My ankle made a loud snapping sound as I fell forward, unable to get out of my own way. The large brainy-looking horse apple I had stepped on mocked me as I struggled to regain my balance. The soccer ball I had been going to retrieve sat lifelessly several feet away. My gut told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk for several more months, and my visit to the ortho confirmed it. I had broken my left ankle and torn most of the ligaments. Now I’m in a boot for six weeks. Merry Christmas to me. Research has shown that gratitude can reduce inflammation and improve recovery. Refusing to let myself spiral, I decided to start a gratitude practice to speed up the healing process. It hasn’t been easy, but through this process, I’ve learned a few things.

Gratitude can take many forms

You don’t have to be grateful for bad things that happen, but you can search for something useful that came out of those experiences. I’m not even a little bit grateful or happy that I broke my ankle. I struggle with slowing down and getting rest, so I’m grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to do that.

Find a method that works for you

A gratitude practice is nothing more than acknowledging things that you are thankful for, no matter how mundane. One of my recent gratitudes was for a sunbeam hitting my face as my wife pushed my wheelchair through the Old Forest in Overton Park. Some people need more structure than others, and it’s important to find something that works for you. Many people add a sentence or two in their journal, while others take it moment by moment. It can be a good idea to include others in your gratitude sphere, especially when we are grateful for something that has to do with them!

Build it into your routine

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget to start that new habit we were so excited about two days ago. When was the last time you forgot to take your vitamins? Probably a day that was a little hectic. Find a time that will work in your day, like first thing in the morning, in the evening, or before meals. I like to spend a little time outdoors every day, away from my phone, and think of what I’m grateful for. Sometimes I rattle off as many things as possible, and sometimes I let myself think of just one thing.

Put it into practice

As we find ourselves in the middle of the holiday season, gratitude is both at the forefront of our minds and an afterthought due to stress and overbooked schedules. Bring other people in on your new gratitude hobby, and watch them reap the rewards, knowing the best gifts don’t always come in boxes.

Gary Berglund, a certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, yoga teacher, and nutrition coach, is the founder of Omnifunction, an online fitness, and nutrition coaching brand that embraces a non-diet mindset and the practice of exercise to enhance the quality of life. Gary uses behavioral change tactics and takes a Health At Every Size (HAES) approach to coach clients toward their goals. Connect at or on Instagram and Facebook at @omnifunction.