Consistent with a year ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about…
…the power of gratitude.
Many scientific studies suggest gratitude can reduce stress, improve sleep, make you happier, and even increase your motivation to exercise. As practicing gratitude purportedly also increases your energy and ability to overcome challenges, one could even surmise that gratitude will help you get awesome results from your exercise, as you’ll tend you work harder and longer… Do you need more reasons to be grateful?!
Gratitude is important. Check.
I should be more grateful. Check.
Great question! Some people seem to be born grateful. Others have a trickier time with it. And the reasons are complicated, of course. Studies have also shown that “practicing gratitude” or simply working on being more grateful, creates alterations in the brain that help you become more grateful. That’s pretty interesting.
What even is “gratitude”?
It has a number of different definitions, but I gravitate towards the following practical clinical definition:
“gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself”
What’s compelling about this is the relationship between gratitude and what we find valuable and meaningful. Because, yes, we can practice gratitude, to become more grateful. And we can also work on what we focus on and what we find valuable and meaningful, which can, in turn, make us more grateful.
Let me explain using some scenarios:
Your work meeting runs over and you miss your scheduled Spin Class. You won’t be able to hit the gym until tomorrow morning when you’re booked for a strength training session.
Reaction A: Anger and frustration in relation to the meeting - “I’m missing a workout AGAIN. What’s the point in my Adelaide Club membership anyhow?!”
Reaction B: Gratitude that there is something booked in the calendar for the next morning - “Thankfully I’m able to book some of my workouts first thing in the morning when I’m less likely to have a conflict.”
A planned 8K run ends at 5K because your legs are so tired today.
Reaction A: Irritation at the discomfort. You feel pathetic because of the fatigue. “Running sucks. Why bother?”
Reaction B: Grateful you can run at least 5K! “More recovery time will help next time. And the weekend – while tiring – was really fun. So, I’m thankful for that.”
You are dissatisfied with your: legs… shoulders… waist… ability to bike… weight on the bench press…
The list is endless…
Instead?! Yep: what are you grateful for?
- Maybe your legs or shoulders need more work – but you’re able to do 7 pullups for the first time!
- Maybe your waist isn’t what it used to be, but look at those legs!!!
- Not great on the bike? But you are a BEAST in the GYM! Keep going to the spin classes. The power WILL come.
- The weight on the bench press isn’t quite what it used to be. But most of your peers have such weak rotator cuffs they can’t press anything.
- You ONLY exercised 3 days a week? For 20 minutes? Only did cardio?
There is no only in gratitude. Instead you focus on what you have got, what you have done. And by focusing on and being thankful for those things, you begin to value those things more. Those outcomes and activities start to have more meaning… and then… you become even more grateful for them.
Thank you for reading!
Any particular topic you’d like to see discussed during the next 5 Minutes with Meg? Let me know! I’d be grateful for the feedback and ideas!
Meg Sharp, MSc., B.Ed.Kin, FST, Executive Director of Personal Training, Cambridge Group of Clubs