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Posted 07/01/2021 in Category 1 by DAVID CHARLTON

Improving Sport Performance Using Gratitude

Do you often get in your own way sabotaging your performances?

More and more frequently in sport, self-care, and mental health have been talked about. Especially during 2020, which has been an eventful year, a testing year even for the most mentally tough individuals.  

One skill that is a growing practice and has been shown to improve the overall quality of your life is gratitude. A definition of gratitude is “the feeling or quality of being grateful.” It means thanks and appreciation. A lot of people think of gratitude as passing on our thanks to people verbally or through thank you cards but there is a lot more to it than that.  

5 benefits of practicing gratitude include:

  • Gratitude helps you sleep better
  • Gratitude improves your self-esteem
  • Gratitude enhances your mental and physical health
  • Gratitude helps you open your mind 
  • Gratitude improves your relationships with others

And there are many more…

Researchers have been able to locate which areas of the brain are actively used by those who practice gratitude noting that with regular practice you can create physical changes to the prefrontal cortex. 

Gratitude and Sport

So how do we incorporate this practice into the life of a busy, disciplined athlete?  

In individual sports, the buck stops with you and the routines that you put in place. You’re in charge whilst in team sports, it is different where in addition to being in control of some of your routines and habits you may have other opportunities to practice gratitude with team-mates and coaches, if they allow it.

Journaling

Most serious athletes have note books or journals, so incorporating gratitude in a written form won’t be a big deal to them. All it involves is taking a few minutes every day to reflect on what you’re grateful for – and it doesn’t have to be related to your sport. It’s literally bringing to your attention small simple things that you can be thankful for.

An intentional and grateful mind is far better than a mind filled with doubt or anger.

For example, if you think about a situation when you’re in the gym trying to lift a heavy weight. What is the most helpful thing to say to yourself?

a) “There is no chance I am able to lift this.”

b) “I’m so thankful that I’ve strong arms and shoulders and have an opportunity to attempt to lift this bar and weight.”

I hope you chose option b! With this type of attitude it’s going to improve your resilience to challenging situations. When you’re grateful for opportunities when you’ve a chance to shoot on goal or to attempt to role in a 3 foot birdie putt, you’re not going to get in your way so often.

You’ll go on to concentrate on the process and rely of factors inside your control more often. As Tiger Woods says “you’ll let the training take over” in those pressurised situations. 

Your Challenge

I’d like you to challenge yourself and start today, writing down in a journal 3 things that you are grateful for each and every day. It can relate to your home life, your training or practice or competing. It doesn’t matter as long as you get started.

When you do this – not if – after 30 days you will have created a positive habit and will have written down 90 things that you are grateful for.

The more you do this and the more you get comfortable with gratitude practice. I’d like you to start incorporating it into your training and practice. Considering and affirming with yourself that you are pleased to be in the gym, on the range or pitch. Being grateful for the fact that your body allows you to do certain moves or get into certain positions.  

I appreciate a lot of athletes, have a do, do, do mentality to their sport and this approach may seem a little left field, however, it is hugely powerful in training your brain and will highly likely have a positive impact on your performances.

Enjoy yourself whilst trying this and if you would like to discuss this practice in more detail please feel free to get in touch.

Or if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, team-mates, parents or coaches. You can also join our community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

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