Finally, a training tip for runners that doesn’t involve fartleks, LSD runs, strength training, core work or a nutrition plan. All you have to do is lift a pen (or type on a keyboard). In all honesty, keeping a gratitude journal could be that simple thing that actually makes you a better runner.
Good news: Having a regular gratitude practice is ultra-easy for runners already using a logging app like MapMyRun. Habit stacking — the act of adding a new habit to an already existing one — makes runners who log workouts the perfect candidates for the daily practice. When you save your workout, simply add one or two things you’re grateful for, from getting through your run to the perfect cup of coffee you had at breakfast.
Here’s exactly why you should keep a gratitude journal:
YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO TRAIN
Regularly listing things you’re grateful for not only boosts your mood, but it also boosts your motivation to continue with healthy behaviors like running and other types of exercise. “Gratitude consistently associates with many positive social, psychological and health states, such as an increased likelihood of helping others, optimism, exercise and reduced reports of physical symptoms,” according to Stephen M. Yoshimura.
YOU PRACTICE PATIENCE
A 2014 study showed a simple gratitude exercise, like listing a few things you’re grateful for after a run, can actually help with impulse control and patience. If you’re prone to impulse eating, for instance, taking a moment to record a few things you’re thankful for might be the boost you need to choose that healthier post-run snack.
YOU MIGHT MAKE NEW FRIENDS
You know that cool run crew in your neighborhood? A new study showed saying thank you and showing gratitude goes a long way in turning an acquaintance into a friend. If you’re more on the introverted side but wish you could make new running buddies more easily, start showing up and running (no socializing necessary), then write about things you liked about that last run, or look for ways to thank a fellow runner for doing something you appreciated.
YOU’LL APPRECIATE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Gratitude journaling, especially if you include small things about your partner that you’re thankful for — like the fact he programs the coffee machine to have your brew ready and waiting when you get back from your early morning run — can actually improve your relationship, one study found. And that improvement might just lead to a smoother discussion of why you need yet another new pair of running shoes.
YOU’LL KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY
In addition to the Grinch-style “heart growing three sizes” when you start paying more attention to the good in life, gratitude can actually keep your heart physically healthy. A 2015 study showed recognizing and giving thanks for the positive aspects of life resulted in lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers that relate to heart health. The researchers speculate this was tied to the fact gratitude promotes better mood, better sleep and less fatigue — something all of us can get behind, especially as runners!
YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHAT MOTIVATES YOU
Often, we get into a cycle of running ‘just because’ and not really thinking about the fact it’s incredible to be able to run. Gratitude journaling, especially when done directly after a run as you log your training, can help make your run seem more magical and enjoyable. You also might pick up on running motivators you hadn’t thought of before, like being happy you can chase your kids around during a game of tag without getting winded.