The Benefits of Being Grateful

~ by Pat McCurry

Pat McCurry is the founder of Idaho Afoot, and has coached over 20 years at the collegiate level. In addition to coaching several national champions, he trained Olympic and World Championship qualifiers.

Quick quiz! What is the first word or phrase that pops into your head if I say Thanksgiving?

Probably turkey. Or maybe you said pumpkin, football, parade, flight delays, or meat sweats? I’m curious how many said gratitude though? High five yourself if you did as that is, afterall, at the philosophical root of this Holiday. We set this day aside to celebrate our blessings of the last year. Traditionally timed with the culmination of the harvest season, the strong link to food was established early on. But before we end up on the couch with a case of those dreaded meat sweats, we should reflect a bit deeper on what this day can represent.

Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to practice what we now know is one of the best habits for our mental health, gratitude. Gratitude seems so simple, why is it a challenge to practice habitually? Why do do we have a Holiday based solely on this? Why do we need to be reminded to do something that we know is so good for us and those around us? Well, simply put, our society is deeply rooted in the idea of seeking what we do not yet have. This is the basis of our economy, and it permeates nearly all levels of our culture. Think about the amount of time we spend pursuing either something more or something better. More sales, more clients, more dollars in the bank. A better home, a better car, a better job maybe. Some of this forward drive in life can of course be very healthy. Maybe we are seeking better fitness or working to improve ourselves as a parent or partner. Healthy endeavor or not though, when we are constantly working to get something more or better it can be a challenge to feel grateful about what we have. This is why we need to pause. We need to stop and think for a second about what we do actually have. We need to recognize those things, we need to celebrate them. When we are thankful for the role of others in our lives, we need to show those people gratitude in some way. All this pulls us into the present, offers valuable perspective, brings connection, and leads to greater self awareness.

Athletically, this is a critical habit to build for sustainable success. Of course we are always looking forward and working to improve as athletes, this is the very nature of these undertakings. And that again is why we need to build the habit of pausing to reflect on what we have accomplished and all the benefits of just being in our current state. The ‘never be satisfied’ attitude much of the athletic world has preached for years is not the healthiest approach. I prefer the idea of pausing regularly to be briefly savor some satisfaction before again moving forward. Lets use this annual celebration of gratitude to start working on establishing more habitual gratitude in our lives.