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Can Gratitude Make You a Better Athlete?

We’ve decided to enter 2024 with an attitude geared towards gratitude. The big secret is that this approach will make us better athletes, according to science. Mindfulness and positivity are already major players in our toolkits of reaching our peak performance status, as is gratitude (re: The Law of Gratitude). Now, we want to dive further into how gratitude will raise the bar for your athletic prowess and performance.

“I know it sounds cliché, but this [gratitude] practice really does help put everything in perspective. I highly recommend it.” — Brenda Martinez

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Here’s how gratitude can make you a better athlete.

1. Stress Reduction

When you express gratitude, your hypothalamus — the part of your brain responsible for hormones that regulate metabolism, stress, and more — shows higher activity levels. Your brain also releases more dopamine and serotonin, also known as happiness hormones! You’ll feel your stress melt away and benefit from a brighter mood. Both these things will allow you to achieve sharper focus, better problem-solving and reaction time, reduce game-time and performance anxiety, and put you in the right, motivated mindset to crush your training.

2. Reduced Burnout

We already burn out from our day-to-day jobs — burning out from your sport and training is the worst! Expressing gratitude creates a better experience when you play or compete, reminding you why you took up your activity in the first place. The stress reduction aspect from point number one also helps create better mental resilience, meaning you can bounce back from failures and mistakes faster without them impacting your overall confidence and future performance. 

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3. Better Sleep

You all know we have a law about getting the ultimate sleep for improved performance. Well, guess what? Gratitude actually leads to deeper, better sleep. Two studies, in particular, showcased in this Psychology Today article, demonstrated that practicing gratitude throughout the day can positively affect sleep. One study found that after three weeks of keeping a list of things they were grateful for before bed, participants experienced deeper, more refreshing sleep. Another study with over 400 participants found that gratitude leads to more positive thoughts at bedtime, falling asleep faster, and longer sleeps. Want that 8-hour sleep for peak performance? Start that gratitude journal!

4. Fosters Stronger Teams

Gratitude helps people foster stronger interpersonal relationships, which, in turn, will create a better, stronger team. When you go to bed thinking about that fantastic pass your teammate sent your way so you could score, rather than that free throw you missed, you come to appreciate the people around you more. With better relationships come better moods, plays, and results. Once you’re on the up together, you stay there. Every coach should be encouraging their teams to practice gratitude every day.

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Achieve Overall Better Performance

We mean better performance for both your body and overall wellness, as well as your athletic performance, because, of course, you can’t have one without the other. Your mind and body are intertwined! As highlighted in this Outside Magazine article, practicing gratitude:

🤜Increased overall life satisfaction
🤜Decreased physical discomfort Increased feelings of trust, safety, and comfort
🤜Reduced inflammatory markers
🤜Lower blood pressure
🤜Improved sleep duration and quality
🤜Boosted resiliency
🤜Increased optimism

Each of those benefits can help you achieve your absolute peak athletic performance and have you pushing yourself and your boundaries beyond belief. Gratitude is an easy one to add to your day. Try starting a journal and writing down one, two, or three things you’re grateful for daily. It can be as small as appreciating that first cup of coffee. Writing not for you? Before you get out of bed, take a pause and think about one thing — just one — that you are grateful for so you can start your day on a high note. There are also meditation practices designed to cultivate gratitude. Don’t be afraid to try a few methods and see what works for you. Then, watch your performance soar. 

“Heart is what separates the good from the great.” — Michael Jordan

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