My brother died 17 years ago from complications with his diabetes. I was in high school and he was away at college. I’ve never really shared some of my feelings with anyone, or given myself the time to process them properly. Before the Challenge, I kept people on the outside so that I wouldn’t have to worry about losing them. There was a conversation I had with my wife where I was like, “I don’t have any friends.” And she pointed out all these people who would consider themselves my friends, and she said, “I think some of these people would actually be hurt if they knew you said you were just acquaintances.” 

“It’s important to give yourself credit for who you are.”

The Thrive App allows you to give yourself points for the positive choices you make, and a lot of mine are about showing gratitude to other people, and recognizing the people that I’m showing gratitude toward as my friends. Before, when I’d do something kind for someone else, I’d say, “That’s just who I am, I do these sorts of things.” Now I say, “I do these things because these are my friends and I want to help them at a time of need.” 

I focus on gratitude toward myself, too. When I have a positive thought about myself, I give myself a point. For example, I was texting with my wife recently and I made a comment like, “I’m a pretty likable guy.” And she really liked that. She said, “You don’t generally say something like that about yourself.” It sounds like a small, inconsequential thing, but it’s important to give yourself credit for who and what you are.

“The Challenge has helped me grow my tribe.”

The Challenge has also encouraged me to reach out and keep a hold of friends. I‘ve been reconnecting with old acquaintances that I had let drift away because they weren’t directly in my “I’m going to see you every day” circle. Reconnecting with those people has helped me grow my community, or my tribe, and I’m very grateful for that. 

One of the biggest Challenge-related accomplishments that I’m proud of right now is my relationship with my wife. We’ve been married for 11 years, and we’re both focused on our mental health and taking care of ourselves, and we’re seeing how that helps each other and allows our relationship to grow. 

“It’s good for our kids to see their parents improving themselves.” 

We’ve been doing family-focused workouts where several of us all bring our kids together and exercise, which has been really fun. Now, our soon to be 4-year-old and 8-year-old have pretty good form on their burpees — I don’t know how many 4- and 8-year-olds can say that. It’s good for them to see their parents getting out there and working at it and improving themselves. That way, they know it’s something that should be important for them, too.

––Shawn Dennany, Walmart Customer; Muskegon, MI; $5K Winner