously expensive trips to the grocery store. All these little nuisances can add up to a complete gratitude void if you aren’t careful and conscious. 

5 Ways to Foster Gratitude

Part of the value of gratitude is the idea that being present is part of the practice. Taking yourself out of an habitually negative mindset requires an active decision, a decisive effort. That’s what I mean when I say to create a practice out of it. There are countless ways to do this. Here are five:

Create a list of events/things from your day to be grateful for before you go to bed each night

This is not a new one, but it’s still worth mentioning. I keep a little notepad by my bed so that I can jot down last-minute thoughts and to-do’s as they pop into my mind as I’m falling asleep. Back in the day when I played music, some good lyrics would come up right around this time of night. It’s a super practical tool, but shifting it from a subconscious “to-do” to a fully conscious “have-done” list of gratitude for my day would at the very least mean a couple of minutes of reflection on the good stuff right before bed. That type of reflection will remind me the next day to notice even more reasons to be grateful. I might even find myself looking forward to making my list.

Consciously re-frame something that you initially perceived as negative into an opportunity to be grateful

fostering gratitiude

We missed the ferry by 2 minutes and had to wait 3 hours for the next one in a 1-street town that only existed because of the ferry stop. So we picked 3 pounds of blackberries that we ate for the whole next week of the trip to the Sunshine Coast. Free food on a trip that was more expensive than we’d planned! The owner at our B&B gave us lactose-free ice cream to go with them that night too!

Like I noted before, it’s tempting to focus on the things going wrong around us, the disruptive parts of our day that ruin our plans or frustrate us. The parking at work, the mud tracked in after all this rain, the grey skies. But there’s always a silver lining, and amid whatever you perceive to be going wrong in your life today or in general, there is always something going well too, something to be grateful for, or at the very least something to learn. How can we spin the things we perceive as disruptive into something to be grateful for? Those mud tracks and grey skies mean more water in our reservoirs when we’re in a state of drought. They mean less water we’re using to water our plants. Those are things to be thankful for! 

Seek out something/someone to appreciate

Start the day by committing to genuinely thank at least one person you come into contact with (especially those in the service industry, and especially this time of year). The act of kindness and expression of gratitude will not only bring you joy, it will spread to your cashier or server, to your mail man or bus driver, and the flow of gratitude will grow into something larger than you. If we’re actively seeking positivity around us, if we’re actively looking for the silver lining or the reasons to be grateful for the people and things in our lives, the possibilities of what we could do are limitless. 

Resist the urge to complain

You’d be surprised at how much complaining can bring you down. And it actually bring the people around you down too. We all know that one person, the one down the hall at work or that one family member, who can manage to turn every situation into a reason to complain. The one who sends their food back over and over, complains about every little change in procedure, or unloads their whole miserable life on you first thing at 8am as you put your bag down on your desk. Do you find yourself avoiding those people, or do you join in and start volleying your own complaints into the mix? If you choose the latter, how do you feel when you’re finished complaining? My guess is not better. 

I learned about a pretty neat little device at a wellness event I attended at Sonoma Valley Hospital a few months back. It’s up to you whether or not you try this, but it sounds like it worked like a charm for the folks who did it there with incidents of complaining dramatically decreasing over the course of just a week or two. Wear a bracelet on your wrist and switch it to the other arm every time you catch yourself complaining. It’s a simple little reminder not to complain, and it also helps create awareness and conscious presence in your day-to-day life. Try it, see what you think!

Write Thank You notes

fostering gratitude

Be honest, did you roll your eyes at this one?

In this day and age, a paper thank you note seems silly to most of us. But guess what, it’s not silly at all to the person receiving it. The effect of writing a thank you note is a lot like the effect of thanking your server. It feels good to write out the nice things someone has done for you, and it feels good to be on the receiving end of those thank you’s. A fun twist on this expression of gratitude is to thank someone for something small. Thank you notes aren’t just reserved for wedding and shower gifts. You can send a thank you note to someone who made your day last week by sharing a hilarious cat .gif when you were on the verge of tears. Or to someone who helped you sort through a problem that you really needed to talk about out loud. Try it. And include those sweet people on your list of things to be grateful for too. 

Your turn

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving week?

Please share in the comments below.

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