We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as swimmers.
We continually push ourselves day in and day out, perpetually seeking more and more, always looking for improvement and never really wholly satisfied with the gains we make.
But what if there was a way that we could better value the work that we do in the pool?
A simple thing we could do each day, that would only require a bare minimum of our time, in order to not only boost our mood, but could also help release stress and even help us sleep better?
That little something-something I am talking about is gratitude.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Every fall we sit around the dinner table and talk about the things we are grateful for. For a few fleeting moments we focus on that for which we are thankful for.
We can take that same concept and make it a part of our day-to-day life to improve our attitude, increase the quality of our sleep, and even lower stress.
And the best part?
Anybody can do it, and can start doing it immediately.
Here are some proven ways that exercising some regular gratitude will not only help you have a better attitude in the water, but in life in general (along with some research):
It will help you sleep longer and better.
Hard work in the pool doesn’t always correlate to a great night of sleep.
Extreme physical activity (swimming for 4+ hours a day qualifies as extreme in my books) puts a lot of stress on your body, and believe it or not, just because you are exhausted doesn’t mean that the effects from this stress won’t still hamper your efforts at going to bed that night.
As a result we can find ourselves having a hard time dozing off even though we punished ourselves between the lane lines that day.
Research done with university students found that performing a few minutes of nightly gratitude journaling helped to quiet pre-sleep worry and anxiety. Another study of 400 adults–half of whom had sleeping disorders– showed similar findings, with gratitude being positively linked to dozing off faster and sleeping for longer.
Sign me up!
It will improve your overall health.
In a study of 1,000 adults in Switzerland those who displayed regular gratitude were shown to be healthier and more proactive with their well-being.
The researchers found that those who exhibited gratitude most were more likely to exercise (not that we really have that problem as swimmers…), and also had improved psychological health.
It will improve your mood and punch stress in the face.
With the workload in the pool, at school and what passes for a social life it can be understandable that your average swimmer gets a little cranky at times. With the never-ending pile of assignments and training on the horizon it can be hard to stop and smell the roses.
Setting aside a few moments each day to recount your blessings instead of your burdens can help improve your mood and coping ability with stress.
Another study showed that not only did a nightly gratitude list improve sleep, but it also increased overall feelings of well-being and improved moods.
Research done by Robert Emmons of the University of California-Davis has shown over and over again that the simple act of gratitude can increase a range of positive emotions including happiness, joy and optimism, while also helping to combat depression.
Put It Into Place
At the end of each day as you write out the day’s workout in your log book write down a couple of things you are thankful for.
The things you are grateful for don’t have to be about swimming. The relationships with your family. How honest you can be with a specific friend. How lucky you are to not go without. And so on and so forth.
In addition to tracking her workouts, and writing out her overall mood, sleep habits and so on, Katie Ledecky also used her training log as a gratitude journal. Each night she would jot down a couple things she was grateful for along with her practices and times from that day.
If you like better sleep (and who doesn’t?), want to be less stressed, and want to be a generally healthier person take a couple minutes at the end of each busy day to pause on the things you are thankful for. Your swimming will thank you.