Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
What’s this got to do with sport?
Athletes must live in the moment in order to perform to their full potential and to master skills. Using mindfulness, the athlete can train their brain to improve athletic performance and injury recovery.
Mindfulness is a practice of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.
Non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of the present moment gives an athlete more energy and focus. It clears and calms the mind and allows attention to be directed towards relevant stimuli.
In other words, it helps keep focus on what matters.
The goal is to use mindfulness to get to” flow”, what you might call “being in the zone.” It’s an energized mental state where a person is totally focused and immersed in an activity.
A 2018 NCAA study showed mindfulness improved overall well-being and decreased anxiety among athletes.
Sport-related anxiety impedes performance and is marked by feelings of inadequacy, physical and emotional exhaustion. Unchecked, it can lead to a reduced sense of fulfillment, dwelling on past performance and worrying about future performance. An athlete needs to be in the moment in order to perform to their best ability.
Mindfulness training includes goal setting, positive self-talk, visualization or guided imagery, relaxation and breathing techniques. This cognitive skills training can lead to improved performance. For injured athletes, it has been shown to increase pain tolerance.
Practicing mindfulness can lead to decreased anxiety, and improve confidence and mental toughness. And, significantly, it can help athletes enjoy sports.
Ready to begin? There are many online resources to help you explore mindfulness techniques. If you’e looking for something local, ask a mental health professional about additional mindfulness resources in your area.