I’m sure you’ve seen these headlines floating around your newsfeed: “Change Your Life with Gratitude” or “Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful”, etc. etc.
It’s true that research has consistently shown gratitude to be associated with greater feelings of happiness, but did you know that research has also shown that feeling grateful improves your immune system functioning and can lessen physical pain? Check out this list of proven benefits of establishing a gratitude practice:
- 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
Does Feeling More Grateful Actually Help?
If someone said to you – “Check this out! When you take this little pill, it helps you get better sleep, get sick less often, and motivate you to get in your workouts! You’ll also feel more confident, more optimistic, and more resilient. AND the best part is there are no negative side effects!”– would you consider trying it out?
Seems like a no-brainer right? That is EXACTLY what research is telling us, except instead of a little pill, it’s a little gratitude. You gain those exact benefits by cultivating your ability to feel thankful. So why aren’t more people take advantage of this!?
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 that everyone is talking about this month and will be forgotten by next month. When your friend says, “Hey, you should read this amazing blog post about gratitude that Carrie Jackson wrote”, you find yourself saying something like, “Cool, cool. Sounds great. Let me know how that turns out.” It sounds good in theory, but who has time for that? And is it really going to change anything?
Three Easy Ways to Start Your Gratitude Practice
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 grateful, try out one of these exercises to start your own gratitude practice:
As you brush your teeth, or when your head hits the pill before you drift off to sleep, ask yourself:
- What was the highlight of my day?
- What are three things I feel grateful for?
By noticing what your highlights are over a period of time, it helps you tune into what brings you joy and what is truly important in your life. By asking yourself what three things you feel grateful for, it helps you remember that no matter what challenges you might be facing, there still is so much good in your life; it isn’t all-or-nothing. And you don’t have to always have profound and mind-blowing items on your list. You can include sentiments like peanut butter and indoor plumbing– the key is that you must genuinely feel gratitude for it as you say it. As long as the gratitude is real– feel free to include it on your list.
I highly HIGHLY recommend this one. This is an opportunity to stack-the-deck with some super-gratitude. Here’s what you do:
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: Put your Happy Jar somewhere visible and easily accessible. You want it to serve 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 well.
Step 3: Write down any and every positive experience you have as it occurs. Some people like to put the date on the note, but that’s up to you. No experience is too big or too small, as long as it made you feel good. It could be a gorgeous sunset, a smile from a stranger, going out to dinner with your favorite person– any experience that makes you smile and feel joy.
Step 4: At the end of the year, set a deliberate time to break open the piggy bank or dump out the jar and look through your notes and bask in all of the happiness. I have done this myself and it truly feels amazing when you read through those slips of paper and reflect on all of the good things that happened in the past year. It helps you to realize that even when things are bad, they are also good.
A gratitude journal is another great way to cultivate your ability to feel thankful. When creating a gratitude journal, it can be helpful to give yourself a template to work with and choose a specific time of day you will put in your journal entry. Additionally, 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 an item 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. It’s an exercise in realistic optimism and mindfulness and there just so happens to be some pretty significant benefits to your athletic performance as well.