So what’s the deal with gratitude?
And what the heck does it have to do with sport and exercise performance?
We’ve been hearing A LOT about gratitude lately, so you’ve probably seen headlines highlighting the fact that research consistently shows gratitude to be associated with greater feelings of happiness. But have you heard about these other benefits of gratitude that research has proven:
- Improved sleep
- Boost to your immune system
- Feeling more optimistic
- Better at handling adversity
- Increased amount of exercise
- Experiencing more positive emotions
- Raises self-confidence
- Less physical pain
- More resiliency
OK … so let me get this straight –
I’m going to get better sleep, increase my odds of getting out the door to get in my workout, be less likely to get sick, be more confident, optimistic, resilient, and be better at handling setbacks … simply by cultivating my ability to feel thankful?
When you see a sudden influx in the popular media on a “self-help” topic, it can be easy to write it off as just the next hyped up idea. When your friend says, “Hey, you should read this amazing blog post about gratitude that Carrie Jackson Cheadle wrote”, it can be easy to say, “Cool blog post. Let me know how that goes for you.” It sounds good in theory, but who has time for that? And is it really going to change anything?
However, this is a pretty convincing list of reasons for considering shifting to an attitude-of-gratitude given the impact it could have on your athletic performance (not to mention your entire life!). If you’ve thought at all about wanting to feel more gratitude in your life, try out one of these exercises to start your own gratitude practice:
One of my personal practices I use recognize all of the amazing things I am actually grateful for, is that every night as I fall asleep, I ask myself:
- What was my highlight of the day?
- What are three things I’m grateful for?
By noticing what my highlights are over a period of time, it helps me to remember the things that really bring me joy and are important in my life. By asking myself what three things I’m grateful for, it helps me remember that no matter what challenges I might be facing, there still is so much good in my life. And it doesn’t have to be profound, mind blowing items that make the list. Here are a couple examples I am truly, genuinely grateful for that make the list:
- I’m grateful that I didn’t have to change a flat tire on the side of the highway today
- I’m grateful for ballpoint pens and the fact that I don’t have to dip a feather into an inkwell in order to write
- I’m grateful I don’t have to go outside in the cold and rain to go to bathroom in an outhouse; thank you indoor plumbing
There are two different ways to approach this. You can either write down positive experiences as they occur, or you can simply write down something you are feeling grateful for. I recommend both!
Step 1: Choose a receptacle. You can buy something new or choose something you already own. It can be a mason jar, a bucket, a piggy bank – whatever you want.
Step 2: Decide where you want to put your chosen receptacle so that you see it on a regular basis as a visual trigger to remind you to write things down as you experience them. Have a pen and small notepad next to the jar to make it as easy as possible for you to write down notes and add them to the jar. Sticky note sized paper works really well.
Step 3: Choose a time when you want to look through all of your slips of paper. At the end of the month? At the end of the year? Set a deliberate time to look through and bask in all of the happiness. I’ve collected them throughout the year and then read through them all as a New Year’s ritual and it’s pretty incredible.
A gratitude journal is another great way to be able to reflect back and look at all of the many things you feel grateful for. When creating a gratitude journal can be helpful to get specific. Give yourself a template to work with and choose a specific time of day you will record your gratitude reflections. Some people prefer to do this as ritual at the beginning of their day to set the tone for the day.
Your gratitude journal doesn’t necessarily have to look like a traditional journal. You can have a running list hanging up on your office wall where you continue to add one to the list every day, or you could choose to use a gratitude app. Choose whichever method makes it easiest for you to do this on a daily basis. Here are a few apps to check out:
This is more than “brain hacks for gratitude” or “tips and tricks to be more thankful”. This is a shift in mindset. This is a shift in how you choose to be in the world and what you choose to bring your focus back to. And there just so happens to be some pretty significant benefits to it.
Share in the comments your favorite way of being thankful and feeling gratitude!