A year ago for Christmas, a good friend of mine gave me an empty green jar with a little notepad and pen. I was coming off of a really difficult year of my life and she thought of the perfect gift for me. She handed me the jar and told me that over the course of the year, I could write on these little slips of paper anything that I was grateful for; any great experiences, things that made me smile … anything to help me see how much good there was in my life.
OK … so what the heck does this have to do with athletic performance?
Research has consistently shown that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. Here are a few other benefits of gratitude that research has proven:
- Stronger relationships
- Improved sleep
- Feel more optimistic
- Better at handling adversity
- Boost immune system
- Increased exercise
- Feel more positive emotions
- Raise self-confidence
- More helpful towards others
- 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 resilient and better at handling setbacks … these are all pretty convincing reasons for considering cultivating your gratitude given the impact it could have on your athletic performance (not to mention your entire life!).
Today I decided it was time to open up my jar and look back on all of the great things that happened over this past year. I pulled out 59 pieces of paper; 59 experiences and memories that I could say I was grateful for. As I was reading through them, I realized I easily could have doubled it. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of how incredibly lucky I am; how truly blessed I am.
There are many things that were difficult for me this year, but they are definitely not the things that are standing out to me. In spite of the stressors you may have encountered, the grief you experienced, the disappointments you may have faced - when you read through the slips of paper, there's no denying that there were many amazing things that happened throughout the year as well. I thought maybe I would only do it for one year, but looking at those slips of paper through my tears of joy and overwhelming gratitude, I immediately started to think about what I would add to the jar for this year.
Here's your homework:
- Go buy a jar or choose a container you already own to be your Happy Jar (Jar of Awesomeness, Receptacle of Resilience … you can call it whatever you want!).
- Decide on where you want to put it so that you see it on a regular basis as a visual trigger to remind you to write things down as you experience them. I have mine sitting on the corner of my dresser right by my bedroom door. You want to put it somewhere where it's going to catch your eye.
- 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.
- If you're feeling skeptical - then pay it forward instead and give this as a gift to a friend. That definitely provided me the incentive to do it - knowing that somebody who loved me gave me this gift because they thought that it would be important for me to remember all of the amazing things I have in my life helped give me the incentive to start. Nothing like a little peer pressure to help with accountability 😉
I’ve got four notes in my jar already. If you'd like to read up more on the science behind gratitude here are a couple articles to check out: