Football Therapy: Gratitude

Exploring the connections between life skills and fantasy football.

In addition to being a staff writer for Footballguys by night, I’m a therapist by day. No, I don’t put people on the couch like Sigmund does. I spend most of my day educating and empowering my clients to leave my office with fulfillment and purpose. What I’ve learned, and quite by accident might I add, is that many of the life skills that I teach and practice in therapy are actually applicable in the context of playing fantasy football. In these writings, I will seek to show the reader connections between these life skills and those needed to be a successful fantasy owner. My hope is not only to improve your prowess as an owner, but to give you skills that will help you lead a wonderful life.

An Attitude of Ingratitude

In the Bible, there is a wonderful example that embodies the concept of gratitude. Jesus had just healed ten men with an infectious disease, but only one of them had returned. The text tells us that this man was so grateful, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and praised God with a loud voice. Jesus wondered aloud why ten were healed, but only one had returned to say thank you.

One only needs to spend a few moments in society to see that things haven’t changed that much. Hold a door open and only a few will stop and notice. Let a few cars merge in front of you onto a crowded freeway. A handful will show their appreciation with a wave. Picking up a toy that a child has accidentally dropped in the supermarket is less than likely to elicit a “thank you” from the youngster, simply because parents aren’t teaching their children to recognize and respond in kind to polite behavior.

Ingratitude goes far beyond these simple social faux pas-- they are merely a symptom of the problem. The root issue is a disposition toward negativity that turns thinking selfishly inward. We’ve developed a strong bias towards negativity. Our news media is a perfect encapsulation of this phenomenon. Ever notice that 90% of headlines can be summarized as tragedy, corruption, disaster, or problems? Negativity sells and we lap it up with reckless abandon. We begin to make mental lists of all that is wrong with the world and all the ways that we have been slighted. With all these perceived bad things happening around us, it becomes increasingly easy to feel jaded, bitter, burned out, and depressed. We cope by ignoring the plight of others and turning inward. We begin to feel entitlement, that we deserve this or that. It isn’t long before we become demanding, rude, and ungrateful.

It’s time for a little self disclosure. Gratitude happens to be one of the areas in which I really struggle. Admittedly, I get caught up in all the negative events that are happening around me. My full-time job has been full of trials as of late. My new home that I bought this year has needed some unexpected and expensive repairs. Both of my cars have had mechanical issues. Those in my immediate family have had serious health problems. I have to drive two hours in total each day to and from work. As you can see, I have spent far too much time cataloguing the bad things that have happened to me or those close to me.

Gratitude requires changing your perspective and focus. The key to gratitude is not to concentrate on what you lack, but rather on what you have. In my case, I’ve had some tough times this year, but I’ve also been very blessed. I was able to buy a new home that was way nicer than anything I thought I would own in my life. A dream that I’ve had for a long time became a reality when I was hired by Footballguys earlier this year. I’m almost half-way to having the hours needed to sit for my LCSW licensure test. No one in my family is in immediate danger of dying. I had the money to deal with the expenses that came up. I did not go hungry. The bank account did not run out of money and I did not lack for anything I needed. I have a beautiful, scenic drive to and from my workplace during which I can decompress by listening to music and podcasts. I have an incredible wife who supports me in everything I do. I could go on, but I won’t. The point is, there is a choice to be made about who you want to be. Do you want to be the victim of circumstance or the one who finds favor wherever you turn?

The Greatness of Gratitude

Much like UPR, gratitude has benefits to our wellness. Study after study shows that those who are inclined toward giving thanks have better quality of physical and mental health, mood, and relationships. Gratitude activates the part of our brain that uptakes the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel pleasant and satisfied. Dopamine exposure starts something in the brain that researchers have termed “the virtuous cycle.” Our brain likes dopamine, so it begins to repeat the behavior that caused the dopamine release in the first place in an effort to receive more. Consciously and unconsciously, we begin to search for stimuli that causes us to feel thankful. We even begin to find good in seemingly bad circumstances. The behavior triggers the reward and the reward reinforces the behavior.

There are so many ways we can express gratitude within the context of fantasy football. The league itself is a blessing. How awesome is it that we live in the golden ages of both the NFL AND fantasy football? How neat is it that we get to compete against and make connections with our friends, family, co-workers, and others living around the world? How magnificent is it that we get to pick the players we want to cheer for on game day?

Gratitude towards others in our league is both appreciated and important. Maybe it’s taking a moment to recognize the guy who took time out of his day to post something funny on your league message board. Perhaps it’s sending an e-mail to your mates to let them know how much you treasure the fun banter between all of you. It could even be as simple as thanking your fellow player for listening to your trade offer, even though you did not come to terms. Letting league members know that you value them both builds rapport and shows thankfulness.

Let’s not forget commissioners and co-commissioners. They are often very underappreciated. They do all the unsexy administrative tasks that keep the league running smoothly. They spend countless hours writing bylaws, sending out reminder e-mails, and organizing draft day. They are tasked with settling the unpleasant disputes and taking the blame when things don’t go right. Very seldom do league members take the time to thank them for all this effort. Make sure to periodically let them know you recognize and respect their hard work.

Like any life skill, gratitude takes practice. It is especially hard to remember when the bullets of life are flying all around you. For my clients who have extreme difficulty looking on the brighter side of life, I recommend keeping a list of things they are thankful for on their person. When they are having a bad day, I ask them to refer to the list, but also to add one thing to it. If you tend to gravitate towards negativity, I encourage you to do the same.

Let me take a moment to exercise gratitude by thanking you for taking time to consider this article. Your time and attention is precious, and I thank you for lending it to me today. I firmly believe our readership is the best on the planet and I am so fortunate to have an audience with you. Gratitude has improved my leagues and my life. I know that it can do the same for yours!