The Mindful Athlete

Mindfulness has recently become a buzzword, but it is still oftentimes misunderstood. 

When most people think of mindfulness they think of meditation or sitting in silence to “clear their mind”. While meditation is a form of mindfulness, there are many other ways you can practice mindfulness that provide benefits to your game. 

So what is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is really being in the here and now without judgement. It’s allowing yourself to be fully present in the moment. It is going through the present moment with purpose and intention, by focusing on your thought processes and how you are perceiving the world around you. 

Mindfulness can be a simple practice that you implement within your day such as: 

  • Expressing gratitude
  • Stretching your body
  • Taking a few deep breaths
  • Paying attention to your senses (savoring the taste of food when eating, paying attention as you brush your teeth) 
  • Looking around and noticing your surroundings 
  • Turning off your phone for an hour

You may be thinking, “Okay and how does being mindful apply to me as an athlete?”.

Mindfulness helps you to get out of your head and in the game. It allows you to focus on what is important in each moment, rather than a past mistake or things outside of your control. Mindfulness helps to ease performance anxiety, by slowing down your thoughts and letting go of detrimental thinking. It also helps you process difficult emotions and become less reactive when emotions like anger and frustration arise within a game. It can also help you be more positive and optimistic about your circumstances.

After a game have you ever thought to yourself, “I was in the zone today.”? Most likely you were out of your head and playing present. You were allowing yourself to be fully immersed in the game from moment to moment. That is a result of being mindful and being in the present moment. If you have not experienced this or do not experience it enough, try implementing some of these mindfulness practices into your routine. 

Here are some of my favorite mindfulness techniques for athletes to implement into their routines in order to help them play more present.

  1. Deep breathing. Take a few deep breaths, focus on filling your belly with air as you breath in through your nose, then slowly breathe out through your mouth. As you breathe in, say “In”, and as you breathe out, say “Out”. This can be done anytime; at practice, during a game, at home. Deep breathing allows you to slow down and focus your attention on the action of breathing in that exact moment. 
  2. Stretch. Take time to stretch your body, and notice where you feel tight. Then, observe that tension being released throughout the process. Focus on one area of your body at a time and feel your body getting loose as you go through this process. 
  3. Gratitude. Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day. Gratitude allows you to remain in a positive mindset by appreciating what you have on your way towards what you want. 
  4. Journal. Write down your accomplishments, what you are doing well, what you could improve on, a lesson you learned. Or use journaling to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling helps you to get you in the present by letting go of thoughts and negativity that can cloud your mind. 
  5. Turn off your devices. Give yourself some time away from social media, the tv or texting. Allow yourself to use that time away from technology to be more present. Go watch the sunset, have a conversation with someone and listen intently, find other forms of entertainment (read, play a board game, do a puzzle). 

If you would like to talk about mindfulness and how it can help you get your mind to work for you rather than against you, schedule an initial consult today.

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