In the midst of uncertainty, recognizing the things we are thankful for can be game-changing. Taking the time to express gratitude helps us nurture social connections, manage anxiety, and build resilience; all amazing ways to enhance our well-being and athletic performance.
Going forward into the next year of unknowns we want to cultivate more gratitude for the gifts that remain and enter into our lives. Because it's this practice of noticing, that really makes us happier and brings more of the good our way.
The benefits of gratitude extend far beyond what we may imagine. Scientific studies have found that gratitude is associated with:
More optimism and positive emotions
New and lasting relationships
More progress toward personal goals (including athletic goals)
Fewer aches and pains
More alertness and determination
Increased generosity and empathy
With no downside to practicing more gratitude, it seems like a goal we would all embrace this year. These aren't outcomes we want just once a year, so why don't we practice year-round?
How to practice gratitude
Like our fitness, gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised. Below are a few options for you to get those gratitude curls in each day.
Quiet your inner critic
Your inner voice often takes you out of the moment and presents the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow. Try taking two minutes to just pause and focus on breathing. Doing this a few times a day can calm down an over-active brain and bring you back to the present.
Envision the end of your life
This may sound strange but its been measured that we become more grateful when we think about our own mortality and the mortality of those we love. It reminds us that nothing is permanent and to be extra thankful to enjoy them while we can.
Take time to notice the little things
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." A common saying but it contains a deep truth. If we can't be thankful for the little things how will we ever adequately value the big ones?
Get specific with your "thanks"
The more specific we can be, the more genuine and strong the gratitude muscle will be. It's not always about quantity but the quality of our reps. To be able to dictate who or what makes us thankful, why it affects us, and what it may have cost someone (or something) to grant us it, makes our thanks specific and stronger.
Small acts of generosity
Acts of altruism and gratitude have long been connected. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, giving to others often increases our happiness more than receiving.
Simply writing out a few things we appreciated during the day is a great way to end the day. It sets the tone for the day which in turn affects the next day. This one habit alone has been shown to have huge impacts on the happiness and wellbeing of the individuals who use it consistently.
Feelings of gratitude nurture our individual mental health and fortify our bonds with other people. The personal and interpersonal benefits of gratitude occur at both a psychological and neurobiological level. Whatever method(s) you choose, find time to get in those gratitude reps each day and you'll notice you have more and more to be thankful for.