Karl Meltzer, who last year set the speed record for through-hiking the Appalachian Trail (averaging about 47 hilly miles a day over 45 days), copes with the pain by, ‘thinking about how fortunate I am to be doing this’. Throughout his hike, Meltzer made a point of thanking his support crew. ‘Showing gratitude,’ he says, ‘almost always makes things better.’
Meltzer is on to something: expressing gratitude is effective because it, ‘helps people transition from a self-focused and perhaps anxious mindset to a more optimistic and content one’. So says Emiliana Simon-thomas, science director at University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. And optimism, she adds, ‘opens the possibility of a positive outcome, which in and of itself is very beneficial’. In fact, two recently published studies found that performing acts of gratitude and reflecting on all you have to be grateful for positively affected how subjects experienced pain and effort.
When the going gets tough, reflect on the circumstances or people that have contributed to your being out running right now. Some examples: your spouse, because they watch the kids while you log miles; your body, because it’s healthy; your employer, because your salary pays for running gear and race registration. Even better, when you run through aid stations mid-race, smile and thank the volunteers; Simon-thomas says gratitude is most powerful when you share it verbally with others.