Basketball is Psychology XVIII
A large part of how well you perform has to do with how well you feel, and your feelings are a result of your thoughts. It goes without saying that if you are not healthy physically, you won’t perform at your best, but the same can be said for your mental health.
Basketball can take us on an emotional roller coaster; from the heartbreak of injury, poor performances, and tough losses, to the overflow of joy from breaking records, conquering adversity, and getting big wins.
While it may seem like your emotional and mental wellbeing are merely a product of your circumstances, it is important to be proactive with your health. You can do this by implementing the healthiest human emotion into your habitual thoughts- gratitude. Not only will you be happier, but gratitude can help you perform better.
Numerous studies have been done leading psychologists to conclude that the healthiest emotion is gratitude.
Gratitude Enhancing Performance
Physically, gratitude can lower your heart rate, has been linked to relieving aches and pains, and it improves sleep, but the greatest benefits of gratitude are psychological.
Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals.”
Connecting to something larger than ourselves is what being on a team is all about. Feeling like you belong to a group is an innate need that even increases motivation. The more grateful you are, the less you are thinking of yourself. Gratitude can make you a better teammate. Better teammates play more efficiently, trade the good shot for a great shot, and play for each other. The more grateful you are, the more connected you will feel to your team.
A study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology examined the influence gratitude has on athletes. Perhaps the most powerful effect of gratitude is that it increases your self esteem. Self esteem is defined as having confidence in your abilities. If you had no confidence in your abilities, it would be really hard to be a great basketball player. The more belief you have in your abilities, the better you will perform. It’s evident from watching almost any professional basketball player in an interview, the great basketball players possess a supreme confidence in their abilities. If you want to be a high-level basketball player, you need a high-level of self esteem.
This study also found a link between an athlete’s amount of gratitude, and how much they trusted their coach. Trusting a coach is an underrated variable for success. If you don’t trust your coach, you might have a hard time following their directions and find yourself riding the bench. You have to trust your coach. It’s the only way play calls can make it from the whiteboard to the court. It’s the only way you’ll be able to be pushed to your full potential. Thinking about how grateful you are to have someone who cares enough to get the most out of you will foster a trust that runs deep.
In All Circumstances
It’s easy to be grateful when you are in great health, when you win a championship, score your career high in points, or receive an award. The challenge is to be full of gratitude even when you lose. But, this is the recipe for resilience.
A key factor in being able to recover from the worst times of your life is being grateful. Gratitude is a skill. Being able to find what is good in your life and be thankful for it will take practice. The better you get at this, the stronger and more resilient your mind becomes, because no matter what happens to you, you are more focused on what is good in your life. By doing this, you are giving the things you are grateful for more power than your circumstances. Your mind becomes stronger than your situation.
Brains are a lot better at complaining than appreciating, it comes more naturally to us. The reality is, no matter what your circumstances are, there is always something to be grateful for, but there is always something to complain about. You get to choose which gets more airtime in your mind.
Gratitude acknowledges reality, as challenging as it may be, and energizes you about what is still good in your life.
One Emotion At a Time
It’s difficult to feel more than one emotion at once. Focus on feeling grateful and you’ll cut down on the negative emotions that would otherwise come to mind. Those negative emotions are a waste of mental energy that will leave you feeling drained, with no energy to think productively.
When you’re thinking about how grateful you are to play the sport you love, you’re probably not upset about having to wake up early to do so.
When you’re thinking about how grateful you are to have a coach who believes in you and pushes you to reach your potential, you’re probably not mad about running extra sprints.
When you’re full of gratitude, it’s hard to be full of fear, sadness, doubt, negativity, and anger.
Be Proactive with your mental health.
Make it a habit to think about all that you’re grateful for. Do it as much as possible, and as often as possible.
Written by Julie Fournier
Founder & CEO
Chen, Lung & Wu, Chiahuei. (2014). Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’ Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of Trust in Coach. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 26. 349-362. 10.1080/10413200.2014.889255.
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier