The Kandahar Marathon: Week Thirty-One
“Gratitude is fertilizer for the mind, spreading connections and improving its function in nearly every realm of experience.”
I’m going to keep this week’s post as brief as possible. Yes, I ran. I ran a lot. I ran sixty-five-and-a-half miles, culminating with twenty-two miles Sunday morning in temps that started in the high seventies and mercifully remained in the low eighties until I had finished. Every run this week has a story, and I have a torn rotator cuff (I think) which is causing me tremendous pain, relentlessly, whether I’m running at the moment or not. But this week I want to focus on something different, and that is how grateful I am for the support of those who have joined me in this cause. It is not lost on me that in some sense, what I’m doing in running the Kandahar Marathon is small in the grand scheme of things, yet I believe firmly that we all have a contribution to make and I recognize that I could not make mine without the support of so many others. Thank you.
Each day when I wake up, I do a number of things. I take some supplements to help with my cholesterol. I drink coffee. I log my previous day in a diary. I write and reply to any urgent-seeming email. I hug my children, who are usually awake around that time. I empty the dishwasher. I run. Mornings are my most productive time. But one thing I do each day has become so habitual that I barely even notice it, and yet the evidence is everywhere in my life, and that is that I keep a gratitude journal This act, known to some as “Hunting the good stuff” and to others as “three good things” is something I began when I was asked to teach a graduate course in positive psychology at Nebraska Wesleyan University many years ago, and I rarely miss a day. Not only that, but I’ve shared it with countless classes over the years since, and my family and I often begin meals by sharing aloud things that we are thankful for.
Gratitude may not be magic, but it isn’t far from. One finding from a study Bob Emmons conducted years ago says a lot to that effect. I’ll let Bob tell you:
“In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events” (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
It seems that taking the time to consider the good things in life, rather than dwelling upon the bad as we are, in fact, genetically predisposed to do as a survival mechanism dating back to the time when humans were far more vulnerable, is not only good for the soul but good for the heart and the rest of the body as well. And so, in that vein, I wanted to be sure to thank you yet again for supporting me as I’ve undertaken running more miles than ever before for the cause of supporting Afghan refugees relocating to Nebraska.
While I was in Bosnia a few weeks ago I picked up a bunch of postcards and I wrote them to you, my supporters. Many have reported receiving them, but many more were not mailed because I didn’t have your mailing address. Please, if you haven’t already, send it to me so that I may drop your postcard in the mail as soon as possible. Next week, I’ll return to thoughts on running and Afghanistan, I have no doubt, but for today I wanted to be sure to tell you yet again how much I appreciate you and your support.