Train the Mind with an Attitude of Gratitude
In researching emotional regulation among basketball coaches, gratitude came up, over and over again, as a technique that coaches actively use to maintain control of their emotional state. We know from research, and from the findings of Positive Psychology, that the positive impacts of gratitude reach far and wide.
So, if we're drinking the Kool-Aid on gratitude, how do we train it?
Like many other mental skills, it can be trained actively, but we must shift the paradigm from the general ("I'm grateful") to the specific ("I'm grateful for ___________________"). Then we must do so daily.
Here are a few ways you can train gratitude, and reap the benefits of the joy that comes with doing so:
1. Have a gratitude partner
My wife and I text each other gratitudes almost every work day. They consist of three specific things we are grateful for (try to come up with new ones every day), and three things that will make that particular day great. It helps us put into focus those areas of our lives that we might take for granted but which are key to our happiness. If you don't have a partner, ask a friend!
2. Write thank you notes
Once per week, write a note (I like the hand written old-fashioned notes but an email will do) to someone that has positively impacted your life in some way. They will appreciate it, and you'll feel better having done so!
3. Practice mindfulness meditation
Seated meditation for as little as a few minutes a day, allows you to pause and take stock of the many factors that are present in the moment you focus on your breath. In that moment, recognize you are alive and although you have troubles - we all do - the moment you're in exists above ground, and in our short lives each moment we draw a breath is worth being grateful!
Helping others less fortunate than yourself is a great way to practice gratitude. It not only helps society to volunteer your time for a cause, it helps you appreciate what you have and brings you into community with others.
5. Keep a journal
Journaling has a host of benefits. Keeping track of your thoughts and feelings is a must-do for anyone serious about their mental game. Tracking your gratitudes in a designated mental game journal will allow you to be reflective, thankful, and creates a record of things for you to look back on when things go sideways.
6. Hunt the good in every challenge
Obstacles, problems, illnesses, oh my. There is no doubt that very real tragedies visit our lives at different times. There is no escaping the reality that we and people we love will get sick or pass away, and grand scale disasters do occur. There is often no way to spin these events into positives, so you shouldn't try. It isn't spin to find a silver lining in the difficult and the disastrous. It is a skill that will help you through such moments. It will also help you when more scalable walls present themselves. Hunt the good!
On the court, you can show gratitude by being a "high-five" guy, getting touches as much as possible, being enthusiastic, and making a point to tell teammates when you think they've done well. Thank the people around you and tell them you love them. An attitude of gratitude is contagious!
Good luck on your journey.