To exercise in gratitude – where exercise and positive psychology collide.

This article was first written by me for Andrew May‘s recharge lounge. Andrew is probably best known for his work with  Channel 9’s Today show and Mix 106.5 Body and Soul, with his regular performance and positive psychology slots. His recharge lounge website is an area that you can get tips on how to perform at your peak in our busy 21st century lifestyle. It’s a great website with lots of great tips.

To walk with Gratitude

Most of us know that one of the benefits of exercise is an increase in the levels of serotonin around the body, serotonin being one of the happy hormones. This effect is often referred to as runners high and has been proven to help ward off the effects of mild depression and to lift ones mood in what those in the psychology game often call “a change of state”.
Did you also know that research shows that people who have an attitude of gratitude have both better physical and mental health (McCollough, Tsang, Emmons 2003). During this study 3 groups were set up. One wrote down just a list of daily events, another wrote only unpleasant experiences that had happened to them. The third group had to write daily on all they were thankful for.
The results were astounding. Some of the findings were as follows:
•    People who take time to deliberately acknowledge their gratitude are more likely to feel more loved
•    They also found that more kindness was reciprocated to them
•    The group who were grateful were more likely to help others
•    They were more likely to be healthy and partake in regular exercise
•    And more likely to complete personal goals.
On top of this the ‘Grateful Group’ reported feelings of increased determination, optimism, alertness, energy, and enthusiasm.
So, imagine now how the effects of gratefulness can be increased and enhanced by putting it together with some great Serotonin-lifting cardio exercise. Great motivators such as Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracey all advocate the use of gratitude to help start your day on the correct mental level, whilst warming up for exercise or taking a stroll.
We are going to take it a step further. This exercise is the Walk or Run of Gratitude.
Let’s deal first with the walk of gratitude:
This can be done at any time of the day. For maximal positive effect on your day try doing it at the start.
The walk should be a brisk paced walk, not a hell for leather power walk. Just walk at a comfortable but brisk pace for you. One that you can note the goings on around you, acknowledge your surroundings and be in tune with where you are, walking at a pace that makes you feel alive and strong.
Walk for a couple of minutes just finding your rhythm and your place in the world. Now it is time to start giving thanks. There are many belief systems out there and I am not going to get involved in any particular one, for the sake of this article we will throw our gratitude out to the universe but feel free to thank any supreme being, gods or energies you wish. We should show gratitude both internally and externally, we must acknowledge ourselves as well as others. You can thank yourself first for having gotten yourself to this point and then thank the universe for helping you, for giving you understanding. Thank the universe for surrounding you with the people who are special in your life. Then thank all these individuals for what they have contributed or for being who they are. Once you get going, a very humbling thought often occurs….. how many things you need to be thankful for. There is a lot, even the challenges in our lives for what they teach us and the ways they make us stronger… and don’t forget to thank those whom you may not have seen eye to eye with, for what they have taught you.
For you to do a Run of Gratitude, this is almost zen running. You are not going for your best time, you’re running at a great pace that makes you feel alive, a pace with which you can feel joy with the fact that you can run. Again allow time to find yourself and then start your gratitude thoughts.
Gratitude runs and walks should be a minimum of half an hour. Try and pick an inspiring place to exercise, maybe a bushtrack or on the beach. Be really in tune with how you feel emotionally before, during and after. I personally tend to feel a build up, as my run/walk continues, of wellbeing and also of excitement, until by the end of the walk or run I feel like I’m going to explode with gratitude to the world, my family, my colleagues and my friends.
It must be quite a sight this bloke, running along with a huge grin on his face, muttering “thankyou’s” under his breath.
So add in a run or a walk of gratitude at least twice a week in addition to your regular exercise programme and see the difference in how you feel towards the people around you or to your circumstances. Notice how much more energised you feel and how much more productive you may be on Gratitude days and especially notice how this exercise effects your relationships and how people regard you as well as how you regard them.
And on that note I sign off……in gratitude to you the reader.
Joe Bonington©2008
If you wish to view this article in it’s original format go to the recharge lounge. There you can sign up for Andrew’s newsletter to get regular tips from Australia’s top health experts.

  • Roger Sanford
    Posted at 07:30h, 13 November Reply

    Joe! YOU ROCK! “For you to do a Run of Gratitude, this is almost zen running. You are not going for your best time, you’re running at a great pace that makes you feel alive, a pace with which you can feel joy with the fact that you can run. Again allow time to find yourself and then start your gratitude thoughts.” This has been my discovery in integrating this with my run. I find my marathons go by in the instant of gratitude, present in the here and now, yet running 26.2!
    You are wonderful to focus on this. I have been working with my dear friend & Marathoner, Sherrie Austin, on organizing a Gratitude Run Marathon on a global basis. We submitted a plan to Google for global sponsorship and will hear back in January of 09. Check out: Would really like to collaborate on this!

  • joebonington
    Posted at 01:16h, 15 January Reply

    Sounds Great, Loved the 365 days of Gratitude. Let me know how you go with the plan.

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