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5 Easy Ways for Young Athletes to Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude has been a trending topic amongst mental health and wellness experts in recent years, and for good reason: This simple shift in thinking can lead to big change. According to the American Psychological Association, teens who practice gratitude are more likely to be happier in general and less likely to have behavior problems at school. They’re also likely to be healthier overall, according to new research, and could even be more likely to easily make friends.

But can gratitude also help them on the field? TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, says yes, and explains how coaches and parents can help their athletes practice an attitude of gratitude.

#1: Understand process versus outcome

Gratitude helps ground athletes in the present moment by reminding them of the positives that are happening right now. "Depending on what an athlete is struggling with, you may find that getting them to be more attentive to feelings of gratitude is an antidote to some of the difficulties they face,” Chapman says. “Anytime you have negative self-talk and thoughts, those lead to strong emotional experiences that can inhibit your performance. In those cases, it’s always helpful to identify the things that you're grateful for.”

“For instance, some athletes struggle with not scoring goals. Many of those athletes will focus on that negative outcome and will tend to perceive their identity as part of their results and their performance, which can result in a lot of negative self-talk. But you can help them by reminding them why they're playing the sport, as opposed to the outcome of playing their sport. That’s a simple way to get them to shift their attention to being present, being grateful, being thankful that they can play. The goal is to get them back to enjoying the game, as opposed to focusing on the future or the outcome of the game."

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