High level performers are always looking for a competitive edge. Part of finding that edge means building new habits into our daily routines. Researchers have found a daily practice that is shown to increase resilience, pain tolerance, and cope with adversity, create a more positive outlook and boost positive emotions, reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality and duration, improve the ability to adapt to training, and build greater immune health. What hidden practice has been proven to promote all of these benefits? The practice of gratitude.
Gratitude practice is an ancient tradition, yet few performers are aware of its powerful benefits. Researchers say when you shift your mindset to welcome more optimistic perspectives, you also open the door to become more resilient. Gratitude practices can be as simple as keeping a journal where you write three things in your life you are grateful for each day or week. Another alternative is to take time to write gratitude letters to those in your life who have had a positive impact on you. While these practices may seem simple, they are known to be effective. 2016 USA Olympian, Brenda Martinez says, “I’ve worked on this for years, and it has helped me out a lot, especially in times like the highs and lows of the Olympic trials where I was able to maintain a constant state of positivity.” This daily habit paid off exponentially for Martinez as she sought to make the Rio team.
After unexpectedly getting tangled up and tripped in the 800-meter race and falling out of contention to make the Olympic team, Martinez went back to her regular routine of gratitude journaling. “Every day I spend just a few minutes reflecting on things I am grateful for – family, food, clean water, shelter, mentors. I did this after getting tripped in the 800-meter. It immediately made me feel better. I know it sounds cliché, but this practice really does help put everything in perspective,” says Martinez. Three days later, she earned her spot on the Olympic team in the 1,500-meters by pushing past three other runners in the final lap and edging out Amanda Eccleston by just three-tenths of a second. Fellow Olympian, Jenny Simpson, described Brenda as someone who “just shows an incredible amount of grit, whether it’s in the 800 or the 1500,” which helped her capitalize through adversity at the trials.
In the everlasting hunt for the latest and greatest technology or technique to enhance performance, athletes and coaches can turn to ancient origins to get the edge. Daily gratitude practices can not only enhance your mindset as you approach your next practice or next performance, it can enhance your mindset as you maneuver through the ups and downs of life. So, tell me, what are you grateful for?